Dec 1, 2021 Episode 75
Joro spiders invade Georgia, new COVID variant omicron arrives, plants talk to humans and Canada’s maple syrup crisis
EPISODE 75 – Invasion of Joro spider
OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”
LEELA: Hello and welcome to – OMG – our 75th episode of Newsy Pooloozi – the news pool for curious kids and adults!
MAMA: Wow – look at us! Uniting news nerds and podcast nerds the world over!
LEELA: And just curious people who want to be entertained and informed.
MAMA: That is true. You’re pretty entertaining.
LEELA: Why, thank you! So, I’m your host Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by my Mama, and the big story explainer.
MAMA: Hello, hello – I’m Lyndee Prickitt!
LEELA: And this week on Newsy Pooloozi…
Massive spiders – that spin webs as wide as ten-feet – are taking over North Georgia – but it’s not aaaaalll bad!
As the new omicron variant of COVID-19 gives people the jitters, we’ll hear from a nine-year-old who’s recently been vaccinated.
And never mind trees that can talk to each other – what about plants that can talk TO HUMANS! In a manner of speaking, that is…
And – some big breakfast news that might have you crying into your cereal bowl.
LEELA: But first, it’s time for…
BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”
MAMA: Now – warning: if you have a fear of creepy crawlies, particularly of the spider variety, you might want to give this story a miss!
LEELA: Yeah – insects are bleh, spiders are eeeew, and while they might be big, these ones are huuuuuuuge!
MAMA: Nice one, Leela. Luckily, this is where the fabulous audio-only aspect of podcasts works to an added advantage.
LEELA: Yeah, I don’t want to see these gnarly things. If you thought that one spider in your bathroom was scary, then wait till you hear this story.
MAMA: Yes, not thousands, but millions of giant Joro spiders – which are usually found in East Asia – have invaded north Georgia, petrifying residents and producing…
LEELA: Wait for it…
MAMA: Spider webs as wide as 10 feet!
LEELA: That’s like as wide as a car is long. Yiiick!
MAMA: Well, the people of north Georgia are wondering – will they back off? Or will they take over….?
LEELA: OMG! Those poor people. Just think about the folks with arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders!
MAMA: Well, we’ve talked about another spider-related story on our 66th episode, haven’t we?
LEELA: Yeah! The get-rid-of-your-spider-fear app, but I find even THAT even scary.
MAMA: Poor you.
LEELA: What’s weird about this species of spider is – if they’re East Asian, how did they get all the way to Georgia?!
MAMA: Well, luckily, we have our Georgia correspondent, Madison Smith of the All Things Madison podcast, standing by to tell us more.
LEELA: Oh, no – Madison – tell me you’ve never seen these things. Please!
MADISON : Ohh Hey you guys. I’m more than happy to say – no, I’ve never seen these creepy creatures.
Luckily, these Joro spiders haven’t made their way to Atlanta yet. But they certainly have people in the north of the state freaked out.
Not only are they about three inches long – with bright yellow and green bodies – but even their long, spindly legs are black and yellow.
But that’s not all. As you said, their webs are intense – growing as wide as ten feet!
They’re creeping up power lines and over sidewalks – even across people’s porches and patios.
Thankfully, unless you’re allergic to them, their venom is really only a threat to their prey.
But of course, what everyone wants to know is – how did they get here?
Well, back in 2014, they most likely “hitched” a ride in a shipping container from Asia, where they’re common.
And since the climate here in Georgia is similar to the wide areas of Japan, where they thrive, well…
They’re feeling quite at home here and are happily multiplying.
The female Joro spiders lay more than 400 eggs at a time!
But it’s not all bad news. Joro spiders eat mosquitoes for a start – and that’s always a good thing in my book! But they also eat flies and bugs known for damaging crops.
So, scientists are trying to convince people that having millions of these creepy crawlies could be a good thing! But that could be a tough sell.
In Atlanta, Georgia, I’m Madison Smith reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: Thanks, for “untangling” this story, Madison. I’m glad these things are nowhere near you. But… uhhh…
MAMA: Yeah, 400 eggs in a spider sac that no doubt blows easily with the wind sounds like it’s only a matter of time before they start spreading across Georgia and beyond…
LEELA: Guess that’s why they’re called “invasive” spiders… Well, you heard it here first, people. Get ready for some massive cobwebs!
MAMA: Speaking of their webs – here’s a fab fact for you – these Joro spiders, which are common to China, Taiwan, Korea and – as Madison said – love Japan, are part of a group of spiders known as “orb weavers.” That’s because of their highly symmetrical, circular webs.
