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Beaded Lizards Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Mexican Beaded Lizard, Beaded Lizard
Scientific Name:Heloderma horridum
Life Span:20 to 50 years
Mass / Size:5 to 6 pounds
Length: 13 to 18 inches
Habitat:Woodlands, scrublands, dry forests
Country of Origin:Western Mexico & Guatemala

Taxonomy

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Being one of the only two species of poisonous lizards that ever existed, many people fear the Beaded Lizards. The scientific name Heloderma horridum describes their features. The first Latin word meaning studded, while the latter means horrible. In English, it basically translates to a horrible studded lizard. 

There are four main subspecies of the Beaded Lizard, and they are:

  • H. h. alvarezi – also known as the Chiapan Beaded Lizard
  • H. h. charlesbogerti – also known as the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard
  • H. h. exasperatum – also known as the Rio Fuerte Beaded Lizard
  • H. h. horridum – also known as Mexican Beaded Lizard, Acaltetepon, and Escorpion

Physical Description

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In terms of size, the adult beaded lizard can grow up to 76 centimeters and weigh about 1 ½ to 2 kilograms for the females. Their male counterparts grow a little larger at 90 centimeters and weigh up to 4 kilograms. For these types of lizards, their tails nearly take up 50% of their overall length.

The beaded lizards also have a body that is shaped somehow like a cylinder followed by a thick tail. It has short and strong limbs and a flat, wide head. Throughout its body, you will see hard scales covering skin. On the opposite side, soft scales cover their belly.

Like the name it was given, the beaded lizards have scales that look like beads. These beads are called osteoderms which are actually extremely small bones that provide skin protection. Usually, these are colored light brown, dark brown, and black. Along its tail and neck, you can see some yellow spots scattered around. In comparison to the older lizards, the juvenile ones have larger spots of yellow and thicker bands in their bodies.

Inside their mouths, these Beaded Lizards have grooved teeth that deliver their venom when they feel threatened and attacked. These teeth are located beside their venom glands on their lower jawbones. It also has a pink tongue that is shaped like a fork that it uses to pick up scents. Unlike other species of lizard, these beaded lizards do not have tails that grow back if broken. 

Conservation Status

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As taken from reports of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Bearded Lizard is classified as Vulnerable, which means their population is decreasing and has a tendency to be endangered if the problems are not addressed right away.

Their populations are losing in number mainly because of two reasons: first, they are killed due to their venom, and second, humans are destroying their habitats due to modernization, which leads to them not being able to survive in the wild.

In the illegal animal trade industry, many unauthorized sellers poach these reptiles and sell them for unnecessarily high prices. As a result, the Mexican government has released a law that protects these animals from captivity and trade. In Guatemala, a national law protects them, too, and their dwellings are within protected areas.

Life Span

The beaded lizards usually last around 20 years, but, when some reports have shown that they can live up to 50 years in proper care.

Availability and Natural Habitat

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The Beaded lizards are found to reside in Southern Mexico, Central Chiapas, Southeastern Guatemala, Southwestern Guatemala, and Southern Sonora. They prefer living in thorn scrub forests, deciduous forests, pine-oak forests, and deserts. 

The four subspecies are spread differently. The Rio Fuerte Beaded Lizard is mostly found inhabiting Rio Mayo and Rio Fuerte in Northern Sinaloa and Northern Sonora. The Chiapan Beaded Lizard prefers to stay within Chiapas to Northwestern Guatemala. The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard can usually be spotted in Motagua Valley, Guatemala. The Mexican Beaded Lizard prefers Oaxaca and Southern Sinaloa to be its geographical territory.

Behavior

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Beaded Lizards are nocturnal creatures that prefer being active at night and spending time burrowed underground during the daytime. Though these lizards may appear clumsy as they leave their hiding places, they are aggressive and agile reptiles that love hissing and gaping at their enemies. 

When they are in the wild, they prefer to live in solitary. The beaded lizards would rather live alone than in communities. They are very competitive and aggressive individuals that they only look at other beaded lizards as competition for food, water, territory, and other resources. You can choose to keep them in groups, but make sure that you can provide them with a living space that makes it feel like they are alone.

Whenever they feel unsafe, these beaded lizards use their venom to fend off their enemies, or worse, kill them.

