Oh Great, Another Giant Bug Invasion

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In 2021, we were warned of the coming invasion of the cicadas, giant flying bugs that hibernate underground and emerge every 17 years. Some people were welcoming the return of these disgusting creatures, while touting how best to prepare them for dinner, or at the very least, as an appetizer.
Some cultures worldwide look forward to making a meal out of what they call the “shrimp of the land.” I’d rather stick pins in my eyeballs than knowingly eat bugs.


The Joro spider
(Photo by Solitary Thrush/CC BY-SA 3.0)


Personally, I didn’t notice anything different about the cicada populations in Massapequa, thank you. You still heard them at night, but they certainly weren’t covering my backyard like a cheap carpet.
This time, however, we may be under an invasion from the sky in the form of the Joro spider.

Wait until you get a load of the Joro. It’s about the size of your palm with a large bulbous body with black and yellow stripes with a red underside. Imagine two pretzel nuggets stuck together. Its thick legs have blue, black, and yellow lines. It is certainly not something you will stand on a chair and try to kill with a slipper. Talk about leaving a mark.
It reminded me of what Woody Allen said to Diane Keaton when trying to kill a spider in her bathroom with a rolled-up newspaper in the movie Annie Hall. He immediately came out, asking if she had a broom or a snow shovel, eventually settling for a tennis racket. “You have a spider in there the size of a Buick….”

Originally from Japan, the Joro somehow made its way to the Southeastern United States, most likely through shipping containers. Bug experts seem to believe that due to their metabolism and heart rates, they can survive in the colder weather of the Northeast.
I didn’t even know spiders had hearts.
Unfortunately, some of those experts don’t seem to know anything definitive about them. Andy Davis, a research scientist in the Odum School of Ecology, co-wrote a paper with Benjamin Frick. Davis said, “People should try to learn to live with them.”
Live with them?

He also said things like, “They don’t appear to be harmful,” and although they kill their prey with venom, they are harmless to people and pets because “Their fangs are usually too small to break human skin.”
Where I come from, “usually” doesn’t cut it. If they somehow do break the skin, their venom is the equivalent of a bee sting.

And by the way, because of their size, they don’t have any known predators to worry about or control their population like they do in Japan. Maybe they have Godzilla spiders there?
Although they haven’t exhibited an ability to buy a bus ticket or get through security at an airport (yet), how are hordes of them going to make their way up the coast, you might ask? They spin such thick, silky webs that their hatchlings use them for “ballooning” that will carry them on the wind to new locations, where they parachute to the surface.
Isn’t that special?

Might there be a silver lining to the arrival of the Joro spider? “Joro spiders present us with excellent opportunities to suppress pests naturally, without chemicals,” said Nancy Hinkle, an entomologist in Georgia, where the Joro first arrived in 2013. “I’m trying to convince people that having zillions of large spiders and their webs around is a good thing.”
Good luck with that.

Andy seems to think we should learn to live with them because they aren’t going away. Benjamin Frick, Andy’s co-author, agrees with him. “The way I see it, there’s no point in excess cruelty where it’s not needed. You have people with saltwater guns shooting them out of trees and things like that and that’s really just not necessary.”
Does anyone know where I can get a saltwater gun?

Paul DiSclafani’s new book, A View From The Bench, is a collection of his favorite Long Island Living columns. It’s available wherever books are sold.

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