Beaded Lizards as Pets

Until recent research revealed that quite a few lizards produce venom (which is generally harmless to people), these hefty, strikingly-marked creatures were the only known venomous lizards.

Mexican Beaded Lizards and Gila Monsters are bred in captivity but, despite rumors to the contrary, they have caused human fatalities. Mistakenly-considered docile and slow moving, they actually bite with amazing speed – indeed, Gila Monster bites are among those most frequently suffered (and covered up!) by professional zoo keepers. They are best appreciated in public collections and the wild.

Wild caught Gila Monsters are illegal, and some U.S. states also prohibit the keeping of captive bred animals.


The Mexican Beaded Lizard has one close living relative, the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum). There are four subspecies of beaded lizard: the Mexican beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum horridum); Black beaded lizard (H. h. alvarezi); Rio Fuerte beaded lizard (H. h. xasperatum); and the Motagua Valley beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti).

Range and Habitat

The Beaded Lizard is a species of venomous lizard found in Mexico and southern Guatemala. Their habitat is primarily tropical deciduous forest and pine-oak forest, with elevations from sea level to 1500 meters. In the wild, the animals are only active from April to mid-November, spending about an hour per day above the ground.

The Gila Monster is a large, heavy lizard which is native to the Mohave and Sonoran deserts in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

The Gila Monster is threatened by human development, and Arizona and Nevada state laws prohibit the killing or capture of the reptiles. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the Gila Monster as "Near Threatened", because "populations have been exploited (illegally) by commercial and private collectors, and they have suffered from habitat destruction due to urbanization and agricultural development."

Appearance and Temperament

The Beaded Lizard is larger than the Gila Monster and grows to about 13-18 inches (32.5-45cm) in length and weighs around 5 pounds (2.3kg). It has a black body with yellowish bands of differing width depending on the subspecies. The bumpy skin along with the contrast of the spots and stripes makes the lizard appear to have beads. The Beaded Lizard can live upwards of thirty years.

The Gila monster can reach two feet in length. It has a large head, and small, beady eyes. The tail is short and fat. The Gila Monster's body is pink and black, with a reticulated or banded pattern depending on its subspecies.

Beaded Lizard Housing

The minimum dimensions for an individual Gila Monster or Beaded Lizard enclosure should be 4 x 2 x 2 ft (1.3 x .66 x .66 m), with bigger being better. Gila Monsters do well with a habitat which has a thermal gradient of 75-80 degrees F (24-27 degrees C) on the cool end, and a warm spot of 85-90 degrees F (29-32 degrees C). At night, the temperature may be allowed to drop to 70-75 degrees F (21-24 degrees C).

Beaded Lizard Diet

In the wild, the Gila monster eats infrequently (only five to ten times a year in the wild), and feeds primarily on bird and reptile eggs, and occasionally upon small birds, mammals, frogs, lizards, insects, and carrion. In captivity, crickets and mealworms are appropriate. As the lizard gets older and larger, small pinkie mice can also be provided.

The beaded lizard is a specialized vertebrate nest predator feeding primarily on bird and reptile eggs. A semi-arboreal species, it is found climbing deciduous trees in search of prey when encountered above ground.