London (change)
Today 10°C / 10°C
Tomorrow 12°C / 11°C

Grass snakes

Posted: Tuesday 1 July 2014
by James Alexander-Sinclair

We have rather a lot of grass snakes this year. My wife and son were in the kitchen the other day when one came in through the open door.


We have rather a lot of grass snakes this year. My wife and son were in the kitchen the other day when one came in through the open door. The snake looked around for a bit, was obviously not that impressed and slithered out again. She was quite big (about a metre long), which could be quite alarming if one happened to be a bit ophidophobic.*

Many people cannot stand even the sight of a snake. I think it's the slithering that does it for them. Either that or a deep rooted belief in original sin. However, they're pretty harmless and quite widespread in our gardens. They're particularly visible on hot days, when they like to sit on walls or gravel in order to soak up the warmth.

It will come as a great relief to know that grass snakes have no teeth. Therefore, they couldn't bite even if they were particularly irked. Instead they defend themselves by hissing and secreting a bad smell. Sometimes they make themselves bleed from the eyes, or vomit - but they only do this under extreme stress, as they're polite creatures. Their diet is modest and almost exclusively amphibian - sometimes just two or three frogs will keep them going all summer. This means that they're much more likely to be in your garden if you have a pond. I saw one swimming in a client’s pond the other day, and very elegant it looked. In some places grass snakes are known as water snakes, which is unsurprising given that the Latin name is Natrix natrix, which probably comes from the Latin Natare meaning ‘to swim’.

Females can reach about 1.8m in length and will lay eggs in compost heaps, and other warm and hospitable places. Their babies hatch out at the end of August or beginning of September. Males are a bit shorter and thinner.

So try not to worry. They'll just go about their business and leave you alone.

* Fear of snakes is so widespread that it has two names: ophidiophobia is an abnormal fear of snakes, where even pictures give you the willies. Herpetophobia is a more general fear of snakes and amphibians. Snakes also have more than one collective noun: a slither, bed, den, nest or pit.





Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Grass snakes
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

fidgetbones 03/07/2014 at 22:51

Snakes in the kitchen? NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

flowering rose 03/07/2014 at 23:01

you must have something they like in your kitchen, I have slugs which are worst ,perhaps the snakes my like my slugs!