The lace monitor grows to between 1.5 and 2 metres in length, it is a dark steel grey above with pale yellow or cream bands or rows of spots. The underside is cream. The jaws and snout are usually strongly barred with yellow and dark grey. A second colour form known as Bell’s phase occurs in some areas of Queensland which has strong dark grey and yellow bands all along the body. The toes are equipped with long, strong claws, which are used for climbing. The tongue is long and forked like a snake . Monitors are the only lizards that have a forked tongue.
The lace monitor lives in eastern Australian forests and coastal tablelands. Much of its time is spent up fairly large trees, although they usually come down to the ground to forage for food. When disturbed it sprints to the nearest tree and climbs to safety with great speed and agility.
The lace monitor has a broad and varied diet including birds, insects, bird eggs, reptiles and small mammals. They will readily feed on carrion, including road kills, gorging themselves when the opportunity arises. After a large feed they are able to go for many weeks without feeding again.
Lace monitors lay between 6 to 12 eggs each year. These are usually laid in termite mounds, particularly those found in trees. The female excavates a hole on the side of the termite mound, lays the eggs and then leaves the termites to reseal the eggs inside the nest. It is believed that the mother is aware of when the eggs are due to hatch and she will return to the nest and opens it up with her strong claws to allow the baby monitors to escape.