If you see snakes in the compost bin it will be because they find it an ideal place to shelter. A compost bin can provide a perfect place for snakes to lay eggs and rear their young in safety. Snakes are often attracted to compost bins where the contents generate a small amount of heat.
I don’t like snakes, I don’t know enough about them and I’m guessing that most of you feel much the same way. The trouble is that there is a risk that, at some point, we’re going to come face to face with a snake.
Depending on where you are in the world you may, at some point, encounter snakes in the compost bin. Some of these snakes maybe a problem and others will be insignificant. Here, we will go through why snakes feel the need to turn up in your compost and what you could do to keep them away. We’ll also look at a few of the snakes that you’re likely to find in a compost bin and what to look for to establish what type of snake you have.
Do compost piles attract snakes?
It really depends on what type of compost pile you have. If it’s a lot of mainly dry grass material in a heap with an element of moisture present, this will generate a small amount of heat as it rots down. It’s these warm conditions in a compost pile that will attract snakes because they find it ideal for laying their eggs. The compost pile in this case becomes a ready-made incubator where the eggs will be safe, away from predators and can hatch out into young snakes.
You need to look out for snakes in the compost bin
The way to avoid a problem with snakes in compost is to ensure that the material that you want to make compost from rots down quickly. This will remove the type of habitat that snakes need and are looking for. If you have dry material in a compost heap this is what snakes are attracted to because a compost heap on the ground is fully exposed to them.
By placing composting material in a bin and keeping the contents moist, the rotting process will commence to produce compost. A compost bin is, by its nature, contained. It’s difficult for anything to get into it. A compost bin is therefore the preferred option compared to a compost heap. Snakes may be attracted to the contents of a compost bin but if they find it difficult to get in, they will move on.
One way of making compost without snakes getting involved is to use a compost tumbler. Using a tumbler to make compost, you are more likely to keep the compost moving. Every time you roll over the barrel, the compost inside is opened up, allowing air to get into the mass.The rolling over of compost will therefore accelerate the composting process. Snakes won’t feel safe in compost that keeps moving. We have a post that goes into comparing compost bins and compost tumblers. Just go to ‘Tumbler composter vs bin’ to see which may be the best option for you.
The Rolypig composter sits on the ground whereas most other compost tumblers are raised on a stand making them, largely, inaccessible. It’s difficult to see how a snake would get into a Rolypig. Composting in the barrel of the Rolypig tends to happen faster than most systems, when managed properly. This makes the compost less attractive to snakes.
Rodents are attracted to compost
Another reason why snakes are attracted to compost is the chance that there may be rodents about. Both are looking for the comfort that compost may provide. An undisturbed heap or bin full of compost that’s has enough dry material in it, would be ideal for rodents to nest. Some snakes prey on small mammals. Rodents hiding in a mass of compost would be easy to find.
There is an argument that if you want to deter snakes from living in your compost, you may need to get rid of rats and mice. But if you have a bit of a rodent problem in the compost and in your garden generally, then, having snakes around would be a natural way of dealing with them. It really comes down to what you’re happy with in your compost.
What attracts snakes to your house
Snakes are attracted to places where they can hide. Houses provide so many opportunities for hiding. Snakes don’t particularly seek to find their way into a house. They tend to be attracted to any heaps of materials that accumulate around the outside of a house. They may be attracted to a pile of logs, drying in a small shed, especially where there are logs being stored.
Logs are often left undisturbed for a significant period of time. It will be dry and sheltered. Just the type of place that attracts snakes. It’s unlikely that you will have any particular food around your house that snakes are attracted to. The prey that snakes go for will be generally distributed everywhere.
It’s possible to keep snakes away by erecting a snake proof fence using half inch wire mesh. You need to dig a trench about six inches deep along the line where the fence is to be. This is to bury part of the fence underground, the remaining wire being above ground.
Don’t erect the fence completely upright because a snake may be able to climb up. If you slope the fence outward at an angle of 20 to 30 degrees, this will make it difficult for the snakes to climb.
You need to do all you can to keep vegetation away from the outside of the fence because snakes may be able to climb the plants and gain access over the top of the fence.
Some will say that you need to remove all materials and hiding places in the garden where snakes can thrive. This is almost impossible to do because gardens, by their nature, can never be so tidy as to not have anywhere for snakes to hide.
You may find snakes in the compost bin
What snakes live in compost heaps?
Because of the nature of compost in its early stages of decomposition a compost heap is an ideal haven for most snakes. For some snakes it’s not just a comfortable place to live, they can also make use of the food supply that a compost heap or bin can provide. Here’s a selection of typical snakes that you may find in a compost heap or bin.
