common five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)
This is a medium-sized skink that grows to a maximum snout-vent length of 3.4 inches (86 mm) and a maximum total length of 8.5 inches (215 mm). The body scales are smooth, overlapping, and glossy. This skink has five white to cream stripes on a dark brown to brownish-gray background color. The stripes go half-way onto the original tail. Mating occurs in May, 6-12 eggs are laid in June, and hatching occurs 4-6 weeks later. The female guards the nest and turns the eggs daily. No parental care is given after hatching and one or more of the eggs may be eaten while the female broods them. Juveniles are similar to adults but have a bright blue tail, which serves to attract predators’ attention away from the body. The tail breaks off when the skink is attacked, and it continues to wriggle for some time to distract the predator further. This skink will enter water, crawl into crevices, or hide under objects or leaf litter to escape predators.
This species is found in all areas of Virginia. It inhabits a variety of habitats in the eastern deciduous and southeastern evergreen forests. It prefers moist habitats and is often found under objects such as logs and boards, or in standing snags. This skink will lay its eggs in decaying logs and stumps. It may be observed near urban and suburban buildings.
This skink feeds predominantly on spiders, with the specific choice dependent on the size of the lizard and the availability of the prey. Large items such as big spiders, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, harvestmen, and snails are preferred.