GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A spider with a distinct yellow hue and an unsettling skill has made its way into the headlines this week. Will the Jorō spider invade New York? The invasive species was already identified in Georgia.
It’s true, and experts are expecting the Japan-native species to crawl its way across much of the East Coast—including upstate New York and the Adirondacks—over the next 10 years. But they also said that it’s probably fine.
“If anything, it’s been positive,” said Liam Somers, an entomologist with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Forest Health Diagnostic Lab. “Outside of the large, colorful, scary spider that I know a lot of people don’t like—understandably so—generally, they catch a lot of mosquitoes and black flies, things that people don’t like.”
Reports of the spider in Georgia came suddenly, meaning that even groups like the DEC are just in their early days of conversation about its potential spread. So far, it’s been found in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. Forecasts reported from the University of Georgia expect the spider to spread and find homes across the entire East Coast within the next five to 10 years.
Somers says the 10-year end of that spectrum is the more likely one. Currently, the spiders seem to be expanding mostly throughout Georgia. Regardless of the exact timeline, though, it’s true that upstate New York climates could make an ideal home for the spider, as more northern parts of the East Coast have closer climates to its native ones in Japan.
It’s not the Jorō’s first trip to the states, either. The spider was first found in the U.S. in 2014, meaning researchers have had a good amount of time to see any negative effect on a North American ecosystem. Although an exact line can’t be easily traced, it’s no big surprise that the spider is here again.
“It likely made its way here on shipping crates, like most invasive species do,” said Somers. “They’re known to be great hitchhikers. They travel on these shipping crates, and on vehicles, so that’s probably the main way they’ll move throughout the East Coast, if they do.”
The spider is a unique-looking breed, around 3 inches long with a bright yellow-and-black pigmentation. It also uses a technique called “ballooning,” allowing them to travel far distances on the wind. It may look or sound scary, but doesn’t pose more of a threat to the Adirondack Park than to states down south.
That’s also true for anyone who might come upon them. The Jorō spider is an orb weaver, with fangs not typically large enough to break through human skin. The worst threat they pose to humans is weaving fairly large webs, which could potentially get in the way of a hike or a stroll through the backyard.
“In cases like these, we have to go with what we know. Of course, Japan and Georgia are two very different environments. Fortunately for us, they don’t really pose a threat to forest health, or agriculture, or anything like that,” said Somers.
It’s not often that DEC teams tracking invasive species have to deal with spiders. Brown widows and other tropical arachnids have hitchhiked in before, but they typically die off quickly once arriving in a vastly different climate from the one they’re used to. That makes predicting Jorō’s footprint in the Adirondacks difficult.
If the spider does prove harmless to the environment, the DEC isn’t likely to expend a lot of time or resources keeping an eye on it anyway. In the Adirondack Park, the organization has other issues to deal with.
Last month, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) reported 450 new invasive animal and plant infestations in the Adirondacks in 2021 alone. Those include the hemlock woolly adelgid, which hurts hemlock trees; and the emerald ash borer, which bores under the bark of ash trees to lay eggs. APIPP was contacted by NEWS10 about the Jorō spider earlier this week, but officials there said they couldn’t comment, as the bright yellow arachnid was new to them as well.