Native to the UK the grass snake is very often mistaken for an adder but it isn’t venomous. For a visual comparison look for the yellow and black colour on the back of the head and note that the eyes have round pupils.
Grass snakes are sometimes confused with slow worms. These are legless lizards and they’re not snakes. They are much smaller but can be big enough to cause confusion. The grass snake can grow up to 39 inches in length with the females often longer than males
Over recent years the grass snake numbers have fallen and as a result they are protected under the wildlife and countryside act. The habitat of the grass snake has been eroded as a result of urbanisation, agricultural intensification and road building.
Compost heaps as well as on-farm manure heaps are ideal for grass snakes to lay there eggs because the sort of material in this sort of habitat tends to be warm and insulated. It really depends where you are in the country but you’re more likely to find grass snakes if your garden is in a more rural location. Because gardens are usually to tidy there isn’t enough natural cover for the grass snakes to hide.
Snakes will bite in self defence if disturbed or trodden on and grass snakes are no exception. No one wants to be bitten by anything anywhere especially creatures from the wild because you can never be quite sure what it is that’s doing the biting. Given that there is a risk that grass snakes may be hibernating in your compost bin it’s probably not wise to go digging around with your bare hands if you feel like digging around at all.
These are native from Europe to Asia. the adder has a thicker body and a noticeable zigzag pattern along its back. If you get close enough to have a really good look you will notice that the eyes of the Adder are made up of vertical slit pupils. These are venomous and if you get bitten you need to get medical attention straight away. This is one to avoid but It is highly unlikely that you will find an Adder in your garden. Modern gardens are usually much too busy with activity like lawn mowing and garden rotovating going on. The adder doesn’t like to be disturbed and is easily scared by vibration.
If ever you are in terrain where you think there maybe adders present a good tactic is to stamp your feet or hit the ground with a stick. The vibration from this is enough to move them away from the area, this is something that wild deer are sometimes seen doing. They stamp their feet sending enough vibration through the ground driving snakes away.
Native to North America they are also known as Puff Adders. They get their name from the distinctive turned up nose and can vary in colour. The Puff Adder name comes from the way that they tend to flatten out their heads and rise up like a cobra when threatened.
The good news is that these aren’t venomous other than to small pray-creatures like frogs or toads. They can deliver venom but only from the back teeth which makes it difficult to infect humans.
Another native of North America they are only found in areas where they have access to ponds of water. This is partly due to the diet being mainly amphibious creatures.
It isn’t considered to be dangerous but is known to be mildly venomous. It isn’t too much of a threat to humans because, like the hog-nose, the venom delivery is from the rear teeth.
Garter snakes will hibernate in colder regions and will often do so in groups. They give birth to live young, which is rare among snakes, usually in large numbers. So if you have them turn up in a compost heap you may see a large population.
If you see snake eggs in your compost bin it’s probably wise just to take note that they are there as a warning but then just leave them alone. When they hatch the young will move away and start exploring new territories.
Do worm farms attract snakes?
It’s quite possible for snakes to show up at worm farms but there is no indication, that I can find, that it’s the worms that attract them. The general procedure on worm farms involves a stack of rotting material that worms can feed on and breed in. These stacks tend to be laid out in long rows and covered with plastic sheeting.
The plastic sheeting that most worm farms use is usually black polypropylene. The black pigment in the plastic sheet will draw heat from the sun. This will warm the surface of the rotting material in the stack.
Black plastic is, usually, the first choice on worm farms. It tends to have, what’s known to be, a UV (ultraviolet) stabilizer in the plastic. This is an additive that helps to slow down the effect of ultraviolet light from the sun.
Without this additive, the plastic sheet would break down after a year or two. It would gradually disintegrate over time and become blown around everywhere by the wind.
The space between the plastic sheet and the surface of the rotting material will be warm and, mostly, dry. It’s this area of space that snakes are going to be attracted to. It will be warm and safe from predators. Depending on the nature of the material in the stack, snakes may lay eggs from which young will emerge.
The worms will be below the surface most of the time. Snakes are carnivorous. They are inevitably going to find worms that come to the surface. It’s reasonable to assume that these worms will be eaten.
Does ground cover attract snakes?
Like most wildlife, snakes are attracted to ground cover. They need to be out of sight, just like most creatures. There is another reason why snakes are attracted to where there’s good ground cover. This is where they’re likely to find creatures to prey on. This would include small rodents, frogs, toads and beetles.
