On one hand, snakes can be great allies. They are great pest controllers for the garden, they leave your plants alone, and any waste they leave behind is great fertilizer.
But not all snakes are equal, and some are definitely less welcome than others, so In this article, we’ll discuss the best snake-repellent strategy using essential oils.
The best natural snake-repellent essential oils are cinnamon, cedarwood, lemongrass, and citronella; discover why and how to use them.
How to Identify Common Snake Species
Probably the most important thing is to find out if your snake is venomous, but clearly, you don’t want any snake that will ravage your chicken coop.
North America has around 120 species of indigenous snakes and approximately 30 species of evil, including 23 species of rattlesnakes, three species of coral snakes, two species of cottonmouth, and two species of the copperhead. There are at least one venomous snake species in every state except Hawaii, Maine, Rhode Island, and Alaska. Most species of snake are harmless.
The Difference Between Venomous and Poisonous Snakes
A poisonous snake will not hurt you unless you plan to eat it. Deadly means it will be toxic if you ingest it. More problematic if you are an owl or an eagle but difficult if you find yourself in the desert with no food. Then, a poisonous snake really will be bad news.
Venomous snakes have fangs that inject venom when they bite you. These tend to contain nerve toxins that can be lethal. These are the guys you want to be aware of.
Snakes are reptiles, a class of animals that is further divided into the order Squamata, which also includes lizards, and then they occupy their own suborder Serpentes. Snakes have dry, scaly skin and are cold-blooded, so they depend on environmental warmth to maintain their body temperatures. They reproduce by laying tough-shelled eggs on land. Snakes have no external ear openings or eyelids, so they will never blink. Instead, their eyes are covered by a large transparent scale, unlike contact lenses. A snake will shed its skin several times a year, and the scale comes off with it.
Sometimes, you might see a legless lizard and think it's a snake, but lizards have moveable eyelids, which can help you be sure it is the snake you’re looking at.
There are seven key prompts for helping you to identify your snake.
These are body, tail, and head shapes, their eyes look like, their pattern, their color, and whether they have an anal scale.
So, the first thing you’ll notice is how large it is. Approximately how long is it, but is it long and slender? Perhaps it’s medium thickness and or short and stout? Try to be subjective. The size will give you great headway into identifying it.
What shape does its head remind you of? A spade? A broad arrowhead, or is it oval? Some have very distinctive necks. Does your snake have one?
Venomous Snakes tend to have triangular heads, although some nonvenomous snakes adopt this appearance to intimidate predators. Because of their venomous sacks, venomous snakes’ heads have a more bulging look, especially along their jaws. Harmless snakes’ heads look skinnier because they don’t have these. Nonvenomous Snakes have rounded or spoon-shaped heads.
What shape is its tail? Does it end in a pointed scale or a rattle? Is it a blunted end? Does it have a different pattern?
Eyes can tell you a lot. Some snakes have horizontal pupils, which are useful for watching long distances across the ground. Others have vertical ones, which show a great stretch for prey.
Which way do your snake’s pupils go? Maybe their pupils are more rounded?
Venomous snakes often have yellow or green eyes with thin, vertical pupils.
Non-venomous snakes normally have rounded pupils, although these two rules are not exclusive.
Are their eyes large or small? What color are they, and do they seem to have any scales that jut out over the look like an eyebrow?
Now snakes might look slimy, but they are not. They feel like oiled fabric. But what texture is your snake’s scales?
Some snakes have raised lines running lengthwise through their scales called keels. Does your snake look like it might have those? If it does, is it on all scales or just a few?
Do they look rough or smooth?
Which color(s) is the snake, and does it have any patterns? Many venomous snakes tend to be brightly colored to warn predators away from eating them. However, in the snake kingdom, mimicry is both safety and power, so you might sometimes find non-venomous snakes pretending to be something they are not.
A few of the most common- Blotches, diamonds, spots, cross bands, rings, and stripes.
Are they two-toned, with the back and belly being different colors?
Some species have different head and neck markings in the form of bands, stripes, or solid areas of color.
Really, you need to be holding the snake for this one, but they have scales over their cloaca, the opening used for getting rid of waste and for reproduction. Is the scale single or divided into 2 scales? Similarly, if a line of single scales reads to the anal hierarchy, the snake is venomous. Though you don’t really need to do this to identify most snakes, and it can be a useful guide if you find a shed skin as to what might be lurking, hidden.
What Attracts Snakes to My Home?
Snakes love areas with logs, rocks, and woodland edges and like to hunker down under large pieces of natural or artificial debris. Warm metal or cardboard sheets and large, thin, and flat rocks provide excellent cover objects for snakes. Hence, they might be under bushes but just as drawn to your garden shed or garage.
