Eight legs aren’t all that useful for the nomadic arachnid with dreams of journeying overseas, but thanks to the establishment of the shipping trade a group of spiders has successfully traveled from East Asia to America. Thought to have first landed in the US back in 2014 after sneaking on board a shipping container, the Jor? spider (Trichonephila clavata) is now thriving in its holiday home of Georgia.
The first castaway was spotted by collections manager for the Georgia Museum of Natural History, Rick Hoebeke, back in 2014. First appearing near Atlanta, the stowaways have been slowly increasing their stronghold in the state, but 2021 proved to be a real festival for the foreigners as they festooned local residents’ homes in 3-meter (10-foot) deep blankets of silk.
"Last year, there were dozens of spiders, and they began to be something of a nuisance when I was doing yard work," said entomologist for the University of Georgia (UGA), William Hudson, in a statement. "This year, I have several hundred, and they actually make the place look spooky with all the messy webs — like a scene out of Arachnophobia."
Jor? spiders are modestly sized, measuring around 8 centimeters (3 inches) in length, but are capable of spinning monster webs. The University of Georgia reports that around 25 counties in the state have been struck with Jor? fever, the symptoms of which include large volumes of webs and spiders with the most commonly affected areas being porches, mailboxes, and just about anything outside.
While many news outlets are branding the Jor?s’ arrival an “invasion”, these spiders are pretty alright as invasive species go. So far, scientists are uncertain of the consequences of hosting these spiders far from home but those at the university haven’t noticed any negative consequences of the Jor?s yet and they don’t seem to be outcompeting native species for resources.
In fact, some are touting the traveling spiders as a cheap and easy approach to dealing with the states’ more pressing pests.
“Jor? spiders present us with excellent opportunities to suppress pests naturally, without chemicals,” said UGA entomologist Nancy Hinkle. “So I’m trying to convince people that having zillions of large spiders and their webs around is a good thing!”
While meters-thick web adorning your home might not seem ideal, beyond their silk-spinning the spiders pose little threat to locals. While they can appear in great numbers and do bite (if provoked), they’re not harmful to humans and will only live for a few months of the year before leaving nothing in their wake but a few egg sacs.
That’s far less than the average tourist abroad.