Chances are, if you live in northeast Georgia you’ve come across an East Asian Joro spider this fall. At almost 3 inches across when their legs are fully extended, they’re hard to miss. While they’re roughly the same size as orb spiders, the distinctive yellow and blue-black stripes on their backs and bright red markings on their undersides are unique. Their enormous three-dimensional webs are a striking golden color and tend to be located higher off the ground than those of other spiders. “We’ve been getting lots of calls and emails from people reporting sightings,” said Byron Freeman, director of the Georgia Museum of Natural History. “They seem to be really common in riparian areas and in urban areas around people’s houses, but they’re also in the deep woods.”
Joro spiders have spread widely since they were first spotted in Hoschton, Georgia, in 2013. They probably arrived by hitching a ride in a shipping container from China or Japan. Joro spiders appear to have successfully established themselves in the area, with recent confirmed reports from as far afield as Blairsville, Georgia, and Greenville, South Carolina. But there is still much that remains unknown about them. One important question is how they might affect the local ecosystem. Will they out-compete other orb weaving spiders? Will they reduce insect populations through predation? “We don’t know what the impact is going to be…right now, we’re trying to learn as much as we can about them.”
So far, early observations indicate that Joros are coexisting with the area’s other orb weaving spiders, with webs close to, and in some cases even attached to, one another. And Joro spiders also appear to be able to capture and feed on at least one insect that other local spiders are not: adult brown marmorated stink bugs, an invasive pest that can infest houses and damage crops. In turn, Joro spiders are vulnerable to predators like mud dauber wasps and birds.
Here’s what we do know: Joro spiders travel by ballooning, letting the wind carry them on a strand of gossamer. “The male has to drift in and find the female,” Freeman said. “Sometimes there’ll be four or five males on a web, sometimes there’ll be one, so the males are moving between webs. When you have a large population it seems feasible that a male could just drift from one spot to the next.”
Despite their size, Freeman said that Joro spiders don’t pose a threat to people. “All spiders have venom that they use to subdue prey,” he said. “If you put your hand in front of one and try to make it bite you, it probably will. But they run if you disturb their web. They’re trying to get out of the way. “Freeman said that Joros can be shooed away with a broom if they’re in a location that puts them too close for comfort. But as for removing them permanently, he compared such efforts to shoveling sand at the beach. “Should you try to get rid of them?” said Freeman. “You can, but at this point, they’re here to stay. If you spot a Joro spider—especially if you can provide a photo tagged with date and location—please contact Hoebeke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the August 25 edition of the North Fulton Revue and News, editorialist Steve Hudson wrote about discovering one in his yard and doing his own research on it. He found out that the name Joro was given to this spider because in Japanese mythology a Jorogumo is a shape-shifting spider that can take on the form of a beautiful woman who tempts men into her grasp and then binds them with strong silk before devouring them.
Opinions on this sudden onslaught of these spiders and webs differs. While Hudson is ‘spellbound’ by the vivid colors and strong, sticky webs, bug expert Hal Coleman had a different opinion. When I contacted him via Facebook for his opinion, he stated , “Joro is a nuisance in my yard already.”
In his September 23 Atlanta Journal-Constitution garden column Joro spiders here to stay in Georgia, Walter Reeves writes “the spiders have now been spotted in at least 23 counties, as far west as Alpharetta and north to Rabun and Union counties. So far, they have been reported nowhere else in North America”.
Welcome to Georgia, Joro!
As I sat at my computer this afternoon, I noticed that a praying mantis had climbed up the support post to the eave, out over a Shepard’s hook, and down onto my hummingbird feeder. It eventually took up residence under the feeder looking for prey. This mantis is still a “juvenile” as it will molt several more times this year to grow twice, maybe three times its current size. I know that fully adult Chinese Mantises have been shown to capture hummingbirds which is one of those wonders of nature that would seem impossible. But, watching this small sized predator being fearless when a hummingbird approached, I could see how a full-sized adult could subdue a hummer. This one stalked the hummers every time one would approach, even making an attempted strike. The birds were definitely leery. I did see the mantis snare a wasp and start to eat it, but quickly let it go.
