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Joro spider, first discovered in Georgia, makes its way to neighboring states

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Spring is just around the corner, which means we're in for longer days, warmer weather and...

(SOUNDBITE OF DRAMATIC STING SOUND EFFECT)

MARTIN: ...Spiders falling from the sky.

Originally from Japan, the joro spider managed to make its way across the ocean to the U.S., and they may not be done traveling just yet. NPR's Sean Saldana reports.

SEAN SALDANA, BYLINE: The joro spider was first found in northern Georgia around 2014, and it didn't take long for the species to start settling in.

ANDY DAVIS: Since then, it has spread throughout most of the northern part of Georgia and into the neighboring states.

SALDANA: Dr. Andy Davis is a research scientist at the University of Georgia. He says the joro spider can grow up to about three inches long, and they have vibrant black and yellow patterns across their body.

DAVIS: They're about the size of the palm of your hand and, if you can imagine, a black and yellow grape with big, long legs sticking out of it.

SALDANA: Luckily, these spiders are not dangerous. They're timid in nature, and when they do bite, their fangs are usually too small to break human skin.

DAVIS: If you see these on your property, I don't think there's any reason to panic. They're not harmful to people. They're not harmful to pets. And, you know, I've heard some people say that you can think of these as almost, like, free pest control because these spiders are going to take out all of your pesky mosquitoes.

SALDANA: One thing that's not so subtle about them, though, are their massive webs.

DAVIS: You'll probably see the web before you even see the spider because their webs are absolutely huge. They're at least 3 to 4 feet in diameter. And sometimes you can have multiple webs all connected to each other, and so, you know, you get this massive web.

SALDANA: And it's these webs that have made the spiders so mobile over the years. Through a process called ballooning, they use their silk to catch the wind and travel far and wide, where they lay hundreds of eggs. This is how they've populated Georgia so quickly and why they may soon be coming to a city near you.

DAVIS: These species are really good at hitching a ride on cars and trucks, and so it's very possible that somebody could accidentally transport some of these all the way to California on a big truck somewhere. And so if that happens, then, you know, it's kind of game over.

SALDANA: For a research and science advocate like Dr. Davis, there's an opportunity to really learn about the wonders of nature because there's a lot to unpack about the joro spider. It's a story of ecology, a story of migration, and, if you're Dr. Davis...

DAVIS: I joke that this story has legs.

SALDANA: Sean Saldana, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sean Saldana
Sean Saldana is a production assistant for Morning Edition.