Giant Lichen Orbweaver: Essential Guide for Spider Enthusiasts

The Giant Lichen Orbweaver is a fascinating spider that has developed a unique way to blend into its environment. By camouflaging itself against lichen-covered surfaces, this arachnid can easily evade predators and hunt for prey in a stealthy manner. The intricate pattern on its body closely resembles the appearance of lichen, allowing it to become nearly invisible when resting on tree trunks or rocks.

These spiders are part of the large Araneidae family and are known for spinning somewhat circular, spiral, and wheel-shaped webs. Their webs are not only a means of capturing prey but also serve as a protective retreat for the spider. The Giant Lichen Orbweaver’s interactions with lichen demonstrate the complexities and interconnectedness of various species within an ecosystem.

The Giant Lichen Orbweaver’s features include:

  • Camouflage resembling lichen patterns
  • Circular, spiral, wheel-shaped webs
  • Stealthy hunting and predator evasion techniques

Understanding the Giant Lichen Orbweaver offers insights into the fascinating world of arachnids and the role they play in maintaining the delicate balance in our natural ecosystems.

Basic Information

Classification and Taxonomy

The Giant Lichen Orbweaver (Araneus bicentenarius) is a species of spider belonging to the phylum Arthropoda and the class Arachnida. Within the class Arachnida, it is a part of the order Araneae which includes all spiders. The Giant Lichen Orbweaver is categorized under the suborder Araneomorphae and it is a member of the family Araneidae.

Physical Appearance

  • Size: Generally small to medium-sized.
  • Coloration: Camouflage abilities with lichen-like patterns.
  • Legs: Eight, like other spiders.
  • Orb-webs: Distinctive circular webs.

Habitat and Distribution

The Giant Lichen Orbweaver can be found in various habitats across the United States, particularly in the southeastern region.

  • United States: Texas, Georgia, and areas in between.
  • Canada: Some sightings reported, but less frequent.

This spider species has been documented since 1888, illustrating its long-standing presence in North America. Its habitat mainly includes forests, shrubs, and areas with lichen-covered trees, which provide perfect camouflage for the spider. The distribution of the Giant Lichen Orbweaver corresponds to the locations where lichen is prevalent, emphasizing the connection between the spider and its environment.

Behavior and Ecology

Web Construction

The Giant Lichen Orbweaver belongs to the Araneidae family, commonly known as orb-weavers. As the name suggests, they create orb-shaped webs for catching prey, often building their webs in:

  • Trees
  • Bushes
  • Tall grasses

Their webs owe their strength to a variety of silk types used in construction, making them efficient for catching different types of insects.

Prey and Feeding

Giant Lichen Orbweavers prefer a diet of:

  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Moths
  • Small beetles

Feeding on such a diverse range of prey helps maintain a healthy ecosystem by controlling insect populations. They display remarkable camouflage against lichen, which allows them to ambush their prey effectively.

Pros:

  • Controls insect populations
  • Contributes to balanced ecosystems

Cons:

  • Disturbing their webs may lead to rebuilding, consuming energy
  • May accidentally catch non-target insects

When comparing Giant Lichen Orbweavers to other spiders, consider the following table:

Feature Giant Lichen Orbweaver Other Orb-Weavers
Web shape Orb-shaped Typically orb-shaped
Web size Large webs Varying sizes
Camouflage Highly effective against lichen Variable effectiveness
Prey Diverse insects Depends on species

Identification and Description

Male vs Female Giant Lichen Orbweavers

Male and female Giant Lichen Orbweavers exhibit slight differences in their appearances. Here’s a comparison table highlighting the key distinctions:

Feature Male Female
Size Smaller Larger
Abdomen shape Longer and narrower Rounder and more oval-like
Leg markings Dark bands on legs Lighter banding pattern
Color variation More uniform green color Subtle variations in green

Size and Color Differences

Giant Lichen Orbweavers are medium-sized spiders, known for their cryptic coloration. Their size and color serve as effective camouflage, resembling tree bark or lichen. Some features of their size and color include:

  • Size: Adults range between 0.3 to 0.6 inches in body length
  • Color: They display a green pattern on their abdomen and legs, with variations in shade

These spiders exhibit sexual dimorphism, with females being larger and more colorful than males. Females tend to have a larger, rounder abdomen, while males have a longer, more elongated abdomen.

