Will Flying Spiders or Potentially Lethal “Needle Ants” Invade the East Coast First?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: March 14, 2022
© iStock.com/David Hansche
Share this post on:

We’ve heard a lot of news about the palm-sized Joro spider invasion in 2022, but these flying spiders are not the only invasive species causing problems to worry about this year. Unfortunately, another insect called the Asian needle ant, Brachyponera chinensis, is posed to journey farther up the East Coast than ever before. Unlike the Joro spider, these ants can actually hurt people.

Take a look at how far these creatures have spread this year and why you should worry more about the appearance of these ants than the spiders.

Will Flying Spiders or Potentially Lethal Needle Ants Appear First?

Joro Spider in Web
Joro spiders are already in the Carolinas, and they’re going to spread farther north.

©Surapong Kaewsa-ad/Shutterstock.com

Asian needle ants are making their way up the East Coast sooner than Joro spiders. According to reports, Asian needle ants were spotted as far north as New York City. This comes a little over a decade after they were found in North Carolina, so they’ve been trending north but not getting a lot of attention.

Joro spiders are easier to spot and harder to confuse for another species. They’re large and colorful while the ants are small and dull-colored.   

Joro spiders are taking their time to reach that far up the East Coast. Based on current estimates, these flying spiders are going to advance further up the East Coast beginning in May.

Unlike the Asian needle ants that are already far up the East Coast in small numbers, the Joro spiders will be mounting a D-Day style airdrop by using silk parachutes to float into our cities and towns in the spring. It’s believed they could reach into D.C. or even Delaware but is unclear whether they’ll be able to survive and expand their populations in New York’s climate.

Flying Spiders: What Are Joro Spiders?

Are Joro Spiders Invasive - Joro Spider Close Up
Joro spiders are large, venomous spiders that use web balloons to travel

©Kelly vanDellen/Shutterstock.com

Numerous stories have aired about Joro spiders in recent months. After all, it’s difficult to not be alarmed by these very large spiders. They’re about three to four inches long, and they have eight spindly legs like most other spiders.

Another alarming feature about the Joro spiders is that they have very bright colors. Male Joro spiders are brown, but females are yellow and blue on top, with the same colors on their legs. The underside of the female’s body is red, yellow, and black.  

Typically, when you see a creature with bright colors, it means that the creature is venomous. That is the case with Joro spiders. They kill their prey with venom after trapping them in their very large webs. Fortunately, they cannot deliver that venom through human skin.

Joro spiders are going to be a nuisance. The chances are good that they will also scare uninformed people because of their sudden appearance in new areas, large webs, and frightening looks. Also, they are going to impact the local insect ecosystem to some extent.

All that information combined with the fact that they travel by creating silk parachutes and rain from the sky makes them an unpleasant visitor that millions more people will see this year. Yet, they’re not as bad as Asian needle ants because they won’t actually hurt you.

Asian Needle Ants Are Creeping Up the East Coast

Asian Needle Ants
Asian needle ants have small populations as far north as New York

©Raj Nirala Art/Shutterstock.com

A more concerning story is the Asian need ant, a creature that is known for delivering very painful stings. Asian needle ants are about 1/5 of an inch in length, making them smaller than many other common ants. Don’t let their size fool you, though; they’re quite dangerous.

Asian needle ants have stingers and a venom sac. Their stings are painful to various creatures, including humans. They can also cause an allergic reaction in humans that can prove fatal in rare cases.

These ants have dark brown or black bodies, and they have light brown legs and mandibles. Unlike many other ants that have a rounded posterior, these ants have a well-defined and obvious stinger. However, these creatures are so small that people may not realize they’re facing a somewhat dangerous creature and not a regular ant!

These ants are making their way up the East Coast, and they have already been spotted as far north as New York City and as far west as Indiana. These ants are not as mobile as Joro spiders. They have to walk to new areas instead of using the power of the wind and web parachutes to take them places.

Asian needle ants are continually encroaching upon areas where humans live so they can seek food. That means they are going to be common in places where high populations of people live. Unfortunately, we can expect to see more encounters and stings take place this year.  

Are Joro Spiders or Asian Needle Ants More Dangerous?

Asian Needle Ants on Floor
While small, Asian needle ants are dangerous and possibly lethal to humans.

©Zay Nyi Nyi/Shutterstock.com

Asian needle ants are far more dangerous than Joro spiders. In fact, Joro spiders are not that dangerous to human beings at all. As we have mentioned, Asian needle ants have stingers that deliver venom capable of inflicting a significant amount of pain upon people. The pain from these stings can linger for weeks when the affected area is touched.

Moreover, the stings have a somewhat high rate of causing an allergic reaction that could prove very harmful or even fatal.

Making matters worse is that these ants are hard to tell apart from carpenter ants and large sugar ants at a glance. People might not realize what sort of infestation they have brewing in their homes.

As if we needed more bad news about these creatures, they do not have many natural predators and they easily destroy or displace other insect species. While they’re not going to bring about an ecosystem collapse, we still need to monitor their impact on the areas they invade.

The only good news about these ants is that they are not overly aggressive. They realize that human beings are dangerous and will attempt to flee rather than sting humans in most cases.

All in all, Asian needle ants are far more dangerous to human beings than Joro spiders, and they are going to make their way farther north along the East Coast. Fortunately, the populations of the Joro spider and the Asian needle ants are low right now. You may not even see many of either one this year, and if you do, it will probably be the Joro spider because it’s larger and a lot more obvious.

Up Next:

More from A-Z Animals

The Featured Image

close up of a Joro spider
Joro spiders have exceptionally long legs and large abdomens.
© iStock.com/David Hansche

Share this post on:
About the Author

I've been a freelance writer since 2013, and I've written in a variety of niches such as managed service providers, animals, and retail distribution. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.