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It’s a typical Friday evening – the sun has just set, and you’re sitting outside on the lanai with a bunch of friends enjoying the typical pau hana spread. Some beers, ahi and tako poke. Everyone is talking about their day and relaxing from the workweek. Then, someone’s about to pull out a guitar when you hear that laugh-like chirp: criiiiiiiiiiick crick crick crick. You look up and next to the porch light is a familiar friend: the gecko.
The Gold-Dust Day Gecko can be vibrantly green and pink like this guy.
The first geckos were thought to arrive by canoe with some of Hawaii’s first settlers. The four original species established in the islands are the: Indo-Pacific Gecko, Mourning Gecko, Stump-Toed Gecko and Tree Gecko. There are now currently about eight gecko species here, including the Gold-Dust Day Gecko and Tokay Gecko. The Hawaiian name for gecko (or lizard, in general) is mo’o. Hawaiian historian Mary Kawena Puku’i says: “Mai kolohe i ka mo’o o lele i ka pali” or “Do not bother lizards or you’ll fall off a cliff”; a warning to not harass lizards lest the mythical mo’o causes a madness that will make one leap off a cliff and die (Pukui 1983).
If suicidal madness created by a folkloric creature isn’t enough to keep you from squishing your house gecko, then maybe their appetite will. Almost all geckoes are nocturnal and feed on insects. Some of their snacks include: moths, flies, ants, mosquitoes and cockroaches. I once witnessed a Discovery Channel like fight to the death in my living room; a gecko battling and eating a cockroach twice its size! Thankfully, the gecko won, and my house was roach and bug free.
The Mourning Gecko feeds on small insects and flower nectar.
Because of their taste for nocturnal buggies, many geckos are seen clinging to the wall or ceiling next to a light source, where unsuspecting night insects gather. But how are the geckoes able to hold on without falling? The trick is in the toes. Geckos have enlarged, specialized toe pads with microscopic hairs on them. Each toe has approximately 10,000 hairs on it! Scientists are now harnessing the power of the gecko toe to make high-tech boots and climbing gloves. Watch out, James Bond!
While you’re in Hawaii, make sure to keep your eye out for our beloved gecko. Whether you hear its laughing chirp or see it clinging to the ceiling, know that it’s a guest in your home. It will sing you to sleep, keep your dwelling bug-free and share with you an ingrained part of life in the islands.