Sum­mer­time is snake time

go! Platteland - - GARDEN DIARY -

When it is hot and ei­ther dry or very wet, gar­dens be­come a haven for snakes – but that doesn’t mean you should take refuge in­doors, says Jo­han Marais, snake ex­pert at the African Snake Bite In­sti­tute.

Where did you fas­ci­na­tion with snakes start? I was seven when I caught my first brown house snake in our gar­den in Dur­ban. There were also many in­ter­ac­tions with snakes on fam­ily farms out­side Stella, Ermelo and Grootvlei. Un­for­tu­nately, in those days, snakes were al­ways killed. Have you been bit­ten by a snake? I’ve been deal­ing with snakes for more than 40 years and had never had a se­ri­ous bite or needed an an­tivenom. What do you do if a dan­ger­ous snake de­cides to make your gar­den its home? Watch the snake from a safe dis­tance – at least 5m – and use a field guide to iden­tify it. Then con­tact a snake catcher – you’ll find a list on my web­site:

africansnakebite­in­sti­tute.com. Are snakebites reg­u­larly re­ported by gar­den­ers? For­tu­nately, that doesn’t hap­pen of­ten. Most snakebites hap­pen in the warm, wet months of the year – from Jan­uary to April – and it’s mostly early evening when peo­ple ac­ci­den­tally step on a snake. Does it help to plant wild gar­lic or gera­ni­ums to re­pel snakes? That’s an old wives’ tale. There isn’t any chem­i­cal that keeps snakes away ei­ther, and that in­cludes Jeyes Fluid, chlo­rine, petrol and diesel. The best ad­vice is to keep your gar­den clean and ti­day: re­move build­ing ma­te­rial and re­mem­ber that fish ponds at­tract frogs – and snakes love eat­ing frogs. Mice, lots of bird nests and egg-lay­ing chick­ens also at­tract snakes. What is the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about snakes? That they’re ag­gres­sive and at­tack hu­mans. If you’re 5m from any snake – even a mamba – you’re safe. It’s also not true that peo­ple die of an­tivenom.

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