by Andrea Williams
Every new thing I learn about lizards just reinforces my belief that they are awesome. Growing up in the Bay Area, western fence lizards (Scleroporus occidentalis)—or bluebellies, as they are also known—were everywhere, not just skittering around fences but doing their territorial pushups on rocks or sitting on the stoop catching some sun. I knew then how to catch them with a lasso made from a wild oat stem; that they lost their tails as a defense mechanism; and that the color on their bellies ranged from turquoise to sapphire.
It’s what I have learned in the past few years, though, that really impresses me. Lizards have antibacterial blood. Ticks that feed on lizards (who knew that happens?!) are cleansed of Lyme disease. That’s almost surely why we have so little Lyme disease in California.
One thing lizards cannot do, though, is run on linoleum. We had a lizard stray inside our building at Sky Oaks a little while ago. We tried to shoo it out the front door so it went toward the back, got to the kitchen and all its forward momentum stopped. So I picked it up to take it somewhere it would be safe, checking the blue of its belly and counting the ticks on its neck, silently thanking it for helping to keep me safe too.
The Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District tests Pacific Coast ticks (Dermatocentor occidentalis) for the causal agent of Lyme disease, the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, in several areas of both counties. They tested hundreds of nymph and adult ticks and found the rate of “positive” ticks at between 2 and 5 percent. You can see the report and more information here. Their website also has additional information on preventing tick bites and how to properly remove a tick if it bites you.