Do geckos call your homestead home? Household geckos are said to bring harmony, good luck, and good fortune to the household. Killing a gecko invokes an unhappy chain of bad luck events of long duration. If you have geckos in your garden, celebrate their presence but try not to invite them indoors.
A small to a medium-sized lizard, geckos are members of the Gekkonidae family. It’s a big family! There are more than 2,000 recognized species of gecko. Carnivorous creatures, geckos subsist on a diet of small insects and rodents. Although they aren’t classified as a North American species, there are several geckos native to the southeastern United States.
Seven Species Of Gecko Call Hawaii Home
Geckos are a common sight in Hawaii, sharing homes and visiting gardens. While history didn’t record the first gecko arriving in what is now the Hawaiian Islands, scholars theorize that they were a deliberate introduction by the Polynesians who respected the gecko knowing its propensity to eat bugs and its reputation as a household good luck talisman.
The stump-toed gecko and the mourning gecko are longtime island residents. The common house gecko, tokay, gold dust day gecko, orange spotted gecko and the giant day gecko are more modern introductions that likely arrived in the islands as someone’s pet or as a stowaway in agricultural cargo. Tokay, orange spotted, gold dust day, and giant day geckos are found only on Oahu.
Science tells us it only takes one gecko to colonize an area. Some gecko species are parthenogenetic, meaning they can spawn asexually. When one female enters a new area, such as an island, it can lay unfertilized eggs that hatch into clones of the mother.
Indo-Pacific Tree Gecko
Typically found in the moist, forested areas of the islands, the Indo-Pacific tree gecko displays a thin, translucent body that lacks the spines or tubercles that many other types of geckos present.
At maturity, they are two to four inches long, with equally long or longer tails. During daylight hours the Indo-Pacific tree gecko is dark brown or grey with an orange or yellow stomach. At first light, this gecko fades to a pale, nearly translucent brown. A nocturnal hunter, the Indo-Pacific tree gecko, is the smallest of the Hawaiian geckos.
Gold Dust Gecko
Common throughout the Hawaiian Islands, the gold dust gecko presents a splash of color with its bright green body and golden spotted neck and shoulders. The cute little guy that lives in my herb garden has bright blue rings around his eyes with red markings on his head and snout.
Gold dust geckos are harmless; they do not bite or sting. Consuming large quantities of insects, the gold dust gecko is a welcome visitor believed to bring good fortune. In Hawaii, its “Eno” or “very bad” to kill a gecko; doing so invites the kind of bad luck you don’t want to risk.
The stump-toed gecko, also known as the four-clawed gecko due to a lack of an inner claw (most geckos have five claws) is abundant on all of the Hawaiian Islands. Found throughout the Pacific, the stump-toed gecko exhibits a somewhat translucent, purple or pink skin.
These territorial and rather aggressive geckos are called tokay geckos because of their distinctive nocturnal cry that sounds like “to-kay.” Growing as large as 15 inches long at maturity, these geckos have a bite sharp enough to lacerate a human hand.
Tokay geckos do not seek out people to bite but will snap if cornered or handled. Because of their voracious appetite for insects, their aggressive attitude, and impressive size, many locals trap this gecko outdoors and then release them inside their homes to fend off spiders, fleas, bedbugs, and cockroaches.
Giant Day Gecko
Second only in size to the tokay gecko, the giant day gecko can reach 12 inches from tongue to tail at maturity. Like the tokay gecko, the giant day gecko has an irritable personality and tends to bite with fierce aggression if approached.
They have a brilliant lime green color with one distinguishing feature: a bold red stripe, running from snout to eye. Native to Madagascar, an island off Africa, the giant day gecko somehow made it all the way to Hawaii. A population located in Manoa is becoming well established.
Common House Gecko
The common house gecko can be found throughout Asia and the Pacific, including the Hawaiian Islands. The most common of all the geckos in Hawaii, this variety dwells in homes and in the wild.
Nocturnal by nature, the common house gecko is often seen around window screens and porch lights, lying in wait for insects attracted by the light. The house gecko consumes large volumes of pesky insects as well as spiders, invertebrates, and an occasional younger, smaller gecko.
