Outside the Okefenokee: Jorō Spider Invasion

Today’s post takes us outside the Okefenokee. But who knows if this foreign invader will eventually spread through Georgia and into the swamp???

Female Joro Spider ventral view hanging in a web. Nephila clavata has been introduced to the United States. First found in Georgia in 2014. Photographed September 11, 2020 in Athens, Clarke County, Georgia. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally at Dreamstime.com.

Although it didn’t cause national hysteria like the beetle invasion of 1964 (or was it Beatles in the British Invasion???), I did happen to hear about the Jorō Spider invasion of 2014. There were a few articles and blogs as this East Asian species was first discovered in Madison County, Georgia, not far from my home town of Athens.

University of Georgia article wrote, “The Jorō spider, native Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan, belongs to a group of large spiders known as golden orb-web weavers that make enormous, multi-layered webs of gold-colored silk. [Researchers] suspect the Jorō spider arrived accidentally as a hitchhiker either in shipping containers or among shipped packing materials such as pallets and crates or even on live plant material.”

Female Joro Spider ventral view hanging in a web. Nephila clavata has been introduced to the United States. First found in Georgia in 2014. Photographed September 11, 2020 in Athens, Clarke County, Georgia. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally at Dreamstime.com.

Introduced and invasive species often impact the native species and can even upset the  balance of an entire ecosystem, such as the pythons in the Everglades. While Jorō Spider pose no threat to humans, it is unknown if they will adversely affect the native Yellow Garden Spider by competing in the same niche.

The native Yellow Garden Spider, Argiope aurantia, spinning prey in a web. Common in the United States. Photographed September 12, 2020 in Athens, Clarke County, Georgia. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally at Dreamstime.com.

In 2018 I began to see them pop up regularly in iNaturalist observations in Georgia. But it wasn’t until today that I found one in my own backyard. It was nearly impossible to miss. A strand of the thick web extended from the top of my backyard cypress, and about 15 to 20 feet at a downward angle and anchored to another lower bush. In the middle, suspended in a tangled web just above a Yucca, hung the ornately patterned female. A few days later I noticed a smaller spider “hanging out” with her. It was identified by other iNat users as the male of the species.

Large female and small male Joro Spider hanging in a web. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

There are now over 300 sightings of the Jorō Spider posted on iNaturalist in Georgia, and two in South Carolina. Who knows how far and wide this invasion will sweep, or if it will have as long lasting an impact as the British Invasion that forever changed the music landscape of the world!

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website www.williamwisephoto.com is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

8 thoughts on “Outside the Okefenokee: Jorō Spider Invasion

    1. When she first arrived I wondered if she should be irradicated. I asked on iNaturalist and the basic answer was to do what was in line with my ethics. But if they’ve spread this far in the last few years, I’m not sure killing one in my backyard would make a difference. So I have left her for now. The coming colder weather will probably end her reign of my backyard! On another note, if I didn’t have a steady job already, I was quite tempted to sign up for Florida’s Python Bounty Hunter Squads! William

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    1. Well, as of yesterday evening she was still “hanging out” in my backyard. Even through the heavy rains brought to us after Hurricane Sally, her web stood up. I don’t see too many prey items in the web, but it is so thick and strong I’ve been worried a fast flying hummingbird might get caught up in it. William

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