Mothballs and snakes

Asked November 19, 2019, 6:40 PM EST

Our local Nextdoor social media has a hot thread about snakes in the house and the use of mothballs to discourage snakes from being in your house. Could you provide some science-based information about this subject? Please.

Prince George's County Maryland

1 Response

We don't recommend the use of mothballs except in cases of sealed plastic containers, when protecting fabrics from clothes moths for instance.

They are actually a type of pesticide and should not be used in ways that are not listed on the label. The vapors can be dangerous when inhaled. Moth balls are not snake repellents.
You might want to share this page from the National Pesticide Information Center: http://npic.orst.edu/capro/mothball.html

If someone has snakes in their home, they are there because there is a food source- likely rodents. The snakes actually help control rodents in homes.
Snakes (other than two kinds not usually found in your area) are shy and beneficial in our environments. They should not be harmed.

People should tighten up their homes with caulk, new doorsweeps/gaskets if needed and other approaches to keeping out insects and rodents. If they can't figure out how wildlife is getting in, they can hire a pest control company that specializes in wildlife to inspect and fix the issue.
Here is our page on snakes with more information: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/snakes

Finally, if a snake is actually in a house, if you don’t mind handling a snake, simply pick it up bare-handed or with garden gloves and release it outside. Grasp larger snakes directly behind the head to prevent them from biting. More often than not, a snake is hiding in a building and cannot be readily found. An effective technique is to lay damp towels in a room overnight. Snakes come out of hiding at night and often will crawl under the damp towels. The snake can then be captured by putting a trashcan over it and sliding the whole thing into the can, and then can be released.
(Glue traps for mice have been used to catch small snakes. These traps are rather cruel because the snake often tears its scales off and may suffocate in the glue. They are not recommended for mice either. Snap traps are the way to go.)


Christine