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Long live the lizards

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Darla Horner Menking | Herald

A pair of mating Texas spotted whiptails chasing each other around the patio.

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I have been seeing many types of lizards this year. I love watching them, especially the ones that do “push-ups” and, using neck bones, expand the red skin, called a dewlap, under their jaws. This means of communication between lizards is the usual mating signal for males as they try to attract females. The dewlap is hidden most of the time to avoid the attention of predators.

Male lizards are very territorial and will do the push-ups and dewlap display to ward off other males. They will occasionally fight until one is injured or backs away.

Mating takes place during the summer months, and young hatch in the fall. Eggs are laid in warm, damp areas, such as under logs, rocks or leaf piles. Lizards hibernate during winter since they are cold-blooded.

I see most of the lizards climbing my rain gutters, crawling out of potted plants or under mulched landscaping. When they get brave and run across my back patio, my cats stare them down from the windows inside my home.

House cats as well as birds, small meat-eating mammals and other larger reptiles prey on lizards. They spend most of their time either hiding or sunning themselves as their body temperatures fluctuate.

I was shocked when I came across online chats in which people asked how to get rid of lizards.

Lizards are so beneficial in our gardens and landscapes. They provide a natural means of pest control. They eat bugs such as ants, spiders, aphids, beetles and wasps that we don’t want and leave our flowers and plants alone.

Having lizards in and around your garden and patio is a sure sign of a healthy, thriving habitat.

Some folks even go so far as to build lizard habitats using common outdoor materials for them to hide in, trap bugs, and climb and warm themselves.

But if you have a variety of plants and leave a few rocks, sticks, leaves and logs around, a special area probably isn’t necessary.

One more bit of information to clear up any misconceptions — lizards and/or lizard tails are not poisonous and won’t make your pets sick.

Ask your veterinarian and they should tell you the same thing.

Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at darla.menking@gmail.com

1 image

Darla Horner Menking | Herald

A pair of mating Texas spotted whiptails chasing each other around the patio.

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