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blue belly lizard

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"Blue-bellied lizards have tiny micropores in their legs that release pheromones into the air and attract mates."

The blue-bellied lizard, also known as the western fence lizard, is one of the most common reptiles found in the western United States.

They are often seen basking in the sun on outdoor paths or around buildings and homes. The gleaming blue scales of male lizards are the species' distinctive signature.

These scales play an important role in the reproductive process. This article will cover some interesting facts about the identification, habitat, and diet of blue-bellied lizards in the wild, as well as how to care for them as pets.

scientific name

What Blue Belly Lizards Eat - On Fence Posts
The blue-bellied lizard's scientific name is Sceloporus occidentalis .

© Isabelle Eve/Shutterstock.com

The blue-bellied lizard's scientific name is Sceloporus occidentalis . The genus name Sceloporus is derived from two Greek words: Skelos, meaning leg, and porous, meaning hole or hole.

This refers to the large pores in the legs that release pheromones. The species name occidentalis is just the Latin word for western.

It belongs to a genus that also includes other fence lizards and spiny lizards, both of which are common in the United States.


Blue-bellied lizards can be identified by tan or gray scales with a wavy stripe on the back and bright blue scales around the sides and base of the abdomen. Only adult males have this bright blue color. Women and teens tend to only have darker shades of gray.

One of the main identifying marks of the entire genus is the presence of sharp spiny scales; hence why the genus is called spiny lizard. Most members of this species measure between 4.3 inches and 8.3 inches from the tip of the head to the end of the tail.

They have long, sharp claws that enable them to climb trees with ease. While they do look very similar to eastern fence lizards, their ranges do not overlap at all, which should make identification easier.

The bright blue belly is the most distinctive feature of the blue-bellied lizard.

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Like all other reptiles, the blue-bellied lizard's daily behavior is oriented by the outdoor temperature of its surroundings.

Because they cannot generate enough body heat to survive, blue-bellied lizards spend most of their time soaking up sunlight.

During the day they can be seen basking on rocks, stone paths, logs, and fence posts; they tend to prefer high places, but anywhere suits them. Their scales often change from light to dark, but this may be for temperature regulation (the amount of heat they absorb) rather than camouflage.

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For most of the year, blue-bellied lizards tend to be alone. The only time they come together is during mating season, when the males maintain and defend their territories. When winter comes, they hide in crevices or holes, and then go into a state of hibernation, in which their activity and metabolism are greatly reduced.

The length of time they hibernate depends on the temperature of the surrounding environment.

evolution and origin

Over their extensive evolutionary timeline, lizards have developed specialized abilities that allow them to glide, swim, survive in arid environments, inhabit high forest canopies, traverse smooth surfaces, and even run across water.

These reptiles originated from a group of creatures similar to modern lizards called lepidosaurs, which were later superseded by the emergence of sphenododonts. Although male tuataras did not have reproductive organs, they evolved many characteristics. These characteristics Persist and thrive in squamous animals.

Also, a subspecies of the blue-bellied lizard, the western fence lizard, also known as the blue-bellied lizard because of its blue belly, is a common lizard species in the areas of Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon State, Utah, Washington State, northern Mexico and adjacent areas.

Different types

Here are the different types of blue-bellied lizards:

  • Great Basin Fence Lizard
  • northwestern fence lizard
  • sierra fence lizard
  • coastal range fence lizard
  • San Joaquin Fence Lizard
  • island fence lizard


blue belly lizard on rock
Blue-bellied lizards can be found throughout the far western United States.

© Simone Hogan/Shutterstock.com

Blue-bellied lizards can be found in the far western United States, including Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona. However, the largest concentration occurred in California. It is also found in small parts of northern Mexico.

This species is comfortable in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, forests, farmland, and scrubland. It tends to avoid the harshest deserts because it needs nearby water sources to survive.

Six subspecies are recognized: Great Basin Fence Lizard, Northwest Fence Lizard, Sierra Fence Lizard, Coast Range Fence Lizard, San Joaquin Fence Lizard, and Island Fence Lizard. The last subspecies is found only in the Channel Islands off the coast of California.

Other subspecies generally stick to the geographic ranges indicated by their names.