LEELA: Which, I admit, are quite cool looking – in photos!
MAMA: And, yes, we’ll have a link to this story and pictures of these striking spiders on our Facebook page and in our transcript, which can be found on our website, Newsypooloozi.com – that’s:
MAMA: Thank you robot Leela. A new variant of COVID-19 has everyone worried again. It was first in South Africa – because they still have rigorous testing going on there – and has been named omicron.
LEELA: That’s the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet, right? But I thought we were up to number 13?
MAMA: That’s right – each variant is named after a letter in the Greek alphabet. And interestingly, the World Health Organization skipped two letters: Nu – spelt n-u – because it might have been confused with the word new and we don’t want people to think there’s a “new virus” when it’s just a new variant. And then the next letter in the Greek alphabet, Xi (Kuh-zi), was also skipped because, being spelt Xi, it might have been confused with the common Chinese last name, Xi, which is also spelt Xi and also the name of the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.
LEELA: Ahhh, who knew! Thanks for those fab facts. But what I want to know is since children are now being vaccinated – will a jab do any good against the new variant?
MAMA: Big question. And one hot debate. But, most of the scientific community says, yes. It’s been effective against other variants and is likely to give you protection against the newer ones too. Just how much? Well, they don’t know yet. But I’d take nothing at all.
LEELA: Me too! Even though I HATE needles…
MAMA: Well, never fear. Let’s go to our Florida correspondent, the youngest member of the wonderful Book Power for Kids podcast, Mirabel Power. She’s nine years old and has just had her vaccine. And I know what you want to ask her!
LEELA: Yeah, Mirabel, talk us through the process and tell us, honestly, did it hurt?
MIRABEL POWER: Well yes it did hurt and we arrived at the place where they gave me a shot and The first thing they do is clean up your arm, they give you something to help you recover from the fall and that’s nice”! And then you have to stay there for fifteen minutes just in case if you have any allergic reaction or any thing which i didn’t, So I just had a sore arm for two days and then it was pretty much all better
LEELA: Phew! But were you scared?
MIRABEL POWER: Well my entire family who is down in Florida came with me and i also got special emotional support from a stuffed animal, Blossom it’s a dog, i didn’t wanna get poked in the arm but i was excited to go see my family and i can see my family were not vaccinated because its not of much danger originally and we can hang out with cousins and have a sleepover and stuff
LEELA: What would you say to other kids who are scared because I’m a full-on baby!
MIRABEL POWER: Well i would say yes it does hurt but it’s gonna be better for you in long run because you can hang out with your family and do things again
LEELA: I understand that a major company in America is giving away free donuts – every day – if you get your shot… Is that true?
MIRABEL POWER: Yeah! it is true because few days after I got my shot we got to a crispy cream and it was very yummy you can get a once a day through end of the year you just have show your vaccination card
LEELA: Awesome! I would say that’s a good side effect! Thanks a ton for reassuring us, Mirabel.
WORLD WRAP STING – LEELA: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… It’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”
MAMA: The central American country Honduras is on the verge of electing its first female president. Xiomara Castro, of the left-wing Free (Libre) Party, has a lead of almost 20 percent over her rival, who’s just conceded defeat. Her victory would bring an end to the 12-year reign of the right-wing National Party, which has been accused of corruption.
Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey is leaving the social media company, stepping down as the chief executive officer. He’ll be replaced by the company’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, who’s from India. Dorsey said he was “really sad and really happy” about his decision.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary selected its word of the year and, surprise, surprise, it’s “vaccine.”
While other dictionary companies choose words year by committee, Merriam-Webster bases it on how many people looked up the word online. Considering the vaccine is at the center of the pandemic debate, its selection is no shock.
A 41,500-year-old piece of jewelry is found in a cave in Poland. The small oval-shaped pendant was carved from the ivory tusks of a mammoth and is now the oldest known ornate jewelry made by humans in Eurasia.
LEELA: As ever, thank you so much for that whippity-whappity-zippity-zappity world wrap of what’s making headlines elsewhere in the world, Mama.
MAMA: You’re most welcome.
MAMA: We’ve talked about the “wood wide web” before, haven’t we? In our 52nd episode in fact, over the summer.
LEELA: Oh yeah, how trees can talk, well, communicate through their underground network of roots and fungi, known as the “wood wide web.”
MAMA: That’s the one. Well, imagine if trees could talk TO HUMANS!
LEELA: Oh, that would be sooooo cool – Like Narnia or Lord of the Rings!
MAMA: Yeah – well, I meant more like tell us how climate change is affecting them or tell us that a dangerous insect invasion is on the way.