Snakes prefer thick ground cover because this tends to be undisturbed by larger creatures e.g. cattle and people.
Out in the more wild parts of the world, none of this would be a problem. Issues may arise when we start worrying about any ground cover around the house. Depending on what part of the world you’re in, if you have low, thick ground cover that’s been there for a while, you need to assume that snakes may be present.
If you have a view about conservation of habitat for wildlife, you may be inclined to leave the cover that’s there or just clear the whole area. Clearing of ground cover will decisively solve any concerns about snakes hiding in the undergrowth.
An alternative may be to clear part of what you have and push them back to the margins where they could be, up to a point, contained.
Keeping snakes out of a garden, living-area is almost impossible. Your garden will have areas that provide just the sort of ground cover that they are looking for.
Snakes are often put off by strong smells that are new to them. There are plants that can be grown that send out smells that will deter some snakes but not all. There doesn’t appear to be a ‘one-plant-fits-all’ plant that will put off every snake out there. Among the plants that are being held up as potential snake repellents there are the following:
- West Indian Lemongrass
In the case of the Mother-in-laws’s-tongue, this isn’t so much to do with smell. It appears that snakes are put of by the sight of the sharp leaves.
Snakes are put off by new smells that they come across and if you can find something that keeps away the particular snakes that you know you have, then, you will be winning the battle. However,there is a problem if we rely on smells from plants or anything else, to keep snakes away.
It appears that when snakes hatch out, the first smells that they experience, fail to become a deterrent to them. The first smells give them a sense of security because nothing bad happens to them when they smell it.
This can be a problem if snakes hatch out in the garden where you have planted plants with particular smells that are known to keep away some snakes. The snakes that are resident in your garden may not be put off by that particular smell but new comers, of the same species, could easily be put off by the same plants.
Just out of interest
Do snakes like to live in ivy?
You may have snakes in your area that like to live in ivy but there’s nothing about ivy that snakes specifically like. Where there is any type of ground cover, including ivy, we can expect to find snakes.
There appears to be no conclusive data that indicates that there’s anything about ivy that snakes like. Ivy is a very successful plant that can provide just the type of cover that snakes like.
Some people find ivy to be a problem, especially if it reaches buildings. Ivy has a habit of climbing walls and if allowed to grow unchecked, will cover an entire building.
However, ivy is welcomed by some in spaces where it can spread out without causing interference.
Having an expanse of ivy may be your thing but it may bring with it a range of wildlife that will be mainly hidden from view. Small rodents like to live in low-level, thick vegetation. This may be one of the reasons why snakes like to be or possibly live, in ivy.
It will depend on your situation and whether you are happy or not about having snakes living in the ivy. If snakes in the ivy aren’t likely to be a threat to you because they are far enough away from your home and regular activity, there’s no reason to worry about them being there.
You may not see snakes in a patch of ivy but you may still wonder and worry about them possibly being there. There are a few things that you can do to drive them out or just contain them.
It’s usually wise to keep ivy trimmed to stop it from spreading further than it’s reached. This will contain, what may have become, a snake sanctuary.
If you don’t want snakes to live in the ivy or any where else, there are some actions that you can take that will keep them away. There is the option of growing various plants that snakes don’t like. Then, there’s the suggestion of scattering moth balls around in the patch of ivy.
Mothballs drive away most things. It’s reasonable to assume that they will drive away snakes. If you rely on this method, you’ll need to remember to keep up the habit regularly.
If there is one thing that snakes won’t tolerate it’s noisy disturbances.
Making lots of noise that sends out vibrations will send every snake species out of the area. Using a chain or buzz saw will upset their day. Snakes are very sensitive to vibration. It doesn’t have to be a power saw. A motorized lawn mower will do the same. Snakes like to live where there is no disturbance.
Some suggest having a dog running around and barking, will be enough to drive out snakes. Causing as much disturbance as possible on a regular basis near the ivy will move them on.
Ivy in a snake terrarium
Those who’ve asked the question of whether snakes like to live in ivy, may be wondering if ivy would be a good choice of plant to grow in a terrarium enclosure for snakes. There is no doubt that ivy would grow into a thick, evergreen cover for snakes to hide in. The only problem with this is that ivy is one of the most invasive plants on the planet.
Ivy is a creeper plant. It will spread until there is no room left for it to spread into. If ivy becomes established in any enclosure designed for keeping snakes, you need to be ready to intervene and cut it back or it will take over the entire terrarium.
“When the snake decided to go straight,
he didn’t get anywhere.”
Pests can be a problem, find out more at: rat-proof garden. Is it possible?
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