Lizards - be they friend or foe?

bejay9_10(zone 9/10)May 12, 2007

My yard is full of scampering little lizards - so fun to watch. Ever since they built a house next door, and gave me a 5 ft. concrete block wall. It provides a lot of heat for them and they have really multiplied this year.

I actually think I see a lot fewer sow bugs, ants (but not too many) aphids and earwigs this year. That's fine. But I also saw one chomping on a boysenberry flower that happened to be close to the ground. Even so, that wouldn't be to much concern, but they also scamper in and out of my strawberry bed -

Does anyone know their names and/or good/bad habits?


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There's at least 45 species of lizards native to California.

Here's a website that has a very good photo key to identifying many of them.

A very few lizards are flower eaters. None are any serious concern to California gardeners.

Most lizards are insect (and other such crawlies) eaters. That they eat both bad bugs and good bugs puts them in a non-categorizable position as "good" or "bad".

Overall, however, a good populatuon of llizards in a garden is a sign of an environmentally healthy garden.

One of the most common garden lizards, by the way, is Sceloperus occidentalis, WESTERN FENCE LIZARD or "BLUEBELLY".


Here is a link that might be useful: California LIzard ID

    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 7:33PM
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I think you have a healthy food chain in your little ecosystem. You aren't thinking of getting rid of the lizards are you? It's wonderful to have them, and most are insect eaters, and that's probably helpful. You won't become over run with them because they will be limited by the amount of food available to them. Also, local birds may prey on them too. Lucky you!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 8:37PM
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wanda(Z9 CA)

Lizards are good guys, insect eaters as stated above.

I agree with Joe that they are more than likely, fence lizards. Alligator lizards are fairly common too, but generally seen less often than the bluebellies.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 10:42PM
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My garden also used to be full of them, and at first I thought they were cute. But once my mid-sized dog encountered two of them in the grass, and to my horror the bigger one(maybe it was a male and his mate?)attacked and bit my dog's nose before my dog could even react. There was a good chunk of skin bitten off, and her nose bled so badly I had to take her to the vet.
So now, whenever I see baby lizards, I gently carry them out front so they can go somewhere else. The adults I shoo away. And I have fenced off major parts of the garden from my dogs, except for the lawn part. Hated to do that, but it's for their protection. It was a pretty bad and painful bite that itty bitty lizard had.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 12:02AM
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A lizard biting a dogs nose? Maybe it was an alligator, By all means keep reptiles alive and well in your yard. I Also want to emphasize keeping amphibians such as toads and frogs.

Having these critters is a healthy ecosystem, having a dog?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 1:43AM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

gardenguru -

Nice pics - thank you. They definitely fall in the blue belly/fence types. But have also seen some that looked like alligator types - bottom/middle picture, but more rare.

My only other experience with lizares was in our local desert - the desert iguanas - but they were decidely more whitish in color than those in the pictures. They were such fun to watch - as they have territorial fights when they are mating. Have seen as many as 20 to 30 at a time -running back and forth. Their larger size makes them a bit more formidable looking and sometimes a larger one can "throw" a wrestling hold that looks very much like a "fall to the mat" with the poor hapless fellow lying on his back on the ground - windless. So funny.

I did have a bee hive there however, and they would take a stance at the landing board of the hive, and slurp up returning bees, so they too are bug eaters, but also will eat a lot of vegetation when they first come out of hibernation in the spring, when the desert still has sprouting seedlings.

I regret that with the area now becoming so popular with dune buggy riders, that these critter sights are not seen very often anymore.

Will keep an eye on my little planter boxes - strawberries in particular, and hope the lizards will continue to eat pill bugs - but not strawberry flowers!

Thanks for the comments - appreciated.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 11:15AM
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Suzie: Your lizard was likely the Alligator lizard. They are a larger, agressive lizard that tend to stand their ground and they will bite. I got bit by one as a kid and it also drew blood.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 12:47PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

In my garden their favorite food is earwigs. Lizards are welcome here.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 12:55AM
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We have plenty of lizards (bluebelly) lizards in our yard and general vicinity, too. In fact, we have a family of American kestrels nesting in the cottonwood tree behind our house, and I watched Mom bring a bluebelly to her chil'en. Everyone was grateful...except the lizard.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 9:28AM
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vall3fam(9 CentralCA)

Love the lizards! I agree that your ecosystem must be pretty healthy in order for them to survive. I find them quite entertaining, especially when they run across the hot concrete and in order to regulate their temp, do a series of push-ups. Cracks me up everytime to see them doing push-ups!

I must admit my dog will occasionally catch a slow one and eat it, but the lizard has his revenge as once it hits the dog's stomach, it makes him barf! Haha! Most of them are too quick and wiley to get caught, fortunately!

The less amphibians and reptiles we have around, the worse our environment is, so encourage them whenever you have some!


    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 12:39AM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

So push-ups are regulating temperatures - was wondering what that maneuver was all about.

No I don't intend to destroy them - just keep a nice balance - although they seem quite numerous this year. We have an indoor cat that is a real "scaredy" so she is not likely to intervene, but several neighbor's cats also visit, and 2 of them will help keep things from getting out of hand. We also live next to a canyon that exits off a natural wildlife habitat, and see hawks, etc. from time to time - also many coyotes below us.

Definitely an "ecosystem" but as long as everyone behaves -and doesn't eat too many of my hard-earned fruits and veggies, all will be well with the universe.

Just my 2 c's.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 11:25AM
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I must have a very healthy ecosystem in my yard. I have lots of lizards. There is one variety that is rather large and looks like an alligator lizard except that it's maroon. I even had one that took up residence in my kitchen for a while. He's a really pretty fellow.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 2:49PM
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The following was interesting:

Western Fence Lizards and Lyme Disease

    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 9:47AM
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Wonderful article! My brother was one of the first people in the U.S. to contract what is now considered Lyme disease, before it even had a name, back in the '70s. He has since recovered fully, but it's nice to know that such exciting research is still being done on this rare, yet frightening, disease.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 11:48AM
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If you're bigger than the lizard, it is a friend.
If the lizard is bigger than!

I saw a 10 - 12 inch alligator lizard in my yard the other day. He was resting on some warm flat stones. I went to get my camera. He didn't move. I got a nice picture of him.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 3:17PM
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