It is not just in Australia that spiders abound; in the United States, Georgia has turned into hell for arachnophobes.
If you are one of the last category arachnophobes, and you have booked a vacation in Georgia, USA, you better cancel immediately. The population coexists at the moment with “millions” of large invasive spiders that have come to settle in the north of the American state.
According to ScienceAlert, it would be Trichonephila clavata, or Joro spider, a bright yellow species native to Asia. We could not qualify it as “giant” like tarantulas, but adults can still reach 9cm. What to think twice before rubbing it!
According to Rick Hoebeke, one of the officials at the Georgian Museum of Natural History, they likely arrived at Uncle Sam’s house in a commercial container. And this species apparently felt at home in this state known above all for its orchards.
Within a few years, it colonized the area with impressive speed; locals have gotten used to seeing them all over the place, from letterboxes to electric cables, bushes and trees. But this year, it has proliferated beyond all expectations.
A situation evidenced by entomologist Will Hudson. In a press release, he explains having killed “tens”Spiders last year. These were indeed starting to become invasive, but it was nothing compared to the 2021 vintage. “I have already eliminated more than 300 females this year”, He says. To illustrate the scale of the phenomenon, he even compares his court to the haunt of Shelob, the terrible spider from The Lord of the Rings!
Given the number of individuals, the researcher firmly explains that eradication is no longer an option. Fortunately, however, Georgians are not in danger of death. These spiders are not aggressive by nature, and only attack when provoked. And even in the event of an accident, there is nothing to panic about. Their bite, although painful, is not dangerous for humans, unless they have an allergy.
A risk of proliferation
There is therefore no large-scale public health risk. If this colonization worries researchers, it is rather for their potential impact on the environment. Indeed, it is common knowledge that invasive species tend to destabilize ecosystems. The best example remains that of the Asian hornet, which we know all too well and which makes life difficult for our bees.
This disruption is all the more true when the species proliferate as quickly as Trichonephila clavata. Considering the proportions it has taken in Georgia, many researchers are even starting to imagine that these spiders could colonize other American states. A very real risk, knowing that they have a formidable weapon.
In fact, females lay their eggs in small silk bags containing up to 400 eggs. These bags can then be transported over very long distances, allowing the species to spread at high speed.
But luckily, this proliferation could also have unexpected beneficial effects. According to entomologist Nancy Hinkle, these creatures can significantly reduce the population of certain pest species. They thus rid the inhabitants of flies and mosquitoes. Better still: it is even one of the rare species to feed on invasive bugs, which can cause serious damage to crops. “It’s a great opportunity to deal with these issues without chemicals,” she explains.
With winter approaching, the majority of spiders should start to freeze to death in the coming weeks. But they will have left behind bags of eggs, which are expected to hatch next spring. We will then know if the population has stabilized, or if this spider has pushed its conquest of America even further.