Even though it was introduced from further afield, the gecko is now emblematic of Hawaii, and you can’t go far on the Big Island without finding them in the natural landscape, printed on t-shirts, made into stickers, or – as you’ll see in this post – as works of art on the walls of the Horizon B&B.
There are eight species of gecko in Hawaii:
- Mourning gecko
- Stump-toed gecko
- Fox gecko
- Common house gecko
- Tokay gecko
- Orange-spotted day gecko
- Giant day gecko
- Gold dust day gecko
Only the last three – orange-spotted, giant and gold dust geckos are active in the daytime. The gold dust gecko is one of the prettiest and so-named for the coloriation of its body. Their bodies are usually green, or a yellowy green, with yellow speckles.
Gold dust geckos can grow up to 9 inches long. They eat plants, insects and sometimes even other geckos! (And they love a sugar snack too). This species of gecko is the one you will most likely see during your stay at Horizon Guest House on the Kona Coast. Don’t worry, they are completely harmless!
Did you know? Geckos don’t have eyelids. Their eyes have a transparent membrane and they clean it with their tongue! Geckos are also able to vocalize, unlike other lizards, making a kind of chirping, clicking sound. The noises geckos make might be to scare off other geckos who have invaded their territory, as a means to avoid fighting, or to attract another gecko in order to mate. They can also jump a fair distance too when chasing their insect prey.
Contrary to popular opinion geckos don’t have tiny toe pads with suction cups. In fact, their toes are covered in hundreds of tiny microscopic hairs called setae. Each of these setae have hundreds of smaller bristles called spatulae. These tiny hairs get close enough to the contours of walls, ceilings and other surfaces that it causes what’s known as the van der Waals force to occur.
Fun fact! The van der Waals force is a physical bond that occurs when electrons from the gecko hair molecules and electrons from the surface of the wall, or ceiling, interact with each other creating an electromagnetic attraction. This allows the gecko to navigate smooth surfaces like glass, as well as walls and ceilings, with ease.
Sometimes you might see a gecko without a tail – as you can imagine this isn’t so good for the gecko. To regrow the tail involves a process that is taxing on the lizard, sapping them of energy. To make matters worse the tail itself is actually a place where essential nutrients and fat are stored for periods when food is difficult to find. If you see a gecko with a thick tail it’s a good indication of the geckos health, hence a thin tail could indicate poor health, or a lack of access to nutrient-rich food.
How did they get to Hawaii? We know the gecko was introduced and can probably assume that they made it across the vast distances in the Pacific by stowing away aboard Polynesian canoes.
Geckos have a varied life span depending on the species but the average expected life span is approximately five years. If you manage to keep one as a pet they can live longer – they have been known to live for almost 20 years in captivity. We don’t keep them as pets here at Horizon Guest House, but you’ll be sure to see them in the garden or out on the lanai, and the occasional one that makes its way indoors. Don’t worry, all rooms have insect screens and doors to keep them, and other insects, out.
The mo’o are mentioned in Hawaiian mythology as a kind of dragon – their bodies forming a part of the landscape. Seen as the guardians of water, and also the family, they serve to warn or protect a person from an approaching danger. Over time the geckos have become a kind of manifestation of the mythological mo’o. Making the gecko a small but well-respected creature in Hawaiian culture.
Gecko Art at Horizon
Over the years we’ve collected a lot of gecko-related art. These are currently displayed out on the main lanai of the house. Check out the photos below.