Diet

Beaded Lizards are carnivorous beings. They prefer eating other animals like frogs, insects, small mammals, birds, and the eggs of the animals mentioned earlier. Like snakes, they swallow their prey whole, except for eggs that they have to break first.

Usually, these beaded lizards are found climbing trees to find animals to take as their prey. But in captivity, most keepers sustain their beaded lizards with a diet of mice, rats, and other similar small vertebrates.

If they have trouble finding food sources, they live through the fats they have reserved in their tails.

Eating Habits

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Though they enjoy feeding on eggs while they are in the wild, owners are advised to stray from that route in captivity. Your lizards can get salmonella from eggs. Aside from this, the beaded lizards have slower metabolisms, which is not great to partner up with very fatty eggs.

Development and Reproduction

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When the beaded lizards reach two and a half years old, they reach their sexual maturity.

After mating, the incubation period of the eggs takes about 160 days up to 215 days. After that, the eggs will begin hatching, and the babies will peek out of the eggshells. Usually, they spend time absorbing the liquid nutrients in the egg before coming out, which ends in about two to three days. When they are newly hatched, they just weigh about 40 grams and are about 5 inches long.

Mating Season

For Beaded Lizards, the mating season begins every September or October, which is springtime on their usual habitats. If they are located on another side of the world, their mating season starts in February.

Common Health Problems

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Like all animals, whether pets or located in the wild, your beaded lizards can get sick, too. Here are some of the beaded lizard’s most common diseases that all responsible pet owners should be aware of.

Iridovirus

This disease causes anemia when it attacks the red blood cells of your pet lizard. Your pet can also suffer from liver necrosis, spleen necrosis, and kidney necrosis. This is a usual disease not only for lizards but also for other reptiles and amphibians.

Digestive Problems

Because of poor metabolism, lizards face the threat of diarrhea, constipation, and other illnesses. Some health concerns also involve upper jaw injuries and tongue problems. Sometimes a simple change in diet would be enough.

Flavivirus

This illness can be acquired via the consumption of insects that are carriers of the virus. This can cause your pet to have liver disease, stomatitis, and encephalitis. If left untreated, your pet can die.

Hypervitaminosis

As pet owners, we love to take care of our lizards and give them vitamins. But, lizard owners should be aware that there are illnesses caused by overfeeding your pet with nutritional supplements. If you feed your pet an excess of Vitamin A, you might cause some internal bleeding. If you feed them too much vitamin D, they may have uncontrolled growth in their bone plus there might be arteries calcification. 

Shedding Problems

If you observe that your beaded lizard has problems with their shedding, you must check first the basic checklist of bathing them and offering them the appropriate dietary requirements. But, if the problems are already obvious, you should help your lizard with a warm bath and the application of Aloe Vera gel on the infected spots. Do not ever force the skin into removal to avoid inflamed skin.

Avitaminosis

Also known as Metabolic Bone Disease, this health concern revolves around a poor and unhealthy diet, lack of fluorescent lighting, lack of food supplements, and a poor diet rotation. The numerous signs that you should look out for are loss of teeth, skin cracks, cloudy eyes, swelling eyes, bone softening, bone fractures, loss of skin color, unusual skin spots, convulsions, and paralysis.

Tail Breaks

Lizards are known to grow their tails back when they are threatened. It can happen when they are not careful about how they handle their lizards.  Usually, tail breaks can regenerate when only the bottom third gets cut off. If this happens, help your pet by cleaning the wound using an antibiotic ointment. If the cut gets as big as two-thirds, go straight to the veterinarian because it requires stitches and involves intense blood loss.

Gastritis and Enteritis

These diseases involve the inflammation of the intestines and the stomach lining. These illnesses have symptoms like yellowish-white mucus, regurgitation, bloody urates, and smelly feces. To diagnose these illnesses, go to your trusted veterinarian and have them perform a bacteriological exam.

For each of these diseases, the survival of the beaded lizards depends on how soon you bring them to the veterinarian and how equipped the veterinarian you partner with is. To be a better keeper to your pet, make sure that you already have a reputable exotic veterinarian that will be ready to do some consultations when you need to.

Handling

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Handling beaded lizards can be really difficult. They can bite you and induce injury even though they are still small. If you want to handle your pets, you should use leather gardening gloves and forceps when you are attempting to touch them, so that you can get protected.

