LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – Infamous palm-sized spiders falling from the skies and concerns of them coming to Kentucky are sweeping across social media, but the University of Kentucky has some good news for Kentuckians.
The giant parachuting Joro spiders that can fall from great heights, should be of little concern for most Kentuckians according to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment.
“The Joro spider has attracted a lot national attention recently because of reports regarding its potential range expansion along the East Coast this summer and beyond,” said Jonathan Larson, extension entomologist in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, in a news release. “Its numbers have been growing since it was first found in 2014 in Georgia. Given the natural expansion rate of the spider, it is unlikely we will see it in the Bluegrass any time soon. Though, you never say never.”
According to Larson, the full-grown spiders don’t parachute the way the small babies do.
“It is a large spider, and their babies will ‘balloon’ into new areas, but this is true of how many of our native spider species disperse into new areas as well,” Larson said. “A big spider can’t float away on a silk strand. You won’t see spiders the size of a kid’s hand floating through the sky. It is just the ones that have emerged from eggs recently.”
Flying babies growing to the size of a palm is enough to make arachnophobes everywhere shut their doors and never step outside again but according to Larson, the spiders are mostly harmless.
“Their venom is not considered medically important to people or pets, and like most spider species, they aren’t looking to bite things they can’t eat if they can help it,” he said. “Typically, the larger the spider, the less potent their venom.”
What’s the Joro spider look like?
According to the PennState Extension, the fully grown female spiders are large with bright yellow and dull grey-blue across their oval abdomen, with black and yellow legs.
The fully grown males are much smaller than the females with a light brown color on the abdomen and the same color on the legs, but with dark brown stripes.
Kentucky is home to some spiders that are similar to the Joro spiders in size and color, according to Larson. These include the banded garden spider, black and yellow garden spider, and the golden silk orb weaver. Each of these spiders will have different colorations and leg fuzziness than the Joro spider. These spiders are also harmless to people and pets.
UK entomologists want to hear from those who suspect they have found a Joro spider in Kentucky so they can help identify the possible suspect. Individuals can submit spider photos for identification to UK entomology’s Kentucky Bugs Facebook page @kentuckybugs.