Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 14, 2023

Southern Adventist professor calls for help spotting invasive spider

The proliferate Joro spider, an East Asian species spreading rapidly throughout the Southeast regions of the United States, is the elusive subject of a research team that includes Dr. David Nelsen, a biology professor at Southern Adventist University.

These researchers are appealing to communities in Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina to be on the lookout for the yellow, red and silver-blue arachnid.

“More eyes in the field will contribute immeasurably to our research efforts and results,” Nelsen says. “Anybody can be a scientist in this case, and photographs can give us strong data for tracking and measuring this ongoing invasion.”

Several professors working in the Southeast formed the research team in 2020 to study the Joro spider’s locations, rate of spreading and its impact on native spiders and other species.

These educators hail from various institutions, including Clayton State University in Georgia, Clemson University in South Carolina and the University of Tennessee, in addition to Southern.

There were four sightings of the arachnid in the Chattanooga area in 2021, including one on Southern’s campus. Last year, sightings increased to approximately 20, along with the presence of males, which suggests a stable breeding population.

Known for weaving three-dimensional, wheel-shaped webs of gold silk, the spiders float on air currents to hitch a ride into new territories, according to Nelsen.

They can measure 3 inches across with legs fully extended and survive brief freezes due to a high metabolism and heart rate.

Nelsen has involved Southern’s ecology students in the research by incorporating the project into labs and educational outreach. For example, students taught several young outdoor adventure groups about spiders and included the local impact of the Joro.

The project will continue for several more years in order to determine whether or not the arachnid newcomer is harming native species.

Email Nelsen at dnelsen@southern.edu to report a sighting and deliver photos.

Source: Southern Adventist University