Shut up about Joro Spiders, already

OK, enough with the spider freakout. I’ve been rolling my eyes so hard for the last few weeks that my ocular muscles are sprained. I’m talking about headlines like this:

Don’t journalists have a few other things they should be concerned about right now? This isn’t one of them. This is a great big nothingburger, unless you’re concerned about invasive species and the fate of their naturalized cousin spider, Trichonephila clavipes, which has been here in the southeast US for over a century, is about the same size as Trichonephila clavata (the Joro spider), and is just as harmless.

Oh, you’re not? Then shut the fuck up.

These are big spiders, but T. clavata is harmless. They’ll eat big bugs, but have no interest in you and can’t even bite through your skin. They’re also about the same size as Argiope, which we have in huge numbers up here in Minnesota, but T. clavata is only slightly more cold resistant than T. clavipes and has the potential to slightly extend their range. I only regret that I probably won’t find any way up here in the North.

But so what? Here’s where T. clavipes lives now (in blue), and where T. clavata has been found (in red). Don’t panic. They’re big, but they’re beautiful, and they’ll eat lots of grasshoppers and stinkbugs. Welcome them!

Read this for the True Facts.

Just so you know: last summer, we transplanted several Argiope from the edge of town to our natural garden in our backyard. They did well! I was a little concerned that we wouldn’t have enough food for them — I usually find them in open fields that are swarming with grasshoppers — but the female and male pair were thriving all through August, before they disappeared, as Argiope usually does when the weather cools. We’re hoping they managed to produce an egg sac or two to overwinter, which, with a little luck, will lead to clouds of little baby spiders ballooning over the neighborhood, and a repopulation of our garden. This is nothing to be feared! They’re gorgeous animals.

It’s unlikely that they’ll populate most of the yards in our neighborhood, unfortunately. Lawns are bad. They don’t produce enough big insect biomass to feed these animals.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Use threats. “If you don’t shut up I will bring a breeding population of some genuinely scary Australian spiders to your home town”.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    “Also, I will dump a tank full of Serrasalmus Nattereri into your river’.
    That will give them a real thing to complain about.

  3. John Hartung says

    Also remember to point out that the Joro like to weave web about ten feet off the ground. They stay out of human’s way! They’re also getting eaten by our local birds and wasps. There could not be a better invasive species.

  4. Gaebolga says

    So I’ve been living here in Florida for the last 20 years, and we call these girls “banana spiders”…no clue why. Anyway, they’re awesome, and I’ve learned that if you’re patient and slow, over the course of a few weeks you can get them acclimated to touch, to the point you can pet the back of their abdomens without freaking them out. I taught my kids to pet banana spiders when they were 6, and my daughter was especially delighted. She’s 13 now and wants to be an arachnologist…or a herpetologist.

    Spiders or snakes: an impossible choice!

  5. christoph says

    I automatically discount any articles citing unnamed “experts” or unnamed scientists (also “top docs.”). Were these headlines in The Weekly World News or national Enquirer?

  6. David Richardson says

    I once visited a beautiful part of the south coast of England, which had once served as firing range. So there were signs warning about unexploded bombs all over the place … and, of course, there were always some idiots who ignored them. My friends and I speculated about what kind of warning would definitely keep people away. We decided upon “Warning! Dangerous spiders! Smaller than the eye can see, but one bite is deadly!”

  7. Walter Solomon says

    I only heard about these spiders yesterday from posters on this blog. I haven’t seen anything else in the news other than Ukraine for two weeks so I’m a bit surprised people are already done with this spider story.

  8. clsi says

    @ Christoph (8): Not the Weekly World News or National Enquirer, but Scientific American:

    “Flying” refers to the “parachuting” that hatchlings do with silk, as do the hatchlings of so many other spiders. Alas, we won’t get to see any palm-sized spiders in flight. The excuse for the article is a paper on their physiology showing (among other things) that the new arrivals are more cold-tolerant than their near relatives (as PZ pointed out). It’s pure clickbait.

  9. christoph says

    @clsi, # 11: So, it’s just the teeny tiny hatchlings that travel by silk parachute? The sensationalistic headlines didn’t mention that, I was picturing huge spiders drifting out of the sky and sticking to my face like in “Alien.”
    Thanks for clarifying. ^^.0.^^

  10. Walter Solomon says

    christoph @12

    I was picturing huge spiders drifting out of the sky and sticking to my face like in “Alien.”

    The Starro face-hugging spawn from The Suicide Squad would be a much more contemporary reference.

  11. Artor says

    I get some pretty handsome orb-weavers out here in Oregon, but nothing like those magnificent bastards. I would collect bugs to throw into the web of a big beautiful beastie like T. clavata.

  12. Artor says

    I get some pretty handsome orb-weavers out here in Oregon, but nothing like those magnificent bastards. I would collect bugs to throw into the web of a big beautiful beastie like T. clavata.

  13. Ridana says

    Due to its large size and the bright, unique colors of the female Trichonephila, the spider is well-favored in Japan.

    Of course it is. :)

  14. redwood says

    I get joro spiders on my balcony every summer here in Japan and I love looking at them, their yellowish webs, and their captures (often mosquitos). The Japanese word for spider is “kumo” (蜘蛛), which is also the same sound, but different kanji, as cloud–“kumo” (雲). I’ve always liked that they have the same pronunciation for some reason. While going around in my yard, I often get tangled up in the Jorogumo (the “k” changes to “g” inside a word) webs, but that’s fine. Most Japanese here in the countryside seem to like them.

  15. khms says

    #9 @David Richardson

    “Warning! Dangerous spiders! Smaller than the eye can see, but one bite is deadly!”

    Based on recent events, I’d expect a combination of …

    “There are no spiders! It’s a scam!”
    “They’re not deadly! No worse than a bee sting!”
    “They™ just want to take away our freeeedoms!”

  16. mcfrank0 says

    So THAT is the large spider I saw last year here in Austin! Orb web with a wide zigzag pattern through part of it?

  17. johnniefurious says

    Unrelated comment: are there any spiders/predators that snack on Boxelder bugs? I know they’re harmless and don’t lay eggs in houses (we have a boxelder at the edge of the property) but I’m mostly curious about them. I’ve done a little google-fu but I mostly found exterminator / pest removal sites and I’m not sure if they’re being vague just to sell more removal services / products.

  18. weylguy says

    As an arachnophobe myself, I can attest to the frightening aspect of these spiders. On my last trip to Duluth, Georgia to visit my son and his family, I saw these things and their webs everywhere, and they’re truly enormous as well as hideous. I will concede to Dr. Myers’ claim that they’re harmless, but if one decides to crawl over my face, I’m gonna squash it.

  19. Hoosier Bluegill says

    Our local paper actually had an article that said, never mind about the big harmless spiders, but look out for the invasive Asian Needle Ant, whose stings are said to be painful, and which has for the first time been identified in the southern part of our midwestern state, the first ant species to be found here, But the headline was mostly about the spiders.

  20. Hoosier Bluegill says

    Shucks, that should be “the first ant species with stingers” to be found here

  21. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    I heard they were some sort of invasive asian species, but did not bother to lookup any details and just assumed they were related to Argiope given the leg arrangement and body proportions. They were everywhere (all of the powerlines along every road were packed with their webs) until the frequent frost started, and a few still survived in the many webs around the house for longer than that. Downside is that I did not see any of the Argiope or spiny orb-weavers from last year in their usual locations around the house and yard.