Examples of color variations in Giant Lichen Orbweavers:

  • Bright green hues dominating the abdomen
  • Darker green legs with contrasting light bands

In conclusion, identifying Giant Lichen Orbweavers can be done by observing their size, coloration, abdominal shape, and leg markings. Paying attention to these features will help in differentiating between male and female individuals.

Interaction with Humans

Bites and Venom

The Giant Lichen Orbweaver (Araneus bicentenarius) is generally not considered a threat to humans. Its venom, like that of other orbweaver spiders, is typically not harmful. Bites from this spider are rare and often occur as a reaction to being accidentally handled or disturbed. Symptoms of a Giant Lichen Orbweaver bite may include:

  • Mild pain or discomfort
  • Localized swelling
  • Itching

For comparison, here is a table of venomous versus non-venomous spiders:

Venomous Spiders Non-Venomous Spiders
Black Widow Giant Lichen Orbweaver
Brown Recluse Yellow Garden Orbweaver
Hobo Spider Common House Spider

Orbweaver Spiders in the Home and Garden

Giant Lichen Orbweaver spiders are beneficial creatures to have around your home and garden. They are excellent natural predators for a variety of insect pests. Common spiders like Giant Lichen Orbweavers help to control flies, mosquitoes, and other unwanted guests.

Some features of Giant Lichen Orbweavers are:

  • Large, round bodies
  • Beautiful and intricate lichen-like patterns
  • Diurnal behavior, meaning they are active during the day
  • Construction of large, vertical orb-shaped webs

If you encounter a Giant Lichen Orbweaver in your home or garden, it is essential to treat it humanely. You can relocate the spider to a safe location by gently coaxing it onto a piece of paper or a flat object and carrying it outside.

Remember, when you find an orbweaver in your home or garden, it’s usually a sign that you have a healthy environment for these beneficial creatures. So don’t be afraid – they’re here to help!

Additional Information

Seasonality

The Giant Lichen Orbweaver is typically active during the warmer months, with peak activity occurring in May.

  • Found in southeastern Canada and the United States
  • Most active in May

Regional Species

This spider can be found in various regions across North America, such as:

  • Southeastern Canada
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Wisconsin
  • Alabama
  • Minnesota

As they are often found in forest environments, the Giant Lichen Orbweaver may come in contact with different lichens specific to those regions.

Region Lichen Species
South Eastern Canada Cladina stellaris
Florida Parmotrema hypotropum
Minnesota Phaeophyscia adiastola

Note: The lichen species listed in the table are examples of what may be encountered in those regions. For more information on regional lichens, refer to dedicated lichen field guides or your local National Forest Service.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Giant Lichen Orbweaver

 

Subject: Scary tenant
Location: Hilton Head Island, SC
May 28, 2014 1:57 pm
I have just moved into the Hilton Head Island area and am seeing all sorts of crazy bugs. The one attached is concerning as I found it on the steps of my house. It is dead, but scary to me none the less. Is it poisonous? Any idea what kind of spider this is? Found it today 5/28/14 and it is warm and humid here.
Signature: New HHI resident

Giant Lichen Orbweaver
Giant Lichen Orbweaver

Dear New HHI resident,
Your spider is a Giant Lichen Orbweaver,
Araneus bicentenarius, and you may compare your image to the ones posted on BugGuide.  Like most spiders, Orbweavers have venom that they use to dispatch prey, but they rarely bite humans and the bite is not considered dangerous.  Should you crave additional information, Bugs in the News has a highly entertaining page on the Giant Lichen Orbweaver.