They’ll be on the hunt for their favorite types of prey. They love a dinner of mice and rats and enjoy eating eggs, hence why they turn up in chicken coops. It’s warm there, and small farmyard animals make a tasty change for them. Moles are also very tasty, and this would be a great reason to tolerate any snakes you find if they are harmless. They are great pest controllers.
They enjoy fish and frogs, so they like being close to water. Again, they can be great for controlling slugs, snails, and grasshoppers.
They like to hang out in the thick brush, leaf piles, compost heaps, or nice cool, moist areas. Look out for them under birdbaths, by leaky faucets, by the garden hose, or by the pond.
They have natural predators in raccoons, foxes, etc., so snakes are more likely to prosper if you don’t have many nearby. Cats, pigs, and guinea hens are also tremendous snake catchers.
Do Snake Repellents Really Work?
If a snake sets its sights on your home, then there is not much you can do about that, in honesty. But understanding how snakes interact with their environment gives us opportunities to make it a less desirable option for them. The key is to make the obstacles outweigh the potential benefits it might reap by moving in.
Taking away food sources and attractive places to shelter will go a long way to deterring snakes; then, we can start using one of the key things a snake uses to gauge safety… its sense of smell.
Also Read: Does Peppermint Oil Repel Mice?
How to Get Rid of Snakes In Your House & Yard
Snakes are most likely to invite themselves into your home because you have mice. They are hunting and somehow inadvertently get trapped. They may want to be there as much as you want them.
The most important is to remain calm. It is a myth that snakes can sense fear in humans, but their sense of smell is extraordinary, so they might be able to tell if you are relaxed. They do not respond to fear in humans unless they feel threatened by you moving quickly or unpredictably. Move slowly and calmly and try to create an exit point for the snake to go through. Open doors and windows so they can get past you.
Find a way to box the snake in if you can't do that. Find boxes or boards to create a barrier between it and you.
Call pest control.
If you find one in your garden, there are two main ways to chase it off. Grab the hose and soak it with water, or if you can light the fire pit and leave it for a few hours, the smoke will see it off. Putting a few damp leaves onto the flames will make it smoke better.
Which Plant Can Keep Snakes Away?
You could add several plants to your yard to help deter snakes.
The bright sunny blooms of French and American marigolds are effective snake repellents because they emit a strong spicy scent that snakes don’t like. Marigolds also have long, sturdy roots that tend to fill large ground spaces that the snakes might want to enter. They emit a strong phytotoxin, alpha-terthienyl – into the soil. Interestingly neither moles nor gophers are fond of the smell either. The scent comes from flowers and roots, so it tends to cut off all available snake roots. These make great plants to put along the boundaries of your property and close to your house. An added benefit is they are a favorite of butterflies who adore their nectar.
Alliums, Garlic and Onion
Garlic and onions belong to the allium family, which give off a pungent smell of sulfonic acid and are natural repellents. They make a pretty purple addition to spring borders. Similarly, pink agapanthus and chives all have this common deterrent ability.
A must-have plant if you live in zone 9-11 or warmer. Gorgeous lemongrass is a staple of tropical cuisine, but the fields where it grows are free from mosquitoes and snakes that detest its fragrance. You can grow lemongrass in slightly cooler climes, but you must bring the plant in to protect it from frost in the winter.
More commonly known as ‘snake plant’ or the great name “Mother in Law's tongue,” snakes seem to find the sight of all the sharp edges intimidating. Grow outside or indoors if you are in cooler climes to deter snakes from the house and purify your air.
Wormwood Or Mugwort
Plants from the artemisia family have a strong musky scent that snakes don't like. If you grow the plant for its lovely silvery foliage, you could also make a tea with artemisia leaves and rock salt and sprinkle it around your borders. The smell will be off-putting, and the rock salt makes slithering rather uncomfortable.
Sometimes known as devil pepper, snakeroot plants have sharp prickly leaves that taste bitter and flowers that are toxic to snakes. It shows how clever they are to avoid them because two of the flowers’ constituents, reserpine, and tremetol, are so strong they can be fatal when eaten by inquisitive goats and horses.
Snakes don’t seem to like basil's deliciously pungent smell.
If you have a holly bush, don’t be too tidy when pruning. Spikey leaves on the floor are a real turn-off for snakes.
Also Read: Insect Repellent Essential Oils
What Scents Will Keep Snakes Away?
