What’s Shy, Has Eight Legs and Eats Spotted Lanternflies?

Good morning. It’s Wednesday. We’ll meet a spider that experts expect to arrive in New York — the question is when. We’ll also get details about a court decision that clears the path for Democrats to redraw the map of the state’s congressional districts.

Credit…Xiangliang Li

The joro spider is unusually large, about the size of a Post-it note. It moves through life on long, tentaclelike legs. It is hair-raising if you do not like spiders.

And it is “only a matter of time” before joro spiders make their way to New York, said Andy Davis, a research scientist at the University of Georgia.

But there might be an upside to the impending arrival of the joro, originally from Asia. It eats spotted lanternflies, the invasive pest that officials have said New Yorkers should kill on sight.

Joro spiders were first seen in the United States about 10 years ago, in Georgia. They have since spread to Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, and sightings have also been reported in Maryland and West Virginia, according to iNaturalist, an online network of people sharing information about nature. Davis said it made sense for the spiders to head north, because the Mid-Atlantic region is at about the same latitude as places in Asia where they are widespread.

And, he said, “New York is right in the middle of where they like to be.”

The authors of a recent scientific paper came to essentially the same conclusion after applying advanced modeling techniques to predict where joros would go. One of the authors, David Coyle, who is an assistant professor at Clemson University, said the research suggested that places like New York “have greater habitat suitability.”

Not only that, “they seem to be OK with living in a city,” Davis said, adding that he had seen joro spiders on street lamps and telephone poles in Georgia. “These are places regular spiders wouldn’t be caught dead in,” he said.

Interest in joros in New York was rekindled last week when quoted José Ramírez-Garofalo, an ecologist and Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University, as saying that “soon enough, possibly even next year, they should be in New Jersey and New York.”

“It is a matter of when, not if,” he said. (He told me that joros “appear to be expanding their range.” But he also said that “this isn’t going to be like a spotted lanternfly-type thing, where you have millions and millions all over, feeding on our trees.”)

Coyle told me that when exactly joros would arrive “is the million-dollar question.”

Davis had said in the spring that he suspected they would be sighted somewhere in the state during the summer.

They were not. But Davis told me they could arrive next year. Joros are “really good at hitchhiking on cars and trucks,” he said, adding that he was driving to work about a month ago when he noticed one hanging from his passenger-side mirror.

Coyle also talked about how joros can latch onto vehicles. “One person visiting grandma from Georgia could bring the things” to New York, he said.

On their own, joros can spread by “ballooning,” or moving through the air by shooting a thread that catches the wind. Air currents carry them along, but not far. “If we were to wait for them to get there on their own steam,” Davis said, referring to New York, “it would be 20 years.”

Coyle noted that joro spiders are invasive. He said he did not subscribe to the idea that joro spiders were beneficial because they ate other invasive species, like the spotted lanternfly. “Every spider will do that,” he said. “Spiders don’t discriminate. They eat whatever gets in their web.” He also said that where there were joros, there were fewer native spiders, an outcome he said was typical for invasive species.

But Davis said he had seen joro webs next to webs woven by other types of spiders, an indication that the joros were not pushing out other species.

Davis said joros appeared to be shy, based on an experiment that involved blowing air on them with a turkey baster. “They don’t like that, and they freeze,” he told me. “You can time how long they stay in that position.” He clocked other species of spiders at about two minutes. The joros he tested remained immobile for an hour.

Joros are also relatively harmless. Their venom is apparently too weak to hurt people.

“From what I gather, it feels like a bee sting,” Davis said. “I’ve handled about 500 of them. I haven’t been bitten yet. You’d have to manhandle the spider for it to bite you, but same with a bee. If you leave it alone, it will leave you alone.”


It will be another chilly day with high temperatures in the low 40s. In the evening, temperatures will dip below freezing, with a low around 29 degrees.


In effect until Dec. 25 (Christmas Day).

The latest New York news

Federal prosecutors disclosed that they are engaged in plea negotiations with George Santos.Credit…Uli Seit for The New York Times

Law and order

  • Get the Cameos while you can: A video star on Cameo since being expelled from Congress, George Santos has begun negotiating with prosecutors in hopes of avoiding trial on a 23-count indictment.

  • Rocking chair for ransom: Federal prosecutors say a group of scammers bilked hundreds of customers by offering cheap moving estimates and then demanding exorbitant fees in exchange for returning their possessions.

  • Courtroom artist of a new kind: As an art project, Isabelle Brourman joined the courtroom sketch artists at the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial and is now at the trial of Donald Trump.

Housing and education

  • $50 million to renovate S.R.O.s: Hoping to fight homelessness by slowing the long drop in the number of cheap rentals, New York State is planning to pay landlords who rent out single-room-occupancy units.

  • Students in suspense: Mayor Eric Adams of New York said all children who required preschool special education seats would have them. More than 1,000 such students lacked a placement last school year.

  • Building collapse under investigation: Officials said it was not yet clear what caused the corner of a Bronx apartment building to crumble. But the collapse shed light on the limited oversight of aging infrastructure.

Coming soon: A new map of House districts

The state’s top judge, Rowan WilsonCredit…Hans Pennink/Associated Press

New York’s highest court effectively erased the map that helped Republicans flip four House seats in the 2022 midterm elections.

The state Court of Appeals told the state to redraw the map, effectively reopening a process with national implications. Slight shifts in district lines could drastically improve Democratic candidates’ chances and threaten Republicans’ slim House majority, which is now three seats after the expulsion of George Santos, a Republican from New York.

The court, by a one-vote majority, told the state to restart the mapmaking. The court had taken away that power last year after an attempt at gerrymandering. Republicans, who opposed a redrawing of the district lines, are promising to challenge whatever map emerges if they believe it violates a constitutional ban on gerrymandering. That raised the possibility of another legal battle over redistricting.

The dispute dates to 2022, when New York was redrawing its House districts to reflect population shifts in the 2020 census. A bipartisan commission was supposed to do the job, but it deadlocked. The Legislature, controlled by Democrats, unilaterally approved maps that improved their chances of winning several seats.

Republicans went to court, and the Court of Appeals ruled that the Democrats’ plan had violated a constitutional amendment that bans gerrymandering. The court then hired a neutral special master to draw another map, the one that enabled Republicans to flip four seats and win in 11 of the state’s 26 congressional districts.

The suit that precipitated the case decided by the Court of Appeals on Tuesday was paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington. And the court now has a different chief judge: Rowan Wilson, who had been an associate judge on the court since 2017 and is considered more liberal than his predecessor, Janet DiFiore, who resigned last year. Judge Wilson has also taken a more expansive view of the Legislature’s role in redistricting.


Gas bill

Dear Diary:

In fall 1977, I was living in a second-floor studio apartment in a Brooklyn Heights brownstone when I got a call from the young woman who had just moved into the garden apartment below.

She said she was having trouble getting Brooklyn Union Gas to open a new account because the serviceman couldn’t find the building’s address, probably because the entrance was downstairs rather than up a flight of stairs like all the other buildings on our side of the street.

She had gotten my name from the mailbox and asked if I could give her my account number to help the company find her.

The request seemed reasonable enough, so I found my bill and gave her my account number.

A few weeks later, I asked her out. We were married the following spring and have shared our utility bill for 45 years now.

— John M. George Jr.

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Kellina Moore and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


Back to top button