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Giant venomous flying spiders with 4-inch legs heading to New York area as they spread across East Coast, experts say

The Joro spider may be headed to NYC. Here's how New Yorkers are reacting.
The Joro spider may be headed to NYC. Here's how New Yorkers are reacting. 01:22

First came the spotted lanternflies, then the cicadas — and now, the spiders? The Northeast U.S. is bracing for an invasion of giant venomous spiders with 4-inch-long legs that can parachute through the air. 

Earlier this year, New Jersey Pest Control warned of the incoming spiders, saying Joro spiders will be "hard to miss" as females have a leg span of up to 4 inches and are known for their vibrant yellow and grey bodies. 

"What sets them apart, however, is their ability to fly, a trait uncommon among spiders," the company said. "While not accurate flight in the avian sense, Joro spiders utilize a technique known as ballooning, where they release silk threads into the air, allowing them to be carried by the wind."  

A Joro spider
A Joro spider Dave Coyle/Clemson University

José R. Ramírez-Garofalo, an ecologist at Rutgers University's Lockwood Lab and the president of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods on Staten Island, told SI Live that "it is a matter of when, not if" the spiders arrive in New York and New Jersey. 

A peer-reviewed study published last October by invasive species expert David Coyle found that the invasive species is "here to stay." The arachnids are native to Asia, but were introduced to north Georgia around 2010, the study said, and are continuing to spread. Experts have warned that the spiders could spread to New York since 2022, but none have been detected – yet. 

"Anyone that doesn't sort of like all the creepy crawly things, this has all of the characteristics that makes them squeamish," Coyle previously told CBS News, saying a press release that "data show that this spider is going to be able to inhabit most of the eastern U.S.."

"It shows that their comfort area in their native range matches up very well with much of North America."

People have reported seeing Joro spiders across much of the eastern U.S., including in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio. New York happens to be "right in the middle of where they like to be," University of Georgia researcher Andy Davis told The New York Times in December. He believes the spiders could pop up across New York and neighboring states this summer – aka any day now. 

"They seem to be OK with living in a city," Davis added, saying he has seen Joro spiders on street lamps and telephone poles, where "regular spiders wouldn't be caught dead in." 

The arachnids are venomous, but Coyle says that they do not pose a danger to humans. That venom, he said, is reserved for the critters that get caught up in their webs, including butterflies, wasps and cockroaches. They could also pose a threat to native spiders. 

"We have no evidence that they've done any damage to a person or a pet," he said.

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