Never ever try handling your beaded lizard behind his head. This can also lead to an aggressive attack that can lead to intense injuries for both you and your pet. Don’t forget the venom that the bite of these reptiles comes with. You might suffer from some swelling, chronic pain, vomiting, and the loss of your bodily functions.

For the young ones, you should use some forceps and pick them up very gently, so they will not panic and remain calm. For the older ones, you can pick them up by their tails. Then slide your hand under the front part of their bellies. 

Caging

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If you are planning to own a beaded lizard as a pet, this can be fairly easy. While they are still young, the hatchling should be kept on a shoebox type system for easier monitoring.

On the other hand, when you find an adult, you can use an enclosure around the size of 1.6 feet by 5 feet by 2.3 feet or 0.5 meters by 1.5 meters by 0.7 meters. A better enclosure option would be one that is easier to keep warm, so do not choose an option that can be cold like an open mesh one. Lizards like the Mexican beaded species prefer warmth, so this is something that you should always keep in mind.

Aside from providing your pet with an enclosure, the cage must be decorated with some plants, logs, sticks, and other plastic tubes so that your pet beaded lizard has an option to hide somewhere and feel protected.

Your beaded lizard can also benefit from a hiding box like a burrow. Staying under a muddy burrow is one of the favorite activities of beaded lizards, so if you want to make them feel happy and at home, you should protect them and try to replicate these environments. How do you do this? Just put some soil or some coco coir in a dark container. But this container must have a temperature that’s a little lower than usual, and a good thing would be to place it outside the vivarium you made for your pet. Using a little tube as a connector, you can simulate a burrow that your lizard can visit whenever she feels like it.

For cleaning and maintenance, cages with baby lizards need changing substrates two to three times per week. On the other hand, cages with adults need a monthly change of substrates but check on beddings two times a week.

Substrate

Keeping beaded lizards clean is always a great objective, but sometimes, they don’t like to do that. Their defecation can litter your vivarium very fast, so make sure that there are enough substrates to absorb the moisture of their feces for easier cleaning. The most common substrates that keepers use are aspen bedding and newspaper.

Lighting, Temperature, and Humidity

To establish a routine for your animals, you should imitate the regular cycle of daylight and nighttime, depending on the time and year. There is no specific lighting requirement for these lizards, just make sure that the lighting you use won’t be too hot.

For the room temperature, you should maintain about 75 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 24 degrees to 27 degrees Celsius. At one end of your enclosure, it would be best to set up a 32 degrees Celsius hot spot. The hot spot can be beneficial when your pet is yearning for increased warmth.

To be sure that you won’t harm your beaded lizard, it would be best to have a thermostat on two sides of the vivarium just to make sure you won’t be going overboard with the heat.

In terms of humidity, 40 percent to 60 percent would be more than enough to help your pet beaded lizard’s health in tiptop shape. Placing a large water bowl can help add humidity throughout the cage.

Water

For beaded lizards, a bowl of fresh and clean water for their daily drinking is more than enough. The best option is to replace it daily to make sure that the water won’t get contaminated, your

Possible Danger to Humans & Other Animals

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The main why this species is dangerous is the venom it has located in its lower jaw. When a beaded lizard bites its prey, it bites as hard as it can to trigger the venom duct in spreading the poison mixed to its saliva and furthermore reaching the bleeding wound of its victim.

The venom, in particular, is a hemotoxin. These are poisonous substances that target the red blood cells that unsettle the blood clotting process, damage tissue, and cause organ degeneration. If a human gets bitten by a beaded lizard, they can suffer from respiratory failure. In some rare cases, a bite can even cause human fatality. Humans can also suffer from excruciating pain, blood pressure dropping, edema, lethargy, and intense sweating.

If a mammal gets beaten by a beaded lizard, they will suffer extreme health issues like cardiac problems, edema, blood pressure failure, internal hemorrhage in the eyes, lungs, liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract, and other respiratory problems. 

Venom Research


Scientists are now studying the venom of the beaded lizards for possible treatment of important diseases. At present, laboratory studies are seeing pharmacological properties related to treating Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, diabetes, cancer, and other extreme diseases.

