On Maui, we cohabitate our homes and condos with a tiny wall-crawling creature- the gecko- and we like it.
Understanding the value these colorful lizards provide is one thing. They pay their dues by eating mosquitoes, cockroaches, flies and spiders that might have found their way inside. Though the eight species in Hawaii come in a variety of colors from brown or gold to more vibrant hues, the green ones are particularly handsome, often with a red pattern on their head and body. I’ve had one living in the window in front of my desk for a while now, and enjoy the company when Echo (what I named my gecko office mate) comes over to say hello and clean up some crumbs from my lunch. It’s a fun distraction to watch Echo walking up smooth vertical surfaces and nonchalantly hanging upside-down on horizontal ones.
Other than being a little messy at times, Geckos pose absolutely no threat to humans. They tend to hang out in places without native Hawaiian plant and animal species, so are not considered invasive or a threat to native species.
Geckos are not endemic to Hawaii. They first arrived along with Polynesian voyagers over 1500 years ago. Today, there are eight gecko species in Hawaii: mourning gecko, stump-toed gecko, fox gecko, common house gecko, tokay gecko, orange-spotted day gecko, giant day gecko and gold dust day gecko. The first five are nocturnal; the other three, as their names suggest, are active during the day. While most other lizards are silent, geckos make a gentle chirping sound, thought to ward off predators and also as a mating call.
Another reason to respect these beautiful creatures is their place in Hawaiian mythology. Stories of reptilian water keepers, or Mo’o abound (including in the formation of this islet of Molokini off Maui’s south shore). They are very gentle lizards, and regarded as sacred by Hawaiians.
I just like having them around, and if they keep the insects away from my windows all the better. So before you call housekeeping because of a curious lizard checking you out from the lanai window, consider looking upon them with the same fondness and respect as in many Hawaiian households, which stem from myth and storytelling as much as geckos’ roles in pest control.