Hikers and walkers on Fort Belvoir's trails should be aware of spiders and their webs, but are asked not to kill the spiders. Photo submitted by Fort Belvoir Environmental Division.

Save the spiders

The years 2020 and 2021 seemed to be the year of the “bugs,” with murder hornets; Brood X cicadas; puss caterpillars, and worms in headlines across the U.S., adding fears to our pandemic anxieties. Unfortunately, there is another “bug” in town, a palm sized spider with golden webs. But, before any nightmares and fears set in, let’s take a look at our new resident spider, how they got here, and what their invasion means to our ecosystem.

The Jorō spider, native to Japan, is like many other invasive species and has found its way outside its normal range. Although the exact details of how it first came to move into the area are unclear, scientists suspect their fast reproduction may give them an advantage to spread quickly and dominantly.

Even more interesting is the fact they may be better-suited to colder temperatures than related species, as pointed out by a University of Georgia study that showed that the Jorō spider has double the metabolism and a 77% higher heart rate than it’s many relatives. This suggests the spider may be able to survive across much of the Southeast.

Distinguished by their long legs, black/blue, yellow and red bodies, and their golden silk, the Jorō spider is a beautiful animal that resembles our native yellow garden spider. While its size can be disconcerting, Jorō spiders are not a threat and don’t seem to be harmful to their new environment.

In fact, they prey on mosquitoes, flies, and stink bugs, all hazardous to humans and agricultural health. These spiders are mostly cause for nuisance, as they, and their three dimensional webs, are often found in open spaces, like hiking trails and biking paths, resulting in a face full of golden silk.

While there is still some debate as to how far they can travel north, the Jorō spider is most likely here to stay. As they are relatively new to the area, it takes some time for them to adapt to human behavior and become less of a nuisance. In light of this, even if they produce a strong fear response, we encourage you to not try to eradicate spiders, as they pose no danger to us or our environment. 

By Fort Belvoir Environmental Division