Tag Archives: Ozark snakes

Velvet Ants and Snakes

It must be the continued summery weather here in the Ozarks. Animals are trying to get ready for winter, yet are still in summer mode. Velvet ants and snakes are among them.

My first snake encounter was at the laundromat. A woman was pulling her laundry out of a washing machine and backed up.

“There’s a snake in my laundry!”

I thought some poor black snake had been pummeled and drowned. Still, I went over to check it out.

Midland Brown snake
This Midland Brown snake is full grown yet doesn’t even fill my hand. After such an eventful day, it was very anxious to find a quiet place to rest up. Under a flake of mulch hay was the perfect place in the snake’s opinion.

Delight! The snake in question was a Midland Brown. And it was still very much alive.

For those unfamiliar with this wonderful garden snake: Midland Browns only get about seven or eight inches long. They eat slugs, insects and other small creatures that eat vegetables. They are not poisonous.

The snake moved to my garden.

That evening I almost stepped on a copperhead. It was on the road at the foot of the driveway and fled into the vegetation.

The next day I opened the shed to get my potato fork out to do some garden weeding. Another copperhead was coiled in the shed.

coiled copperhead snake
Vivid color indicates this snake molted recently. It was a bit of a surprise to open the shed door and see it. The snake seemed as startled as I was. That is typical of a copperhead. They seem to prefer leaving the area to being aggressive. This one never even turned its head toward me.

The snake remained motionless for a couple of pictures. Then it went into full panic mode getting tangled in the tools as it tried to disappear down a knothole to under the shed.

Yes, copperheads are poisonous. I do not kill them. It is rare to see them and they eat mice and voles.

On a walk that afternoon I came across another resident very rarely seen: a velvet ant.

Velvet ants are not really ants. They are wingless wasps. They can sting.

This one was very busy looking for unwary insects to dine on. Velvet ants are speedy, rivaling tiger beetles.

Velvet ants are rarely seen
Velvet ants are small, a half inch long. They race across and under leaf litter as the camera tries to anticipate where it will show up next.

Velvet ants are solitary and race through the leaf litter and other debris on the ground. In all the time we’ve lived here, this was only the second time I’d seen one.

Frost isn’t due until next month. Autumn officially gets here next week. Unofficially it is already here with cool nights and hot days. The animals and birds are on the move. What other surprises await me?

The Ozark Hills hold many surprises for those who walk them. Join me on the hills in “My Ozark Home.”

Watching Speckled King Snakes

Spring has mostly arrived in the Ozarks. The snakes are out including the speckled king snakes.

People usually think of black rat snakes when they think about rat and mouse control. Many decide to leave these alone as they will eat other snakes such as copperheads.

Speckled king snakes are similar to black rat snakes. Both eat rats and mice. Both are constrictors, squeezing their prey. Both live in similar places. Black rat snakes get bigger.

two speckled king snakes entwined
These two speckled king snakes rolled over and over wrapped around each other. A pair last year did this for over an hour.

In spring these snakes come out during the day. Speckled kings are shy and flee before being spotted much of the time. I see their tails disappearing into the grass.

I’ve heard speckled kings don’t make good pets. I don’t think any snakes make good pets, but a cousin did. He had a black rat snake. It was used to being handled and was the first snake I ever touched.

Snake scales are cool, dry and smooth to the touch. They seem waxed.

Once summer weather arrives the snakes stay in cool places during the day. Evening and night are the times they come out looking for food. Except in my hen house.

The black rat snakes stay under the wood floor of the barn. They have plenty of mice to snack on. Still, they find eggs irresistible. I’m slowly remodeling to discourage their visits.

speckled king snakes in grass
These two speckled king snakes had been entwined, possibly mating as this is the right time. Moments later the smaller male took off followed by the larger female.

Speckled king snakes never seem to be in the barn. They do come through my garden. Most commonly they are out in the pastures.

Regardless of where the snakes are found around the house or barn, they are rarely killed. A couple showed up in my pantry and were moved outside. Snakes are far too valuable as mouse and rat control to harm.

The big problem with the snakes is that they maintain their body temperature by sunning so they don’t need a lot of food. They don’t eat enough mice.

The wildflowers are blooming in the Ozarks. Enjoy pictures and commentary about some of them in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”