The UK is getting warmer and our list of alien species is getting longer! Meet the Brahminy blindsnake (Indotyphlops braminus) – aka the flowerpot snake. It may look like a millipede or an earthworm, but it is a real snake, 5-10cm long, with eyes reduced to pigmented areas under translucent scales, smooth, shiny, close-fitting scales arranged in 20 rows around the body, and a tiny forked tongue.

It is completely harmless to humans, feeding on ant and termite eggs and larvae, and leaf-litter insects, but it is the most successful and widely distributed snake in the world. This is because it is parthenogenetic! This is the only snake species that always exists only as females, and those females can produce viable offspring that are clones of their mother. A single female flowerpot snake can, in the right conditions, initiate a new colony without the need for a mate, and this makes the species an excellent coloniser.

It has established colonies in Asia, Africa, Madagascar, Florida, Mexico, and Australia as well as on Pacific islands. It is usually transported buried in the root ball soil of exotic flowering plants, tree saplings or commercial crops. It is possible that small colonies have become established in Europe and nobody has noticed them!

Photographs by Mark O'Shea

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and the University of Wolverhampton would be interested to know if anybody has seen this little snake in Europe, especially in the British Isles….

WHERE TO LOOK?

Under tropical potted plants in nurseries and garden centres, in tropical hot houses at botanic gardens, and even under paving slabs or oil drums, where it is damp, dark, and warm.

IF SEEN, PLEASE APPROACH AND TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH!

Please send your flowerpot snake sightings and photographs to: [email protected]uk  and/or [email protected]