Having a pristine yard looks nice but is less beneficial to wildlife than a more natural environment. Consider yourself fortunate if you happen to have a tree stump or a few rotting logs in your yard, because that is the ideal habitat for one of Virginia’s common lizards – the Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon inexpectatus). Skinks are beneficial to have around because they eat spiders, slugs, moths, crickets, beetles, grasshoppers and many other insects.
Skinks burrow during winter months and emerge in warm weather. Mating occurs in May. In June and July, the female lays eggs under rotting logs or tree bark. She then stays with the eggs until they hatch. The eggs are about the size of small bird eggs.
The skink’s appearance changes throughout its life cycle. Newly hatched skinks are about 2 inches long and have bright blue tails. The bright color focuses attention away from the body so if it is attacked by a predator, it can shed its tail and escape. The blue tail fades once a skink matures. Adult skinks grow up to eight inches long. They are black or brown and have five long stripes running lengthwise. As males mature, the stripes fade and they develop a reddish head.
Skinks are active during the day and hide at night. Predators include hawks, fox, opossums, raccoons and snakes.
Article and photos by Donna Cottingham