Copyright Axios Media, 2022

Karri Peifer

A creepy, large yellow and black spider with a bulbous, bright yellow body is crawling along a tree branch.
A Joro spider in Georgia. Photo: Courtesy of the University of Georgia

An invasive species of spider the size of a child’s hand is expected to “colonize” the entire East Coast this spring by parachuting down from the sky, researchers at the University of Georgia announced last week.

Why it matters: Large Joro spiders — millions of them — are expected to begin “ballooning” up and down the East Coast as early as May. Researchers have determined that the spiders can tolerate cold weather, but are harmless to humans as their fangs are too small to break human skin.

  • The Joro spider is native to Japan but began infiltrating the U.S. in 2013, concentrating in the southeast and specifically Georgia, according to NPR. They fanned out across the state using their webs as tiny, terrifying parachutes to travel with the wind.

Threat level: Andy Davis, author of the study and a researcher at Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology, tells Axios that it isn’t certain how far north the spiders will travel, but they may make it as far north as D.C. or even Delaware.

  • “It looks like the Joro could probably survive throughout most of the Eastern Seaboard here, which is pretty sobering,” says Davis.
A creepy, large yellow and black spider with a bulbous body being held by a human hand. It's nearly the same size as the hand.
A Joro spider in Georgia. Image courtesy of the University of Georgia.

Other terrifying things to know about the Joro spider:

  • They are bright yellow, black, blue, and red and can grow up to 3 inches.
  • They likely traveled across the globe on shipping containers, similar to the Bubonic plague.
  • Their life cycle begins in early spring, but they get big in June and are often seen in July and August.
  • They’re named for Jorōgumo, a creature of Japanese folklore that can shapeshift into a woman or spider before killing its prey.

Our thought bubble: Researchers say there’s nothing we can do. They’re coming and they’re harmless. I say let’s pool our resources now and build a dome around Georgia and keep them there.