Fun Facts about Beaded Lizards

  1. Some people believe that the venom of beaded lizards is worse than the bite of a rattlesnake. This misconception has been proven false.
  2. Because of a superstition that looking at beaded lizards can cause miscarriages and that these animals have the power to cause lightning strikes, many people kill them immediately after seeing them.
  3. The Mexican beaded lizards look a lot like Gila monsters, but the former is larger than the latter.
  4. For the venom to pass through the lizard to its prey, the beaded lizards chew the venom into their prey.
  5. The bite of the beaded lizard has no anti-venom so people should really avoid having a close encounter to the animal.
  6. Beaded lizards are studied by scientist to have super saliva, which means their saliva has a specific protein that helps regulate glucose levels and insulin levels in humans.
  7. Beaded lizards have their own predators, too. Coyotes, hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey are said to bring harm to these reptiles.
  8. The beaded lizards do not have smooth spots in their skin alike other lizards in existence.
  9. When a female beaded lizard lays birth, she lays 3 to 13 eggs at a time.
  10. A large factor that threatens the existence of the beaded lizards is forest fires or deforestation.

Where Can You Get a Pet Beaded Lizard?

Healthy and captive-bred beaded lizards can be bought off specialty reptile shops and reputable breeders from the internet.

How to Care for a Pet Beaded Lizard?

Because beaded lizards have slow metabolisms, they can acquire illnesses faster. As a reptile owner, you must study about lizard health so that you can easily check on the signs before you know that your lizard is sick and it’s already too late.

The common signs that a lizard may be sick are:

Lack of Appetite

Lizards have a seemingly unending hunger. They love eating, so the moment that you notice that they do not feel like eating, something is surely wrong. If you see your bearded lizard ignoring their meal, take them to a specialist right away.

Lethargy

A healthy beaded lizard has bright eyes and enjoys moving around their vivarium and basking in the sun. These lizards exhibit an alert posture when they see something changing in their environment. If your pet lizard is sick, they lie motionless for hours or hide under their substrates. Check out if your lizard is too weak to walk and tend to slither and crawl like snakes. Seeing these signs must equal to going to the vet immediately.

Weight Loss

To identify if your lizard is losing a great amount of weight, check out if their tail is thinning and if their ribs are showing up. As this is something normal that a lizard sometimes does, try and observe if your lizard tries to regain their weight and resume eating. If you see that your pets get thinner and thinner, bring him to an exotic pet clinic so that they can be checked out for possible illnesses.

Sunken Eyes

If you see your lizard suffering from sunken eyes, they might be suffering from dehydration. When you see this, soak your lizard with warm water, so they feel rehydrated right away. You should also feed your pet via a syringe with a proper feeding formula to help them recover.

To help prevent all of these, make sure that your pet is housed properly, and fed the right food at the right times. Make sure that they also receive supplementation like vitamin D and calcium, to make sure that they are well-nourished. Finally, have your beaded lizard checked by a veterinarian after you first purchase them and make sure you set regular appointments. 

FAQ Section

Are beaded lizards poisonous?

Yes, beaded lizards are famous for possessing venoms hidden in their lower jaw for their self-defense.

What do beaded lizards eat?

Beaded lizards have a carnivorous diet consisting of eggs, small mammals, small reptiles, and insects. In captivity, they are often fed gut-loaded insects and worms.

How big do Mexican beaded lizards grow?

Beaded lizards can get as long as 76 centimeters and as heavy as 1 ½ to 2 kilograms.

How venomous are beaded lizards?

The beaded lizards’ venom can induce health issues on vertebrates and humans. This can be fatal for the animals but can be lived through, albeit the pain, by humans.

Where do beaded lizards live?

Most beaded lizards live in Guatemala and Mexico. They love forests and deserts.

What plants do beaded lizards hate?

Beaded lizards hate being in the presence of Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Japanese Mint, and Nilgiri.

Can beaded lizards hear?

Beaded lizards have ear openings, though they don’t possess earflaps like what humans and other mammals have. They do not have sharp hearing, but their hearing is better than other reptiles like snakes.

What smell can repel beaded lizards?

If you want your beaded lizards to stay away from some places, you can make onion juice spray, and spray them on those areas. Beaded lizards also hate the pepper and chili powder smell.

Can beaded lizards identify colors?

Beaded lizards usually depend on their vision as a tool for their survival. They can see colors, unlike other animals, and they can actually see most colors better than humans can.

Is the Gila monster the same as the beaded lizard?

No. Even when these species look alike, the Gila monster is a close relative of the beaded lizard. They look similar except the Gila monster is slightly lighter in complexion with a smaller size.

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