Signs of Spring

May 25, 2017

Signs of Spring

            Who needs a calendar to know when it’s spring? I have a fail-safe way to tell when it gets here. I just wait until I start getting calls from homeowners who have had a close encounter with a snake.

            Forty-three years ago, that’s 1974 for the mathematically challenged, Jimmy Stafford’s song “Spiders & Snakes” peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts. For those of you too young to remember this, check it out on youtube. His lyrics, “I don’t like spiders and snakes,” are echoed by many 40+ years later.

            As temperatures warm in the spring, snakes come out of hibernation and start moving around your landscape. Unfortunately, some will find their way inside of a home rather than outside as they become active. Some people are frightened by snakes while others see them as beneficial in helping keep insects and pests, like voles and mice, at a minimum.

            Even if you are not afraid of them, an unexpected encounter will make just about anyone jump, so it’s  important to pest proof your home. If snakes get inside, more harmful pests like mice or those darn nuisance lady beetles may get in, too, and your home is not as energy efficient as it could be.

            Caulk cracks and around conduits going into your home. To prevent snakes from entering basements and crawl spaces, seal all openings one-fourth inch or larger with mortar, caulking compound, expanding foam, or one-eighth inch hardware cloth. Repair window screens and check that doors are tight fitting.

            Remove leaves that blew in over winter and piles of firewood, rocks or other debris near the home as well as overgrowth of weeds or plants as these provide attractive habitat to snakes.

            There are no products on the market, products you would scatter or spray on the ground or ultrasonic devices, that are effective in repelling snakes, so save your money when you see these in some stores. It is best to use habitat modification and exclusion. The use of sharp lava rock near the foundation, while bad for plants, does reduce snakes from coming near the foundation.

            Snakes need cool, damp shelters and may take residence under and possibly inside buildings. This is more likely to happen during fall when snakes are looking for areas to hibernate, but can happen in the spring when they first become active. If they end up indoors, the best way to remove a snake is to sweep it into a box or bucket and release it outdoors.

            If one is indoors, but avoids being captured, place crumpled damp towels, covered with dry towels to retain moisture, in a large box on its side along a wall in a basement. Snakes are attracted to these and will crawl beneath. Tip the box over and check under the bunched towels daily. If you captured a snake, take the box and it outside and release the snake away from your home.

            Commercial glue boards, or homemade glue boards made from heavy cardboard or plastic and smeared with a tacky substance, like Tanglefoot, can be effective for removing snakes from buildings. Place these in corners or along walls of basements.

            Check glue boards daily and do not leave snakes on them any longer than necessary. To harmlessly release a snake, take it outside and pour vegetable oil over it to break down the glue. Be sure to place glue boards where pets will not get caught.

            So for more information on snakes around your home, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.