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A broad-headed skink is a type of thick-bodied lizard native to much of the southeastern and central United States. Often thought poisonous, and colloquially known as scorpions, these skinks are harmless to humans and are actually beneficial for pest control. The scientific name for the broad-headed skink is Eumeces laticeps.
With short legs; long, thin tails; and tube-like bodies often blending seamlessly with their heads, these lizards tend to resemble snakes with legs. Generally, the male's head is larger than the female's, with jaws jutting out from the body to form a triangular shape. The male's head is reddish orange, and its body has a solid, olive to tan coloring. Females lack the differently colored heads of males and retain the faint yellow-white stripes that juvenile lizards possess. As the largest skink in its region, and the second largest lizard, these reptiles can reach 13 inches (33 cm) long.
Arboreal, broad-headed skinks spend most of their time in trees, though they can be found on the ground from time to time. They are most commonly found in wooded areas and seem particularly fond of oak trees. These skinks range from Florida north through Pennsylvania. They also span west to parts of Texas and Kansas, and east through Georgia.
Diurnal, these lizards are active during the daylight hours. As with most lizards, broad-headed skinks can break off their tails when threatened or captured by predators. Although the males are territorial and may fight amongst themselves, they have no part in protecting eggs during breeding seasons.
Eggs are laid in early spring under ground litter or fallen trees. Clutches usually have between eight and 12 eggs, but may have up to 22. The female guards the eggs, wrapping herself around them while they incubate. Eggs usually hatch between June and August.
Hatchlings are 2.5–3.5 inches (6.35–8.9 cm) long. Their dark bodies have five bright yellow-white stripes running vertically down their length. The skinks' tails are a vivid blue. A juvenile broad-headed skink may be mistaken for a five-lined or southeastern five-lined skink, which have similar appearances. The broad-headed skink, however, can be positively identified by the underside of its tail, which has several overlarge scales.
Beneficial in pest control, the broad-headed skink eats large quantities of food in any given day. Its main food sources are insects and spiders, but it occasionally may eat other lizards or small mammals. Usually it will hunt for food in the trees in which it lives and is known to shake wasp nests to reach the larvae inside.