Letter 2 – Giant Lichen Orbweaver

 

green spider
Hi, I’m having trouble identifying this rather large spider we found on our house in the mountains of North Carolina. A type of Araneus? Thanks,
Maryann

Hi Maryann,
You are correct. This is Araneus bicentenarius, the Giant Lichen Orbweaver. Bugguide has some excellent images of this species.

Letter 3 – Giant Lichen Orbweaver

 

For the spiders page
This lovely lady spent several months last summer living next to my kitchen door in Crawfordville, Florida. I think she’s an orb weaver?
Love the site!
Tim

Hi Tim,
This is a Giant Lichen Orbweaver, Araneus bicentenarius. She is truly a beautiful spider.

Letter 4 – Giant Lichen Orbweaver

 

Subject: Huge Spider In Louisiana
Location: Spearsville, Louisiana USA
June 29, 2013 1:58 pm
I just moved back to the place where I grew up. I found this huge, beautiful spider and want to know what it is and whether it is harmful to humans. No one has ever seen anything like it here. I’ve tried sending this a couple of times before and it doesn’t seem to be working. If you get duplicate entries of this please ignore them.
Signature: -Jason

Giant Lichen Orbweaver
Giant Lichen Orbweaver

Dear Jason,
This is an Orbweaver in the genus Araneus, and they are not aggressive, rarely bite and they are considered to be harmless.  Many times we do not attempt to identify Orbweavers to the species level as many species look very similar.  We quickly identified your individual as a female Giant Lichen Orbweaver,
Araneus bicentenarius, thanks to images posted to BugGuide.  You can read more about the Giant Lichen Orbweaver on the Florida Nature website.

Giant Lichen Orbweaver
Giant Lichen Orbweaver

Letter 5 – Giant Lichen Orbweaver

 

Subject: Largw Unknown Spider
Location: Austin, TX on a tree
June 7, 2015 6:08 pm
This lovely spider is living on my friend’s back porch, but we don’t know what it is. Austin, TX June 6. Builds a huge ~2+’×3+’ web.
Signature: -Bill

Giant Lichen Orbweaver
Giant Lichen Orbweaver

Dear Bill,
This is a very well camouflaged Giant Lichen Orbweaver,
Araneus bicentenarius, that according to BugGuide is found in:  “Woodlands, on trees, among lichens.”  As we will be away from the office later in the month, we are postdating your submission to go live during our absence.

Letter 6 – Giant Lichen Orbweaver with Prey

 

Subject:  Giant Lichen Orbweaver Eating Breakfast
Geographic location of the bug:  High Springs, Fl.
Date: 07/22/2018
Time: 11:24 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I couldn’t resist sending this photo of a giant (and giant it was)  lichen orbweaver eating TWO beetles at once.  This is the first time my husband or I have ever seen one of these.  At night we watched it crawl up into a ball of moss in its web and skillfully snuggle in to it to hide.
How you want your letter signed:  Elizabeth (a.k.a . Butterfly Girl)

Giant Lichen Orbweaver with Prey

Dear Elizabeth,
Your images of a Giant Lichen Orbweaver with prey are an excellent addition to our Food Chain tag.  According to Bugs in the News:  “Some specimens of this species have been reported with abdomens measuring an inch or more in length, rivaling the size of the yellow garden spider (
Argiope aurantia). High rainfall levels have set the stage for large numbers of flying insects, like crickets and grasshoppers, to emerge during the summer and early fall months. They will then feed these spiders in such bounty that they will likely become quite large.”  As large Orweavers tend to go, we suspect the Golden Silk Spider might be the largest you might encounter in Florida.

Thank you, Daniel.  We have many large golden silk spiders on our property, as well.  We are quickly being overrun by spiders but not really bothered by it.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

4 thoughts on “Giant Lichen Orbweaver: Essential Guide for Spider Enthusiasts”

  1. i live in Zillah Washington. (west coast) i found a giant lichen orbweaver in my rabbit hutch. my understanding is they are primarily on the east coast.

    Reply
  2. We have a female Great Lichen Orbweaver living on our porch too, although we live in the UK. From what I can see they come from the US and Canada, do you know of many living in the UK or how it could have arrived here?

    Reply

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