You may have seen headlines about giant spiders falling from the sky via parachute along the East Coast. Whether you’re arachnophobic or not, no one wants to live in that particular dystopia. We really have to say no thank you to giant parachuting spiders. Only spider biologists who love giant spiders could feel happy in that world. Luckily for the rest of us, the actual news is much less drastic so people who live on the East Coast can breathe a lot easier, they don’t have to create parachuting spider contingency plans yet. Let’s dig into the Joro spider and what will really happen.
The Truth About Joro Spiders from Recent Studies
Joro spiders are native to Japan but have lived in Georgia since 2013. They are related to golden silk spiders, also known as golden orb or banana spiders, which already live in the southeastern United States. Scientists compared the two and found that Joro spiders can withstand colder environments. The latter is native to the tropics but has lived in the U.S. for 160 years without spreading farther north. But Joro spiders likely aren’t limited by the cold and could expand their range quickly.
The peer-reviewed journal Physiological Entomology published the research. The scientists collected the large females of both species. They measured heart rate and survival rate when subjected to cold and below-freezing temperatures. They also measured oxygen consumption to determine their metabolism. Joro spiders have a higher metabolism and can tolerate cold and even freezing temperatures better than golden silk spiders.
The study also shows how useful citizen science is. Researchers used the iNaturalist program to track the spread of Joro spiders. Anyone can sign up and post photos they take of animals in the wild. Identifying the species is crowd-sourced and scientists can use the data in their research. According to iNaturalist reports, the Joro spider is increasing in number and expanding its range into other states.
Are Giant Spiders Going to Parachute from the East Coast Sky?
No, giant invasive spiders will not parachute in droves from the East Coast sky. A lot of the media frenzy was nothing more than doomsday hype. At least one debunking Twitter thread defending the Joro spider went viral. The thread from an arachnologist says that if a Joro does balloon down on you, it would be so small that you wouldn’t even notice. And, they apparently are not dangerous either.
Ok. We need to talk about the media doing spiders dirty again. Strap in. We’re talking about these GIANT SPIDERS THAT ARE PARACHUTING IN & TAKING OVER THE USA!! *gasp*— 🕷scienTEAfic🕷 (@tea_francis) March 9, 2022
Nonsense. Calm down. Here’s what’s up.🧵 pic.twitter.com/t7gVINvOL4
Many species of spiders disperse their young via ballooning or parachuting. Tiny baby spiders produce a bit of silk that gets caught in the wind and takes them to their new home. Female orb spiders are in fact big. But they aren’t particularly mobile, and they’re certainly not skydiving.
Orb spiders are venomous. Some insects and spiders can be dangerous if they sting or bite you. But many of them have mouths too small to pierce human flesh, including the Joro spider. And for the record, there are plenty of cute animals that are venomous. Platypus, the blue-ringed octopus, some shrews, and even the slow loris.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to start prepping for an invasion of giant spiders who parachute from the sky quite yet. Joro spiders are probably more scared of you than you are of them.
Featured Image: University of Georgia