Nonnatives - Butterfly Lizard

Butterfly Lizard - Leiolepis belliana belliana


Florida's Nonnative Wildlife. Species detail.

First year: 1992

Extirpated year:

Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years.

Estimated Florida range: 10 counties  At least 10 years

Statewide trend: Unknown status

Butterfly Lizard
Photograph by Kevin M. Enge © 2003

Threats to natives: Probably none.

Species Account: The butterfly lizard (Leiolepis belliana) is an agamid native to Thailand, Myanmar, the Malay Peninsula, Pinang Island, Bangka, and Sumatra. Adults are brownish with yellow dorsal ocelli, have bright orange and black transverse bars on the flanks, and retain some of the yellow dorsal striping of neonates (Rogner, 1997). The name, butterfly lizard, is probably derived from its long free ribs that enable it to flatten its body dorso-ventrally and display its orange-and-black barred sides that somewhat resemble butterfly wings. In its native range, butterfly lizards prefer open, dry areas with loose sand, especially near the coast, where they dig and live in burrows ca. 30 cm (12 in) deep and 70 cm (28 in) long (Rogner 1997). In Florida, this species lives in burrows dug in short, matted Manila templegrass in the yards of residences in at least a 6 square city block area of Kendall. This species is extremely alert and quick, and when approached too closely on foot or in a vehicle, individuals quickly retreated into their burrows but re-emerged within about 5 min (K. Enge, FFWCC, Quincy, personal observation). Lizards feed on vegetation, crabs, grasshoppers, beetle larvae, butterflies, and other insects (Rogner 1997). It is monogamous, with a single adult pair inhabiting the same burrow (Rogner 1997), where 3-8 eggs are laid during hot, dry weather (Cox et al. 1999). This species is also colonial and exhibits parental care of neonates, with neonates sharing their parents' burrow for a few months before digging their own burrow nearby (Rogner 1997, Cox et al. 1999). The Miami population originated from a nearby tropical fish dealer and was already well established in 1992 (A. Veloso, Xtreme Reptiles, Miami, personal communication).

Habitats: Low density suburban development, areas peripheral to core urban areas, and small towns

Region First Year Extirpated Year Breeding status  Notes 
SOUTH 1992


At least 10 years


County First Year Extirpated Year Breeding status Notes
DADE 1992


At least 10 years Kendall area of Miami (A. Veloso, Xtreme Reptiles, Miami, personal communication; K. Enge, FFWCC, Quincy, personal observation)


Cox, M. J., P. P. van Dijk, J. Jarujin, and K. Thirakhupt. 1999. A photographic guide to snakes and other reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Ralph Curtis Books, Sanibel Island, Florida. 144pp.

Rogner, M. 1997. Lizards. Vol. 2. Monitors, skinks, and other lizards including tuataras and crocodilians. English Editon. Krieger, Malabar, Florida. 308pp.

Back to Nonnative Reptiles

FWC Facts:
When flying with prey, an osprey lines up its catch head first for less wind resistance.

Learn More at AskFWC