Bring on the giant spiders
The forecast is in: It’s raining spiders. Well, if you believe the tabloids, that is.
In case you haven’t already heard, allow me the absolute pleasure of filling you in on the news that’s got everyone freaking out right now: according to a newly published study, a palm-sized spider native to Japan that’s known to ride the wind using its silk as a little parachute has invaded Georgia and could soon “colonize the entire East Coast.” Cue undue panic.
The jorō spider (Trichonephila clavata), a close relative of the tropical golden silk spider (Trichonephila clavipes), was introduced to the southeastern United States within the last decade and it seems to be thriving. While the golden silk spider, also long invasive in the region, has been limited in terms of spread due to its natural cold intolerance, researchers from the University of Georgia found the jorō spider’s higher metabolism and heart rate make it hardier against freezing temperatures. At least, for brief periods of time. It also has a shorter lifecycle that can play out entirely within the warmer-weather seasons.
Since the jorō can be found all throughout Japan, where the climate is similar, one researcher noted that these spiders “could probably survive throughout most of the Eastern Seaboard here.”
Warning: Large spider pic incoming…
The jorō spider is pretty striking, visually, not to mention BIG. Its black legs are segmented by bright yellow bands that match its even brighter-yellow abdomen, which may also have splashes of blue and red. Females can grow to as large as about 4 inches measuring from leg to leg.
Honestly, it’s beautiful! But naturally, people are absolutely losing it at the thought of giant spiders raining down on the East Coast. Go figure.
The headlines have been nothing short of hilarious: “Millions of palm-sized flying spiders to swarm the East Coast” (NY Post); “Giant spiders expected to drop from sky across the East Coast this spring” (Axios); “Giant Joro Spiders Could Cover the Entire East Coast, Scientists Say” (Newsweek); “Giant venomous spiders infiltrated the southeastern US and are expected to spread rapidly, experts say” (CNN).
Each is deserving of a 1950s-style horror sci-fi movie poster à la Invasion of the Body Snatchers and I truly wish I had the time to whip some up. Alas, take this one, for the 1958 independent film, Earth vs. the Spider, instead:
While it’s certainly important to take the spread of invasive species seriously, this particular invasive species is so far looking pretty harmless. In a press release, study co-author Andy Davis from UGA’s Odum School of Ecology says it seems there’s been no detriment to the local food webs or ecosystem and that these spiders are, in fact, probably a good source of food for birds. And humans definitely have nothing to worry about. They’re not likely to bite unless you’re actively going after them, which would force them to defend themselves, and even then, their fangs probably wouldn’t break the skin. So just leave them be — we’re probably the reason they got here anyway.
“People should try to learn to live with them,” Davis said. “If they’re literally in your way, I can see taking a web down and moving them to the side, but they’re just going to be back next year.”
"The way I see it, there’s no point in excess cruelty where it’s not needed,” Benjamin Frick, the undergraduate co-author of the study, added. “There’s really no reason to go around actively squishing them. Humans are at the root of their invasion. Don’t blame the Joro spider.”
And, fun fact, their name in Japanese, “jorō-gumo,” reportedly means “entangling or binding bride,” which just sounds very cool. Plus, look at these beautiful webs they make:
In honor of our new arachnid overlords, I highly recommend you treat yourself to a watch of the quintessential spider film and one of the greatest black comedies of all time, Spider Baby: or, the Maddest Story Ever Told (1967).
Get caught up
I’ve got a couple of new pieces up over at Scenic Hudson’s HV Viewfinder. You can check those out here:
Vernal Pools: The Valley’s Special Spring Amphibian Habitat
A Fresh Land-Use Win: Solar Canopies Shading Parking Lots
And some fun ones for Input:
'Euphoria' is the best thing that's happened to Tumblr since porn
Samsung's fly emoji has the dumbest little face
(Hey, it can’t all be doom, gloom, and “invasion of the giant spiders,” right?)
‘Til next time!