Just a quick biology lesson from my friend Rick Kneisel, who is a biologist/naturalist/science teacher—All adult mantids die in late fall into early winter. Egg sacs, or ootheca, are produced on plants or even on the side of structures (depending on the species of mantid) and will remain dormant until the following spring. They will hatch once warm weather comes and they can go through development and look like very tiny miniature adults. It will take them all summer to go through enough molts to increase in size to become the larger mantids we see in late summer. The Chinese Mantid is an introduced species and its benefit of eating pest insects is tempered by its preying on many pollinators, butterflies, and even those occasional hummingbirds. Most of the egg sacs that are sold are of the Chinese Mantid and therefore have helped to increase the population of this non-indigenous species.
This spring you will see countless butterfly garden articles using words like nectar, pollinator, and flowers. What you might not see in these documents are words like native, habitat, and caterpillar. While providing pollen is laudable, you are not being a very good host if you don’t provide food for the butterfly through all 4 stages of its life cycle: egg, larva, chrysalis, and adult.
The butterfly has been poetically called a flying flower. In reality, it is an insect, which, in its adult stage, lives 2-6 weeks. Nectar-rich plants like echinacea, coreopsis, and lantana attract the beautiful fluttering adult. However, the challenge is to provide specific foods for the caterpillar, the larval stage of the butterfly.
The caterpillar eats voraciously for 9 – 14 days in order to grow and molt 5 times before its attaches to a host plant where the pupa skin hardens to form the enclosure where metamorphosis takes place. Host plants to include in pots and beds this summer are parsley, dill, fennel, and passion vine.
The most important host plant to include is Asclepias or milkweed, which is absolutely critical to the survival of the monarch butterfly. It’s the ONLY plant the monarch larvae eat, and the ONLY plant they will lay their eggs on. As Southeasterners, we must plant milkweed to insure the survival of monarchs which travel from as far away as Canada through Georgia to overwinter in Mexico.
Make your garden monarch/butterfly-friendly by planting butterfly weed, A. tuberosa, common milkweed, A. syriaca; or swamp milkweed, A. incarnate, which can be grown from seed or purchased at nurseries. Join us this Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at 11:00 am, at the Roswell Adult Recreation Center, to make Milkweed Mud Pies to get started growing milkweed at your home. To register for this free program, either call the ARC @ 770-641-3950 or register on line by clicking here and choosing June 9 National Garden Week Topic.
Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants says, “Because life is fueled by the energy captured from the sun by plants, it will be the plants that we use in our gardens that determine what nature will be like 10, 20, and 50 years from now.”
Make your contribution to the future; plant native milkweed to help ensure the survival of the butterfly.
Get a good start by reading circular 975 at extension.uga.edu/publications.
This year EarthDay.org is collaborating with people around the world for three days of climate action. April 20 is the Global Youth Summit led by Earth Uprising & the We Shall Breathe Hip Hop Caucus; April 21 is Teach for the Planet led by Education International; and April 22 Earth Day Live starts streaming at 12:30. All of these events can be streamed on earthday.org. Earth Day also marks the start of President Biden’s Leaders Summit on the Climate.
While I was checking out what was going on for Earth Day, I came across earthday.org’s 51 Ways to Restore our Earth. As I was reading the tips, I realized it’s pretty simple to start making a difference every day. I picked out a few to start with, and I encourage you to try some, too. We only have one earth, and we need to stop trashing it right now. Here’s my plan:
- Take earthday.org’s zero-waste challenge: The first step is to commit yourself to logging each and every item of food for a whole day. Start with breakfast and include everything, even the snack you have in the middle of the night. Compile all of your packaging and food waste, and then take a hard look at what you have: Is there a lot of plastic? Are any of your food scraps compostable? Are your leftovers stored in plastic or glass containers? Once you know your food habits and the waste you produce, you can start making some adjustments. For example, you can swap out daily yogurt cups for one larger container to reduce the total plastic used. But don’t stop there — keep going! The folks at earthday.org have some recommendations to support your waste transformation.
