First of all, thank you for bearing with me as I slowly transfer my previous blog posts onto my new WordPress site. I will not get into the details here, but it takes more than simply cutting and pasting! At any rate I am excited to write a new article now, even though I am still in the midst of transferring content.
I have become fascinated by all the little green and brown lizards, properly known as anoles, which inhabit my new backyard. The backyard is actually 25+ years old, but it is new to me since I recently married and moved here. While I only moved 15 miles from where I previously lived in the North Texas area, I never saw any of these green and brown lizards at my former home. I saw plenty of geckos, but not anoles. Perhaps it is the tropical foliage and the corresponding insects that the tropical foliage attracts that keeps these anoles very plentiful?
Interestingly, anoles are related to iguanas, but thankfully they do not get nearly as big or I certainly wouldn’t be as happy to have them around my backyard so abundantly! Anoles are typically 3 – 7 inches in length and live in warm locations including the southern US, Mexico and the Caribbean. In my area of North Texas, I don’t see them often during the winter months with the exception of when we have an unusually warm day. Then, I may find they venture out to sunbathe on the patio. As such, unlike the mostly nocturnal geckos, anoles are diurnal – meaning they are active predominately in the daytime hours.
The only native species to the US is the green anole although, confusingly, the green anole can change to a brown hue if needed for camouflage purposes. However, although some anoles can change colors they are not true chameleons. And, let me confuse you more! There exists strictly brown anoles that originate from places outside the US, such as Cuba, but which have recently migrated here. Bottom line is – if you have both green and brown anoles in your landscape it could be difficult to know if you have just one or possibly two species inhabiting your yard.
The good news is green and brown anoles live compatibly although the strictly brown ones are primarily terrestrial (living on the ground and in ground cover) while the green ones will climb higher into small trees and shrubs. All anoles are semi-arboreal – which means they all prefer to stay below tree canopies. I would go out on a limb (pun intended) and say the reason they don’t venture out onto tree canopies is because the greatest predator of anoles are birds of prey. It also makes sense that anoles stay low because their food choices (spiders and insects such as moths, small butterflies, crickets, roaches and grubs) also exist in the semi-arboreal areas of our landscapes.
Probably the most distinct feature of an anole is the pink “dewlap” of the males – a flap of skin below their necks. They stretch and display this flash of pink (sometimes as vibrant as red) when they want to attract females and/or scare off other males that may be intruding into their territory. Other features of anoles include very sticky feet and the fact their tails can disengage from their bodies when attempting to escape from predators.
For me personally, when I see anoles around the yard not only do I fantasize I’m in a tropical locale, I also possess a sense of comfort that my ornamentals are being cared for by these small, beautiful lizards.
I’m really not sure how you would entice a few lizards to enter your landscape if you have none – perhaps plant more tropicals? If you are fortunate enough to have a few around, whether they are geckos or anoles, I’d certainly give them a chance to take care of any pests you may have in the yard versus spraying insecticide. Also, if you have a few lizards and you are able to abstain from using toxins, you will probably have an abundance of young ones next year to naturally take care of those insect pests.
-And just in case you are simply not a big fan of reptiles, I can attest I have not seen any anoles inside my residence*. Anoles definitely prefer the warm, sunny outdoors!
Until next time,
*A stray gecko or two may indeed come indoors – however, they, too, are not interested in being handled by humans and will steer clear of you!