LEELA: Oh… yeah, that practical stuff too.
MAMA: Well, we might be getting closer to that, thanks to some clever folks in Singapore – the little island nation in Southeast Asia – where they’ve discovered that PLANTS might be able to do just that!
MAMA: Yep and to tell us how this plant-human communication system works, we’re going to cut across to our new Singaporean correspondent.
LEELA: Ahhh, that would be Kabir Saxena. Well, take it away, Kabir.
KABIR: Thanks, Leela!
One thing that stresses farmers out the most, anywhere in the world, is failing crops. Whether it’s because they get too much or too little sun – or insects suddenly taking over and eating them up.
Such natural occurrences can mean big losses for farmers.
Well, wouldn’t it be great if the plants could tell the farmers about what threats are on the horizon – before it was too late?
Well, it might sound like science fiction, but now some can! Thanks to technology.
And that creepy plant called the Venus Flytrap that likes to devour anything that comes its way.
SFX OF CHOMPING
Well, scientists know the plant’s leaves are super sensitive to touch and even – get this – generate electrical impulses. In fact, they’re a lot like the signals in our own bodies.
Well, a team of researchers – here in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University – have developed a system that delivers electrical signals TO the plant and – actually – receives signals back.
With the help of, you guessed it, a smartphone and an app. Cool or what?
Although the experiment was tried on Venus Flytraps, scientists think that with further fine-tuning the device could be used on all sorts of plants and crops.
And that could mean – eventually – farmers won’t have to rely so much on nasty chemicals and pesticides to protect their crops. In Singapore, I’m Kabir Saxena, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: Thanks a lot for the tree-mendous story. Or should I say, plant-tastic!
LEELA: And finally, let’s see what the lucky dip machine has for us this week.
ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”
LEELA: Well, not so odd… but sticky. And seriously disturbing news.
LEELA: Well, for those among us who eat pancakes or waffles or French toast every other day – like someone Mama knows.
LEELA: Yeah, this is bad.
MAMA: Well, what is it?!
LEELA: Roll the music Mama – give us some strings.
LEELA: Sorry to say, folks, but we have some sad breakfast news: Canada… is running out of maple syrup!
Yes, we’ve all clearly been eating too much of the wonderful sticky, sweet stuff. Too much comfort-eating during the lockdown, perhaps?
Not just that, but this hasn’t been the best season for maple tree sap either.
Now in case you didn’t know, maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees – which are native to Canada.
But never fear, luckily there’s a huge warehouse in the city of Quebec, where they keep a secret, just-in-case stash saved for future use – otherwise known as a reserve – phew!
MAMA: Ah, yes. That strategic reserve, as it’s officially called, was created 21 years ago to keep maple syrup in stock during bad harvest seasons or when demand shoots up – both of which are happening now.
LEELA: Well, I’m glad they’ve thought of that reserve! I can sleep easier tonight.
MAMA: Not me – the price of maple syrup is now sure to go up, as most things do when stocks run low but demand for it is high. Huh!
LEELA: Still, Mama, some things are worth paying for, surely?
MAMA: Breakfast time peace and quiet… Yeah, you’re right. I’d pay a high price for that.
FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…”
MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – Giant, invasive spiders, called Joro spiders, have taken over north Georgia. Where do they originally come from?
They’re common to China, Taiwan, Korea and love Japan.
LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – These Joro spiders are part of a group of spiders known for their highly symmetrical, circular webs. What are they called?
MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – There’s a new COVID-19 variant – called omicron. Variants are named after the letters of the Greek alphabet. Omicron is the number letter of the alphabet?
The 15 letters of the Greek Alphabet.
LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – A team of researchers in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have developed a system where plants can communicate with humans. They first tried this on what plant that likes to devour anything in its way.
The Venus Flytrap
MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – Maple syrup is running out. Luckily there’s a reserve. What’s that?
A just-in-case stash saved for future use.
And don’t forget, if you want to test yourself later on, then go to the Lucky Dip page of our website, newsypooloozi.com, that’s pool-o-o-z-i, and take this quiz online in your own time!
LEELA: And that brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooploozi!
MAMA: But wait! Have you told a friend about us lately?
LEELA: Well, why not?!
If you enjoyed this dip in the whirlpool of news and information then do subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Alexa or wherever you get your podcasts.
While you’re at it… Give us a good rating. Or better still, leave us a review.
And don’t forget to check out our website – that’s newsypooloozi.com – p-o-o-l o-o-z-i.com
See you next week in the happy, splashy giant Newsy Pooloozi!