Predators and Threats

Aside from its natural predators, perhaps the greatest threat to the blue-bellied lizard in the wild is habitat loss. The species has been forced to adapt to human encroachment across much of its range. Despite this, the species is still very common.

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What do blue-bellied lizards eat?

This species is predated by coyotes, snakes, bobcats, hawks, and many other birds and mammals. While the open spots where they soak up sunlight do have the potential to expose the lizards to predators, they employ a number of defenses to escape.

If threatened, lizards can completely detach their tails from their bodies. After about three to five weeks, the tail will eventually grow back, but it may not be the same length and color pattern as the old tail. Lizards also have very quick reflexes to evade potential predators.

It often crashes into bushes or climbs up trees.

What do blue-bellied lizards eat?

This species preys on many types of spiders, caterpillars, beetles, mosquitoes and grasshoppers. It also sometimes eats other small lizards. For a full list of what blue-bellied lizards eat, check out our "What do blue-bellied lizards eat?" page.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The blue-bellied lizard's breeding season is generally between April and July. Lizards can locate each other in the wild by sensing pheromones.

Females also seem to prefer males with the brightest colors and longest tails. Males have the ability to tell other potential competitors to stay away from their mates by showing off their brightly colored undersides in a push-up-like maneuver on a log or rock.

After mating is complete, the female's abdomen will be visibly swollen with fully fertilized eggs. She'll dig a hole in the ground and lay three clutches of 10 to 17 eggs at a time. After a gestation period that lasts three to six weeks, the eggs will fully hatch and give birth to the young.

Juveniles are small at first, only an inch long. They receive no parental supervision or care and must fend for themselves from the start. Juveniles mature sexually in the second spring. Their typical lifespan in the wild is five to seven years.


The blue-bellied lizard is listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List. Population numbers appear to be stable, but few scientists have done good population estimates to determine how many are currently living in the wild.

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No, they don't produce venom, but people should be wary of their bite, which can be a bit painful.

Each time a female conceives an offspring, her abdomen distends visibly. This usually happens every summer.

A pet blue-bellied lizard needs a screened aquarium of about 10 to 20 gallons of space. Because this species does have a tendency to dig, reptile rugs are not a good fit. Instead, you should add some kind of natural substrate, such as sand, dirt, or cypress mulch. It also requires a proper heat lamp that produces UVA and UVB rays to help the lizard metabolize food and establish its natural behavior. The location directly under the heat lamp should measure approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The rest of the enclosure should be kept at a warm temperature between 75 and 85 degrees. It shouldn't go below 65, especially at night. You will need to spray the enclosure with water at least twice a day to keep the humidity at the proper level. While the blue-bellied lizard is a no-intervention pet, it still requires a lot of work.

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To replicate at least part of its natural diet, the lizard can be fed a diet rich in mealworms, waxworms and crickets three to four times a week (rather than daily). You should provide a bowl of clean drinking water each day, but the lizard may prefer to drink naturally from the moisture in the enclosure. Do not pair this species with other lizards, especially smaller ones, as it can become aggressive towards them.

There are a variety of ways to catch lizards, from baited traps to simply using your hands. Some suggest making a noose out of long, strong grass and putting it around the lizard's neck. You should approach the lizard from behind and don't cover it with your shadow or it will run away. It apparently doesn't run backwards when startled, which allows you to trap it in a trap. While he may be jumping around, rubbing his stomach can help him relax. If you don't want to go through the trouble of catching blue-bellied lizards yourself, you can find a shop in your area that sells blue-bellied lizards to customers.

The eggs are usually small and white, but it is difficult to distinguish them from other species.

Blue-bellied lizards really can't be tamed. Even if you catch one, it should be considered a wild animal.

Yes, they can be fun to watch as long as they are well cared for. However, they usually don't like being played around.

All animals, including lizards, have the potential to carry and spread the disease, but some studies have shown that rates of Lyme disease are actually lower in areas where the species occurs. This may be due to proteins in the lizard's blood that kill the bacteria that spread Lyme disease. When a Lyme disease-carrying tick attaches to the lizard's body, it actually clears the disease from the tick's system.

This species rarely exceeds 8.3 inches in length.