Lizard Lounge: Pest-Control Agents Provide Valuable Service
Invite these no-fuss entertainers into your landscape to control insects.
By Cathy Cromell
Spying a lizard sunbathing atop a boulder or block wall is a common delight in Arizona, which is home to 49 lizard species. Often surprisingly colorful, especially during mating season, lizard males bob their heads and perform “push ups” to impress females or advertise to other males that this territory is taken.
Fun to watch, lizards also provide valuable service as natural pest-control agents. Ornate tree lizards (Urosaurus ornatus) thrive in urban areas because of the ready supplies of nuisance insects, such as crickets and cockroaches, available for them to eat. Regardless of locale, insects are the staple of most lizard diets. It’s easy to attract tree and other lizards by incorporating simple habitat elements into your landscape and maintenance
Build a rock pile—Lizards need the sun’s warmth to raise their body temperature and metabolism. If they get too hot, they require a shady spot in which to cool down. A lizard habitat is a great way to reuse rocks unearthed when digging planting holes or to repurpose excess river rock from a previous landscape design. Pile rocks of varied sizes to create lots of nooks and crannies for lizards to dart into. Top off the pile with at least one large flat rock on which they can bask in the sun.
Repurpose broken pots—If large terra-cotta pots are cracked and unsuitable for planting, embed them on their side (either whole or break them in half) into dry ground. Allow leaf litter to accumulate in and around the pot. Lizards will lounge on the upper surface of the pot to warm up, while the underside cave provides shade, shelter and foraging opportunities.
Allow mulch to accumulate—Advise your landscaping crew to stop the blow-and-go habit of removing every loose leaf and seedpod on the ground, especially beneath plants. Small accumulations of natural organic matter provide shelter for lizards and places to forage for insects.
Do not shear or overprune—Leave low stems and branches on plants. This allows lizards to scurry to safety from larger predators, which find it difficult to quickly follow into dense foliage or sharp-tipped branches.
Make a compost pile—When turning compost, it’s not unusual to see a resident lizard waiting nearby in anticipation, as tossing rich organic matter unearths a salad bar of juicy insects. Step away and allow lizards to dart in to grab lunch.
Keep Fluffy indoors—Cats are highly efficient, instinctive lizard predators.
Go green—Eliminate pesticide use. Insects are essential to the food chain. Many pesticides are nontargeted, meaning they kill beneficial insects along with true pests.