- Take part in the Great Global Cleanup. You’ll find suggestions for individuals and groups on the earthday.org. I’d be interested in plogging (picking up plastic litter while jogging), but I don’t jog. I’ll have to stick to plalking (picking up plastic litter while walking)
- Try a foodprint calculator https://www.earthday.org/foodprints-calculators/ or foodprint quiz https://foodprint.org/quiz/ to see how the food you eat impacts the earth. I took the foodprint quiz and found out I’m not doing too bad, but I definitely have room for improvement–especially if I do everything I said I do when I took the quiz. After you take the quiz, you’ll see your general score and detailed suggestions for improvement. Here’s some improvements I’m jumping on:
- Meatless Monday…I’m in. And let’s add those Rosemary Beans to the menu
- Cut your meat serving-size in half
- Stop buying individually packaged items
- When my plastic storage containers wear out, replace them with glass
- No straws unless they are re-usable
I was going to say I have my work cut out for me, but really, all I need is a more informed, intentional approach to some everyday activities. Join me and let’s restore our earth!
BTW, the beautiful featured image for this post is from Share America. You can download it for free at https://share.america.gov/earth-day-2021-download-free-poster/
Capitol Conservation Day 2021 (Virtual)
WHEN: March 3, 2021
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Capitol Conservation Day 2021 will be a virtual event. Click here to register https://tinyurl.com/yav7yra8 Click here to become a sponsor or make a donation https://www.gawater.org/donate
Join us to get the information you need to make a difference for cleaner, more plentiful water in Georgia. We will virtually come together on March 3 using Zoom.
Experts from the Georgia Water Coalition will brief you on important legislative issues. Then you will put your new skills and information to work! Following the event, meet with your local legislators virtually to advocate in support of important legislation.
Register early so that GWC can match you with fellow constituents and assist in scheduling a group virtual meeting with your local legislator.
Please consider sponsoring Capitol Conservation Day for $150 or donate any dollar amount to the GWC to support our ongoing efforts to protect Georgia’s essential surface water and groundwater resources.
Sponsors will be recognized during the event.
As rising temperatures bring attention to the problem of global warming, society becomes more involved in ways that the carbon footprint may be reduced. Restaurants commonly choose not to provide straws, the vegan community has grown, and local produce is becoming more readily available, for example at the Roswell Farmer’s and Artisan Market. There are, of course, still the basic approaches, such as opting to walk or bike ride over drive, as well as recycling. The term “reduce, reuse, recycle” has been prevalent in society for some time, and has been taught to young ages. But what can happen when we go about this the wrong way?
Using recycled materials lowers a need for exerted energy on extraction of new material; this in turn lowers carbon footprint. Unfortunately, the emphasis on the need to recycle has clouded people’s judgement on what to recycle. Although your Friday night pizza may have come in a cardboard box, it is tainted by grease, which will affect the recycling process. Other items become contaminated, therefore making them no longer recyclable and increasing waste. Roswell could, however, create separate bins for composting the greasy parts, perhaps even located at various pizza chains so that they are easily accessible. Cut up your pizza box and recycle non-contaminated parts while bringing contaminated parts to pizza compost bins, which could be taken to compost piles help with decomposition of organic material.
Another common misconception surrounds recycling Styrofoam. Although the bottom of the egg carton may indicate that it is recyclable, many places, Roswell included, do not have the machinery to separate Styrofoam from all other materials. Styrofoam is a type 6 plastic, making it hard to break down. It is also very porous making it easily contaminated and not easily cleaned. As a solution, it can be overall reduced or simply reused. Opt for different methods of carry-out meals or use reusable insulated cups instead of Styrofoam to keep your drinks warm. Another option, similar to that of the pizza compost box, is to have stations where Styrofoam can be returned, as many manufacturing companies accept used material and turn it into packing peanuts.
Recycling reduces carbon footprint, however it must be done properly. Educate Roswell and create options for proper recycling in order to improve the world we live in before it is too late.
Is Styrofoam Recyclable?
Photo by: Unsplash