Joro spiders are here to stay

The female Joro spider dwarfs her male counterpart in her web. The web can capture small insects, like mosquitoes, as well as large beetles. (Courtesy of Pat Smith)

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The female Joro spider dwarfs her male counterpart in her web. The web can capture small insects, like mosquitoes, as well as large beetles. (Courtesy of Pat Smith)

Q: We have been invaded by Joro spiders. I have not seen a single big yellow garden spider in my gardens where there were dozens last year. What can I do to kill off these unwanted pests? Pat Straley, Gwinnett County

A: There is not much that can be done. They are here, they compete strongly with other spiders and there’s no effective way to control them in the wide area where they are now entrenched. Female Joro spiders are big (perhaps 3 inches across), similar to the common garden “writing spider,” which most folks recognize. The difference between the two is that female Joro spiders have distinctive yellow stripes on their backs and bright red markings on their undersides. Their webs are enormous and appear to be golden in late afternoon sunlight. Joro spiders have spread widely since a gardener in Hoschton found the first one in 2014. They probably arrived in a shipping container from China or Japan. Females mature in early September and die by late November, along with the much smaller males. The spiders have now been spotted in at least 23 Georgia counties, as far west as Alpharetta and north to Rabun and Union counties. So far, they have been reported nowhere else in North America.

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Q: We have Palatka hollies that are 35 feet tall. We would like to cut them back and keep them about 10 feet tall. Could we successfully maintain them at a lower height? When should they be trimmed? Janet Collins, DeKalb County

A: It will take lots of work to accomplish this. The hollies will need to be pruned at least twice EVERY year, in winter and in summer. ‘East Palatka’ holly is a hybrid between our native Dahoon holly and American holly. Both hollies are trees: They prefer to grow in an upright form, not a bush. So when a Palatka holly is pruned, its parents’ genetics take over and the resulting sprouts head for the sky. Unless you like climbing ladders, both now and in the future, I recommend you remove the hollies or learn to live with them.

Q: I recently was given my neighbor’s big peony plants and had to transplant them immediately. I have kept them watered and have umbrellas covering them but they are quite wilty. Should I cut the stems down to take water-gathering pressure off the tubers? Mary Cozart, DeKalb County

A: I could make an argument either way. Removing leaves will diminish the amount of water the roots need. But leaves absorb energy that the roots need for daily sustenance. In the end, your instincts will give an answer. Remove a few leaves and see if the others perk up.

Walter’s email address is georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener, for his latest tips.