Are giant parachuting spiders spreading in the US this summer?

NEW YORK (WPIX/Nexstar) — They’re giant, invasive, and able to parachute through the air in what can only be described as an arachnophobe’s greatest fear. These spiders, better known as Joro spiders, have already been spotted in multiple states, but could they be coming to an area near you any time soon?

Joro spiders, or Trichonephila clavata, are native to Asia. They’ve been in the U.S. for at least a decade, having already invaded Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Report sightings online show they may have reached Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

The latest reports indicate the spider could be arriving in New York and New Jersey this summer based on a study published in October 2023 by Dr. David Coyle, an assistant professor at Clemson University.

In the study, Dr. Coyle notes, “We expect the range of these things to continue expanding, likely to the north, and we’ve already seen that with some populations in Maryland.”

Speaking with Nexstar’s WPIX on Tuesday, Dr. Coyle said that while the Joro spider is capable of spreading, it’s difficult to say when exactly that could happen.

“I think the Joro *has the ability* to spread beyond the Southeast based on environmental conditions in its native range. In terms of a time frame…there isn’t one,” he explained. “It might be this year. Might be a decade. Heck, it might not happen at all. Spread rate depends on many factors, some environmental, some human, some that are just spider biology.”

Dr. Coyle also added, “Having the ability to do something and actually doing it are two different things.”

WPIX also spoke with Dr. Linda Susan Rayor, a senior lecturer and research associate at the Cornell University Department of Entomology, who also wrote about the Joro spider. She explained that the species won’t spread this summer “unless people move them.”

“They are extremely unlikely to get to this area for a decade, if they do at all,” said Dr. Rayor. She further explained the notion that these spiders can travel long distances stems from the spiderlings using silk to balloon.

“They are unlikely to balloon for many hundreds of miles. The youngsters build webs where they land,” she added.

Dr. Matthew Bertone, director of the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic at NC State University, said that while the Joro spider can travel a long distance, it hasn’t been found north of Maryland or West Virginia.

However, he didn’t rule out the possibility that the spiders could make an appearance in the future, citing a research paper penned by a former Cornell student.

“This paper suggests, based on ecological models from their native range, that they could establish as far north as southern Canada. Thus, I would not be surprised to find them in New York and New Jersey at some point,” he added.

The species does appear relatively harmless, researchers have determined, noting they won’t bite unless cornered. And, because their fangs aren’t very large, the bite may not be able to pierce your skin.

Further still, the Joro spiders may be among the most shy of all the spiders. According to a study by the University of Georgia, Joro spiders will ‘freeze’ for more than an hour when faced with stress, while their fellow arachnids typically move on after less than minute.

In addition to their harmless, bashful demeanor, the Joro spider may prove beneficial to the U.S. According to the New York Times, Joro spiders are known to eat another Asian species invading the U.S.: the spotted lanternfly.

That dazzling but destructive species has already spread to more than a dozen states, primarily on the East Coast where researchers have suggested the Joro spider could spread.

So before you stomp on the Joro spider, consider putting it outside to fight the spotted lanternfly — a species officials do want you to stomp on.

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