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Snake repellents do not work says the African Snakebite Institute and KZN snake catcher

The rinkhals snake. Picture: African Snakebite Institute

The rinkhals snake. Picture: African Snakebite Institute

Published Jan 26, 2022

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DURBAN - Snake repellents do not work, that was according to the African Snakebite Institute and KwaZulu-Natal snake catcher Sarel van der Merwe.

In its January 2022 newsletter, the African Snakebite Institute discussed the issue of snake repellents.

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This comes after a recent parliamentary debate where Patricia de Lille explained that Laboria Park in Belhar, Cape Town is infested with snakes and moles and that they have contractors spraying snake repellent and poisoning mole rats with fumigation tablets.

“... It is either a case of us having an ignorant or ill-informed minister or another opportunity for a lucrative tender. Snake repellents do not work,” the institute said.

The African Snakebite Institute said the issue of snake repellents came up regularly and that they knew of a “snake remover” in Gauteng who seems to prey largely on old and nervous folks, charging thousands of rands to spray their premises with snake repellent to rid the area of snakes.

“Such so-called snake repellents include Jeyes Fluid, old oil, moth balls, diesel, petrol, burning tyres and some plants like geraniums and wild garlic as well as the commercially available Snake Repel product,” the institute said.

Another urban legend is that one should put a bowl of water at the edge of your property as snakes smell water and will then drink from the bowl and not enter your property.

It said other parts of Africa used Chinese solar-powered vibrating spikes that are stuck into the ground and set to vibrate every few minutes. Snakes are well known for picking up vibrations.

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“Needless to say, none of the above snake repellents work and some have actually been found to attract snakes. Research done in the USA showed that when snakes hatch (or are born), they closely associate with odours in their immediate environment and may well link those smells with a safe environment, to the degree that such substances could attract them. Seeing a snake on your veranda and then spraying one of the above ‘repellents’ does not mean it is effective just because you do not see another snake – there are thousands of houses without so-called repellents that never have snakes,” the institute said.

“As for the repellents, Wits University tested a variety of substances including Jeyes Fluid, Snake Repel, moth balls and some plants, and again, none of the snakes were repelled in any way. The results of these extensive tests as well as additional tests that were done in the wild will be published soon and will make for some meaningful reading.”

The institute also said in high-risk areas, putting shade cloth onto your perimeter fence – about 1m high and dug into the ground (at least 30 cm deep) and ensuring that entrance gate areas are also well sealed.

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Van der Merwe said no snake repellents worked, they were just toxic.

“No repellent works, speak to any snake catcher. It’s a waste of money. It’s a money scam,” Van der Merwe said.

He said he rescued five black mambas from one house in four years.

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“The storeroom was infested with Jeyes Fluid and the black mambas are still coming there because his place isn’t clean,” Van der Merwe said.

He gave these tips:

  • Keep your place tidy.
  • Keep your kitchen clean.
  • Keep your garden clean - trim trees away from windows and roofs so snakes cannot get into your house.
  • Don’t have bird feeders too close to the house, that calls for birds and then snakes.
  • Don’t pile up rubble in storerooms next to the house and other buildings. Where there is rubble, wood, corrugated iron and firewood on top of each other, black mambas love to lie between that.

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