Exotic orb-weaving spider creates headaches for homeowners

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

September is peak time for the huge spiders known as orb weavers, whose humongous, wheel-shaped webs seem to be everywhere now — stretched between shrubs and trees on trails and garden paths or across porches, windows and decks.

Georgia has several common, native orb-weaving spiders — yellow garden, basilica, golden silk, arrowhead and barn spiders. Some may bite, but they are not dangerous.

Now, the state’s native orb weavers have been joined by an equally big, exotic speciesthe so-called Joro spider, which seems to be especially abundant this year and spreading rapidly in the northern half of the state.

Known for its golden orb-shaped webs, the big nonnative Joro spider was first spotted in the Athens area in 2014. Since then, its expansion has triggered scores of homeowner calls to entomologists. (The spider is not harmful to humans or pets.)

The boldly patterned black, yellow and red Joro female can grow up to 4 inches, including her legs. Originally from Asia, the species is believed to have first traveled to Georgia in shipping containers destined for I-85 distribution centers in northeast Georgia. In some areas of Asia it is called the fortune-teller spider and is thought to have supernatural qualities.

For some Georgia homeowners, Joros are causing considerable problems. Dawn Lane, an avid gardener in Cherokee County, says hordes of Joros began showing up in her half-acre yard in August and taking over. Now barely a shrub or flower in her yard is free of a Joro web, she said. The eaves of her home are covered as well. Altogether, she has counted more than 70 webs.

“The webs are abundant and massive, some spanning 8-10 feet from one tree to the next,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it — just the sheer number, size, and audacity of the webs.”

Unfortunately, however, entomologists say the Joro spider is here to stay.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: Autumn officially begins at 9:31 a.m. on Tuesday — the autumnal equinox. The moon will be first quarter on Wednesday. Mercury is low in the west just after sunset. Venus rises in the east two hours before sunrise. Mars rises in the east just after dark. Jupiter and Saturn are high in the southeast after dark. Jupiter will appear near the moon Thursday night and Saturn will do so on Friday.