If northeast Georgia yards seem a little extra spooky this Halloween season, there’s a good reason. They may have a little extra help from a new neighbor who is really into those cobweb decorations.
Meet the Joro spider. Known for their golden orb-shaped webs, these little spinners were first spotted around Colbert, Georgia, in 2014. Since then their population has exploded, and they’ve become a common, but still striking, sight across northeast Georgia. The boldly patterned black, yellow and red female can grow up to 4 inches, including her legs.
The spiders may appear startling at first, but they don’t pose a threat to people and don’t seem to be causing problems in the northeast Georgia ecosystem.
The Joro spider is originally from Asia, and entomologists believe that they first traveled to Georgia a few years ago in shipping containers destined for the Interstate 85 distribution centers in northeast Georgia, said Rick Hoebeke, associate curator and collection manager of arthropods at the Georgia Museum of Natural History at the University of Georgia.
The spiders have spread throughout the area by hitching rides on trucks and cars traveling through northeast Georgia, and they’ve now been found in Jackson, Gwinnett, Hall and Madison counties. Edges of the metro Atlanta area are beginning to see them, too, Hoebeke said.
“The first hour to an hour and a half of my day is spent responding to spiders people find,” said Hoebeke. “The spiders are here to stay, so we’re trying to get the public to not freak out.”
The spiders are not harmful to humans, and for the most part they are pretty timid. They prefer to scamper away rather than confront something that startles them. They do have a neurotoxin venom, but it is not very potent, and only causes some redness and blistering, Hoebeke said.
Greg Pittman, Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for UGA Cooperative Extension in Jackson County, has been dealing with spiders for longer than most, and thinks that the spiders are helping more than they hurt. Pittman also noticed that many stinkbugs are getting caught in the webs of these spiders. Consequently, he has received few calls about stinkbug infestations in the area, which are typically very common around this time of year.
“Some people are wanting to treat for these spiders, but I think there’s no need for that,” Pittman said. “They are more beneficial to the environment right now.”
So before you start complaining about neighbors putting up their Halloween decorations or leaving them up too late, you may want to take a closer look.
To learn more about arachnids and other wildlife in your area, contact your local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.