Giant Spiders Invade Georgia, Look to Go Nationwide and Even Scare Other Spiders

Are you afraid of spiders? It’s a common fear and one that keeps the roll-able magazine and foldable newspaper businesses profitable. If you’re arachnophobic, Georgia is not the state to live in – entomologists announced recently that giant Joro spiders (Trichonephila clavate), an invasive species from East Asia that only showed up in 2014, has taken over the state … covering it with its massive, intricate webs. Don’t rest too easily Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama – the entomologists say the Joro Spiders have crossed your borders with Georgia and are spreading. And, while they’re not the largest spider in North America, they may even be scaring other spiders. Is it time to subscribe to a few more magazines?

“Last year, there were dozens of spiders, and they began to be something of a nuisance when I was doing yard work. This year, I have several hundred, and they actually make the place look spooky with all the messy webs — like a scene out of ‘Arachnophobia.’”

Joro spider

University of Georgia entomologist Will Hudson explains in a statement that the Joro spiders are venomous but pose a danger only to insects caught in their webs, not humans of pets. However, their rapid spread throughout Georgia and has him concerned and he recommends killing any females one comes across – females are larger (3 inches across) and more colorful than the small brown males. Hudson himself has killed more than 300 females on his property just this year. He instructs to avoid persiticides and instead use old-fashioned methods like shovels, brinks, boots and magazines (big thick ones). And he warns it’s already too late to eradicate them from Georgia and the U.S.

“Jumping spiders (Salticidae) have superb vision and are excellent predators but they can equally fall prey to other jumping spiders. In a hierarchical decision-making setup, we tested whether the common zebra jumping spider Salticus scenicus can visually recognize stationary predators.”

While Will Hudson is chasing Joro spiders, researchers led by Dr. Daniela Rößler at Germany’s University of Konstanz found something unusual about jumping spiders of the Salticidae family – they’re afraid of other jumping spiders. In a study published by the British Ecological Society and appropriately nicknamed “Arachno-Arachnophobia,” the entomologists wondered how jumping spiders, which use their springy talent to avoid predators, recognized the predators, particularly other jumping spiders. While many creatures detect, the researchers were surprised when jumping spiders recognized and backed away from a dead jumping spider. Even more interesting, Rößler says in a tweet that this behavior was present in newly hatched spiderlings too.

Jumping spider

“So, while we usually think of anti-predator adaptations in terms of morphology and behavior, we might want to include cognitive and perceptual abilities more into this discussion. Isn’t it absolutely amazing that a brain the size of a poppy seed is able to do this???”

Amazing? Yes. Frightening? Well, think about it. Something with a brain the size of a poppy seed can spot spiders before you can. And Rößler’s study only looks at jumping spiders. Do other spiders have this innate ability? Are Joro spiders already evolving to fear other spiders … boots?

Even if you’re not getting married, “Modern Bride” is a pretty thick magazine.

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