Many people try making homemade snake repellents from mothballs, white vinegar, and even predator urine, but they are not very successful. There are five main scents that snakes do not like. Alliums, including garlic and onions, as discussed, then Cinnamon, Cedarwood, Citronella, and Lemongrass.
These can be used easily in the form of essential oils. This might seem a long stretch, but it is close to the real reason plants make them in the first place.
Are Home Remedies Effective Against Snakes?
The proper name for the plant's chemicals is “Secondary metabolites .”That means they are not required for their primary function of respiration, but rather, the plant probably makes them not to survive but to make its life easier.
Consider that plants have roots that anchor them to the spot. A plant can’t escape the scorching sun or hide from an iguana that has become partial to its leaves for a salad lunch. So, essential oils are actually the botanical kingdom's seduction rituals and chemical warfare. Some are made to attract pollinators, and others make the taste of their leaves abhorrent.
Now, when we think of it like that, we can see how, what humans have appropriated as luxury perfumes, are what animals already naturally interact with.
What Makes a Snake Repellent Effective?
Snakes belong to a category of reptiles called squamates that are unique because their smell and taste combine into just one sense that we know as chemoreception. When they scent the air with their forked tongue, they pick up molecules and then take them back into their mouth. Each side of the tongue goes into a hole (two holes) then the information from the left and right fork gets passed to something called the Jacobson's Organ, which helps them decipher what they have picked up. If the left fork picks up a stronger scent than the right fork, they know lunch is upwind to the left.
Chemoreception is vital for snakes since many are blind or at least short-sighted.
Thinking of toothpaste will help you to understand how chemoreception works. The human mouth also has lots of heat and cold receptors, so the brain can see if it is safe to eat something so hot or if it will burn itself. Menthol from peppermint interacts with cold receptors, which is why menthol smells and tastes cold. (Which makes no sense if you think about it, does it? But it is true.)
Reptiles can smell “hot” in the same way as we can. Think about if you were to eat a hot chili. What will happen? You’ll go hot and sweaty, but you’ll get all jittery too, which is exactly what happens to a snake.
This extra sensory faculty is why they avoid certain smells.
Cinnamon is the best natural snake repellent because snakes also have an extra tool to compensate for their poor sightedness. To help them locate prey, they can pick up infrared as they scan the ground. This might be why they are suspicious of something like cinnamon. It smells like it should be warm, but something must definitely be off if it can’t see infrared. Scientists also suspect snakes imagine cinnamon might melt their scales. It might also be that cinnamon irritates the tissues of their noses and mouths because it is a very sensitizing oil.
In truth, we don’t fully understand why they react to certain smells, just that they do. On the other hand, some reasons are more obvious.
Cedarwood is really easy to see if you watch long enough. It contains several harmful phenols for reptiles; in particular, thujone can cause seizures, and others can burn their scales. Most snakes will instinctively stay away from cedar, and it’s been used in traditional medicines across Asia and Africa for hundreds of years.
Other interesting ingredients are lemongrass and citronella.
Lemongrass is especially fascinating because the plant's chemistry is very clearly designed to do certain things. For example, lemongrass’s natural fragrance is designed to attract pollinators, and we sell lots of lemongrass to beekeepers that want to attract swarms. But reptiles that munch on their leaves and potentially damage their roots absolutely hate it, so the fragrance is also protective of the plant. It’s a natural snake repellant. Trials show that one of its key constituents, geranyl acetate irritates some snakes’ skins.
Citronella is a close cousin of lemongrass, but it’s entirely inedible. So why grow it?. Well, it’s a useful crop to grow between plants to deter pests. Neither insects, rodents, nor reptiles detest its fragrance. Of course, these have the added benefit of chasing away the food sources the snake is after.
How to Keep Snakes Away From Your Home
The best way to repel snakes is to deal with the reasons they came in the first place. Tidy up the yard. Sweep away leaves, close up the compost and mend that leaky tap. Stop up all the ways they might be able to get into pet houses. Fill in gopher tunnels so they have no access points, and sort out that clutter in the garage.
Deal with the food that they have come too much on. Get rid of insects, slugs, and rodents.
Consider using our best snake-repellent spray, which we have designed from essential oils combined with a fixative to ensure longer-lasting protection from snakes.
The best snake-repellent strategies are to make your home as uncomfortable as possible for them. Dismantle anywhere it might like to take shelter, nest, or breed. Ensure you cut off its food supply and, if you can, try to remove its water access. Make the ground uncomfortable with salt and holly. Finally, disconcert it by messing with its sense of smell. Use plants and essential oils to speak the language of the plant and say, “Sorry, snake, you are just not welcome here.”