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