Bearing a strong resemblance to the mighty guardian spirit mo’o, a fierce black dragon-like reptile found in fishponds and caves, geckos are revered and respected. Not only are they a powerful talisman, but geckos also eat their weight in insect pests daily.
Orange-Spotted Day Gecko
Presenting a bright display of neon-like colors, the orange-spotted day gecko presents a brilliant green body with a gorgeous blue neck and shoulders marked with orange. These colorful geckos are found predominantly on the Island of Oahu.
Their primary diet consists of the sweet nectar of flowers and fruits, yet they still do their part in consuming pesky bugs, small invertebrates, and spiders.
Mourning geckos flourish throughout the Hawaiian Island Chain as well as other islands of the Pacific. Mourning geckos, like their cousin the common house gecko, are cannibalistic. Mourning geckos may consume the eggs of other geckos or dine on other young geckos they encounter.
Geckos In The Southwest
In Texas and across the southern region of the United States, two species of house geckos commonly inhabit homes and structures in both urban and rural homesteads. Both the common house gecko and the Mediterranean house gecko have protruding, lidless little eyes with vertical pupils.
Both varieties also have sticky, tiny toe pads. Each of these species, introduced to the region, is not native to North America. From California to Florida, geckos were introduced to combat the ever-present cockroach problem.
Similar in size, these two mainland species of gecko are three to six inches in length with a cylindrical tail that flattens toward the tip. The house gecko is a pinkish-gray color with mottled spots, while the Mediterranean house gecko is a deep, dark brown with lighter mottled spots. Both of these types of geckos have a creamy white underbelly.
Now found in Florida, the Malaysian flying geckos are four to six-inch gray geckos equipped with broad lateral flanges of skin from the tip of its chin to the back of its hind limbs, which allows the graceful gecko to enjoy long sloping glides from tree limb to flower.
A Beneficial Nuisance
Even though garden geckos are harmless little creatures, beneficial insect predators, and talismans of good fortune, they become a bit of a nuisance when they move indoors. Their droppings discolor and stain curtains, carpets, and upholstery.
Geckos are mainly active during the summer months when insects are most available as a food source. Geckos emit a high-pitched shriek when alarmed or disturbed. Seeking shelter, they enter homes and structures through crevices and cracks, depositing numerous clutches of eggs between spring and fall.
The tiny eggs, white and oval in shape, are laid between cracks, under leaves, and other protected dark places.
Because geckos are endearing, harmless, relatively clean, and do such an outstanding job of devouring mosquitoes, spiders, ants, cockroaches, and other unwelcome insect pests, many people do not mind having them run about indoors. In fact, for many cultures, geckos are treated like household pets.
If you absolutely cannot stand to have them inside the home, a few fresh garlic cloves, placed in the pantry, cupboards, and storage areas will keep them away – they hate the smell. Another humane and non-toxic trick is to sprinkle cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce around window frames and doorways.
However, stay away from using the pepper solution if you have small children or pets in the home. The scent of the pepper is repulsive to geckos. However, if pets or children come in contact with the mixture it could cause skin irritations or burn eyes or mouths.
Geckos Have A Place in Mythology
Within Hawaiian mythology, the gecko is symbolic of genealogy connecting the ancestor to the descendant. The gecko’s prominent and flexible backbone is made of equal segments from head to tail. Therefore, its eyes represent future generations; the front feet are the children, the next section stands for makua or the parents, the kupuna refers to grandparents and the elders.
Next, come the ka,’iwi or bones of the ancestors, and finally, at the tail’s end, the aumauka, the family’s guardian spirit.
Further, the gecko acts as the intermediary between humans and animals and between humans and the gods. It can also symbolize keeping an eye on the past and the other on the future. Adopted as an icon in Maui, the green gecko decorates t-shirts and other paraphernalia.
- House Geckos, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension
- American Geckos, Reptile Magazine
- A Review of Sex Determining Mechanisms in Geckos (Gekkota: Squamata), US National Library of Medicine