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The Texas Spiny Lizard: a Gardener's Friend


The Texas Spiny Lizard is a native of the Lone Star State. They are named for the pointed scales running along their backs.


Texas Spiny Lizard calmly sunning on a log in my garden.


Habitat:

The Texas Spiny Lizard lives mostly in trees. Other habitats include logs, stumps, old buildings, fences, prickly pear clumps, and rock walls that have a crevice in them. They are fast climbers that have specialized toe claws that enable them to easily climb and hang onto tree bark. Nearly all sunning, some feeding, and most mating takes place in a tree or on elevated area such as a wall, fence or post. The Texas spiny lizard occasionally descends to the ground to forage for food, to move to another tree, or to lay its eggs.

Texas Spiny Lizards move and live in an area of about .07 to .16 acres. That is the size of an average yard. That means if you see a Texas Spiny Lizard in your garden or yard, then your garden or yard IS their world.


Size and Coloration:

Female Texas Spiny Lizards are larger than the males. The average length of a 3 year old female lizard is 9 to 11 inches, while males are only 7 1/2 to 9 inches. Male lizards have blue patches that extend from the forelimbs to the hind limbs that increase in width and brightness as they age. Females have numerous, dark gray, wavy bands across the top of their backs. Females may also have a faint blue patch on each side or no blue at all. Both the male and female can become darker in color for heat absorption or paler to reflect heat.

Male? Texas Spiny Lizard


Mating and Reproduction:

Texas Spiny Lizards usually begin mating in mid-March through early summer. When the female Texas Spiny Lizard is ready to lay her eggs, she descends from the tree to the ground in search of an area of loose soil that will make a good nest site. She will then dig a nest site that is 3 to 4 inches deep at a 45 degree angle.

Female Texas Spiny Lizard laying eggs

This female chose to dig her nest in my cucumber bed along a piece black plastic edging. This area was probably a really good choice since the black edging will absorb the rays of the sun and help to keep the nest wall from collapsing. Her eggs have soft walls and measure ¾ in length and are interspersed in small clumps of soil. Since she chose this place to lay her eggs, I assumed that mother knows best and left them alone so they would have a better chance of hatching. Eggs should not be disturbed during the first 24 hours because during this time the embryo is not very well attached to the wall of the egg and could become unattached, and die when the egg is moved.

Texas Spiny Lizard clutch of eggs

Mature Female Texas Spiny Lizards can lay anywhere from 1 to 4 clutches of eggs from April through August. They lay an average of 11 eggs in the first reproductive season, and an average of 24 eggs in their third season and thereafter. Eggs usually hatch in 50 to 60 days. Only about 2 to 5 percent of the eggs will hatch and the lizards reach sexual maturity. Newly hatched lizards are usually between 2 1/2 to 2 5/8 inches long.


Helpful Garden Companions:

Texas Spiny Lizards are great garden companions. They are natural pest control agents who work for free every day in your garden. They feed primarily on grasshoppers, blister beetles, June beetles, pill bugs, spiders and mites. From their elevated position in trees and on fences and walls, they can easily see an insect in your garden. When they see the insect, they zip down the tree to the garden, capture the insect and quickly return to the same tree.


How to Attract Texas Spiny Lizards to Your Garden:

Texas Spiny Lizards are a sign of a healthy environment that is free of pesticides and unnatural fertilizers. Lizards can be utilized as biological pest control agents in an Integrated Pest Management system that relies more on the use of natural controls instead of pesticides- many of which can poison the lizards and their food supply. Also don’t use bird netting in your garden as the lizards can become entangled in it and perish. House cats can also be detrimental to the Texas Spiny Lizard population.

If you would like to attract Texas Spiny Lizards to your garden and yard, just create a healthy, natural environment and they will come. In addition, you can create an appealing habitat by placing an old log or a small pile of rocks beside a wooden fence, tree or wall.


Hibernation:

Texas Spiny Lizards hibernate in the winter. Their favorite hibernation spots are areas with deep layers of leaves and in the soil. So be sure to let some of the those fall leaves remain in some area of your yard or garden. The Texas Spiny Lizards may live five years or more.

Source for all specific information about the Texas Spiny Lizard: Lizards and Turtles of South Central Texas by Thomas G. VermerschThomas G. Vermersch.


Here is a video presentation on the Texas Spiny Lizard.


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