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This giant spider could be moving to a backyard near you

Nephila clavata Joro orb weaver spider on web 8
Hanstography
/
stock.adobe.com
A Nephila clavata -- a type of orb weaver spider native to Japan, where it is called joro-gumo or joro spider -- waits in its web for prey. Scientists say the species can withstand cold temperatures, which may lead to a migration to places like upstate New York.

Arachnophobes, consider yourself duly warned.

Read this, and you may be reaching for the smelling salts. Or running for cover.

The brightly hued Joro spider, which can grow as big as the palm of your hand, has migrated from Japan to parts of the southeastern United States — and it could be traveling as far north as upstate New York.

Scientists have figured out that the species has the ability to survive in colder climates.

Researchers compared the physiology of the Joro spider to its relatives, the golden orb weavers that already inhabit places like Georgia and Florida.

"They've got a higher metabolic rate, they've got a faster heartbeat and what this means in practice is, it can deal with colder temperatures for longer," explained Linda Rayor, a behavioral ecologist at Cornell University.

Even though it may provide no great comfort to people with an irrational fear of creepy, crawly things, Rayor said this species of spider is not harmful to people or pets.

"You pretty much would have to put your finger in front of their mouth and then persuade them to bite you for them to actually do it," she said.

The invasive species doesn't even pose a threat to the local ecosystem, according to Rayor.

"Spiders are basically good actors," she added. "Spiders take down insect prey, primary. So they're eating grasshoppers; they're eating stink bugs."

Before you celebrate that last fact, Rayor admitted that she hasn't seen a Joro spider make a meal of the pesky stink bug, it's just a theory.

So is the notion that the spider will trek northward, perhaps to Rochester and the Finger Lakes region. She said the truth is, no one really knows how far north they will spread.

"If it does come up here, I want to say they're beautiful," Rayor gushed. "They're really gorgeous. They have these big, golden webs that shine into the light and I can hardly wait to start tossing prey into their webs. They're pretty fun to watch."

I'll get the smelling salts.