My Garden’s Blue Belly Lizards

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

IMG_1560annotated_resizedIf you garden in the Southwest, doubtless you have Western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis), also known as blue bellies. They do push-up displays on boulders and scurry if you get too close. They’re part of my garden’s ecosystem, and I’m grateful to them for eating insects. Other than that, I seldom gave them a thought…until recently.

IMG_1554annotated_resizedBoys visited this summer—my 6-year-old grandson, and Andrew, 13, my husband’s second cousin from Denver. Naturally we went hunting in the garden. IMG_1535annotated_resized

I had no idea lizards were so easy to catch. When they’re sunning themselves in the early morning is a good time—their blood isn’t warm yet and they’re lethargic.


We made terrariums and provided little saucers of water, complete with cave-like shelters of wood or pottery.


More than once I thought a lizard had escaped and then noticed a tail emerging from a lizard-shaped lump in the sand. We fed them live beetles from the garden and pet-store crickets.


Here’s Andrew with two lizards he caught while here. Isn’t the tiny one about as cute as a critter can get?


Surprisingly, they don’t mind being held. Evidently they like the warmth.

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Lizards occasionally fall into ornamental pots and can’t get out, so I’ve put “lizard ladders” in them—a stick that extends to the rim. It’s as much for my benefit as theirs. I don’t enjoy disposing of stiff lizards.


Blue bellies are active in the warm months and hibernate in winter. They breed in the spring of their second year. Females lay clutches of eight or so eggs, which hatch in summer.

IMG_1555annotated_resized Males are territorial, which puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? What I consider “my” garden is actually theirs.

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Debra Lee Baldwin

Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
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