Florida Geckos & Anoles – Invasive vs. Native

Lizards are a common sight in the Tampa Bay area. While new residents may need to get accustomed to seeing the little critters running across their path, Florida geckos and anoles are friendly neighbors and harmless creatures.

There is only one species of anole and one species of gecko which are native to South Florida, although there are many more here. Here is a quick rundown of the most common lizards that you are likely to see, and the habitats where they thrive.

Native Geckos & Anoles

The green anole is indigenous to the United States. This small lizard is often classified as a chameleon, due to its ability to change color. Its skin is generally emerald green (it can change to brown) and possesses a bright, pinkish dewlap.

The green anole is an agile climber, with pads on its feet that help it cling to lots of different surfaces; and has sharp eyesight which makes it an accurate hunter of spiders, grasshoppers and other insect prey.

Green anoles live primarily in trees, although they are also found in suburban areas perched on fences and rooftops.

Florida’s only native gecko is known as the reef gecko. This lizard is tiny and shy, only about 2 inches long. He has a brown body with dark spots.

This gecko is found primarily in the Florida Keys, but is often seen in the Tampa Bay area.

He is active at dusk, prefers to hide under logs and in shady areas, and eats tiny spiders and insects.

Other Florida Geckos & Anoles

Cousin to the green anole is the brown anole. Originally native to Cuba and the Bahamas, the brown anole most often lives among heavy vegetation. These lizards thrive in the similar South Florida climate, and can be found in the Sarasota area.

They enjoy nestling in ornamental plants and finding meals in residential gardens; they are often seen around houses and buildings surrounded by plants and trees.

The slender brown anole can reach 8 inches in length, and is usually found scurrying along the ground – unlike the green anole which is generally up in the trees.

Mediterranean geckos were originally found in Europe, but they are well established here in our area. They are small in size, usually under 5 inches in length. Like the green anole, the Mediterranean gecko can change its color.

During the day, they are gray with light pink and dark brown spots, but at night they fade to white. This nocturnal gecko is rarely found far from residential areas, and is often seen on walls and ceilings inside houses, waiting for prey such as moths, cockroaches and other insects.

The Indo-Pacific gecko is native to Southeast Asia but is now found throughout most of Florida. Experts believe the species made it to this area within shipments of cultivated palm trees. This gecko is four to five inches long, gray to brown in color, and has a single row of large spine like scales along the edge of its tail.

Although it is similar in appearance to the Mediterranean gecko, the two species can be distinguished by the Indo-Pacific’s yellow-orange belly.

Indo-Pacific geckos are nocturnal, emerging at night to wait for insects attracted to lights. Unlike other lizards, these geckos are very vocal, making barking noises when scared or intimidated.

Florida geckos and anoles are great for keeping your insect population under control. So if you see them hanging around your gardens, potted plants, or even climbing your lanai wall, welcome them! They are doing you a great service, and can even help to keep your plants parasite free.

If you are looking for more ways to control the insects around your house and garden, or simply for ideas on how to grow healthy plants and trees, visit Big Earth Landscape Supply.