‘Like a scene from Arachnophobia’: large Joro spiders invade northern Georgia

Northern Georgia has found itself besieged by millions of large yellow, blue and red spiders, in scenes residents say bring to mind the movie Arachnophobia.

The Joro spider is an invasive species, native to east Asia, that was first spotted in Georgia in 2014. Since then, the 3in arachnid appears to have thrived in the warm climes of the state.

Its presence has upset locals, however, particularly given its propensity to spin dense webs up to 3 metres deep.

Jennifer Turpin, a self-described arachnophobe who lives in Atlanta, told the Associated Press she stopped blowing leaves in her yard after walking into a Joro web.

Turpin, 50, said she tried to set a web on fire but became concerned the web would fall on her. She swiftly backpedaled, only to fall into a hole. Turpin asked a neighbor remove the spider.

“I just don’t think I’m going to do yard work any more,” Turpin said.

Debbie Gilbert, from Norcross, 20 miles north-east of Atlanta, was also forced to take matters into her own hands. She said she uses a stick to wind up the webs, before tossing it, spiders and all, to the ground. The 67-year-old then stomped on the spiders, she said.

“I don’t advocate killing anything,” Gilbert said. “I live in peace with all the spiders around here and everything else. But [Joros] just don’t belong here, that’s all.”

Joro spiders, or Trichonephila clavata, are common in Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan. It is unclear how they made their way to the US. Researchers say the particular abundance of the spiders this year could be down to changes in weather.

It is unclear whether the spider will have a negative impact on native flora and fauna, as do other invasive species, including the notorious spotted lanternfly. Ann Rypstra, who studies spider behavior at Miami University, told the AP more research was needed.

“I’d always err on the side of caution when you have something that establishes itself where it’s not supposed to be,” she said.

In the meantime, people across north Georgia are trying to come to terms with their new neighbours. In Winterville, Will Hudson’s front porch became unusable amid an abundance of Joro webs 10ft deep. An entomologist at the University of Georgia, he said that he had killed more than 300 of the spiders.

“The webs are a real mess,” Hudson said. “Nobody wants to come out of the door in the morning, walk down the steps and get a face full of spider web.”

Hudson said that though the spiders can bite, they are not a threat to humans. A researcher collecting them with her bare hands reported the occasional pinch, he said, but said the spiders never broke her skin.

“Last year there were dozens of spiders, and they began to be something of a nuisance when I was doing yard work,” Hudson said. “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.”


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