Lizards in the Garden

This great article on creating wildlife-friendly vegetable gardens is missing one important critter for our area- lizards!

My yard currently has a large number and variety of lizards. I see at least half of the herp list for Alachua County on a regular basis: Northern Green Anole, Cuban Brown Anole, Mediterranean Gecko, Eastern Glass Lizard, Common Five-Lined Skink, Eastern Fence Lizard, and even once an Indo-Pacific House Gecko chowing down by the big floodlight on the back of the house.

Eastern Fence Lizard. They look like little dinosaurs! Who wouldn't want these in their yard?

Lizards are an excellent animal to attract to your yard and can be an integral part of our food system. Lizards eat bugs- all kinds of bugs. Diurnal lizards like anoles and fence lizards eat caterpillars, ants, grasshoppers, and especially small cockroaches. I often relocate anoles to my small vegetable bed to eat caterpillars. Nocturnal lizards like geckos eat mosquitos, moths, beetles, anything that flies around at night. I have an entire colony of Mediterranean Geckos living in the woodwork on my front porch where they get extra food attracted by the porch light and supported by the potted plants.

Anole on my front porch. I'm never fast enough to catch the geckos on camera, but the anoles are a little slower in the morning.

Reptiles need heat in order to digest their food. That’s why you always see lizards on sidewalks- the warmth trapped in the concrete is perfect for the lizards. They also prefer low shelter to lay their eggs. Rock piles and loose stone walls in the sun are perfect additions to the yard to encourage lizards like anoles to hang around and eat bugs. Chances are, if you don’t spray pesticides on your lawn, you already have anoles and fence lizards in your yard, whether you see them or not. Large lizards like skinks will also eat small mice and baby moles. Skinks love to burrow underneath water features and in deep leaf mould, and I have a couple of large skinks living in my garden shed where they keep the cockroach population under control.

Rock pile in the rain. This temporary rock pile in my driveway is an absolute lizard disneyland.

Another reason to create lizard-friendly environments is to attract the predators that feed on lizards. Snakes and raptors both feed on lizards and are an important part of our ecosystem, since snakes and raptors will also feed on small mammals that we consider pests like moles, rats, and mice.

What have you done to attract lizards to your yard?

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