You know the feeling. You hear an unexpected noise rustling through the pine straw mulch as you go about your spring landscaping chores. Was that a snake slithering away? If the thought of a snake in your beds makes you squirm, read on.
Does Pine Straw Attract Snakes?
The first thing that you might want to consider is that some snakes are beneficial. For instance, the garter snake spends its time hunting insects, slugs, and other pests that can harm your garden or landscape plants. Other snakes might not make such a welcome visitor. Regardless, if you want rid of any snake in your yard, there are some things you need to know.
Pine straw, especially when applied over six inches thick, mimics one of their preferred natural habitats in the wild. Snakes love the floor of a cool pine forest that has built up over the years to a thick covering. When you apply pine mulch to your landscape bed or around your trees, you are putting out the welcome mat. This is especially true if the pine straw is located in a shady place out of the sun.
What Attracts Snakes to Your Yard?
The first thing you need to know is why snakes are attracted to your yard in the first place. Like all animals, they are looking for water, food, shelter, and a place to breed and lay eggs. Here are a few things that will attract snakes to your yard.
Moisture and Water
Snakes need water, and little puddles left by your sprinkler system might be just what they need. If you have a water feature or pond, it is even better for them. Even a few items left in the yard that collect water will do nicely. They do not need much, and they are not picky.
High Population of Insects Prey
Mulch makes an excellent place to find insects, slugs, grubs, and other food sources. It also makes a hiding place for rodents, attracting larger snakes, like rat snakes. Leaving out cat and dog food near your yard will also attract snakes. The best way to keep snakes out of your yard is to eliminate their food sources, including mice.
Cool, Damp Places
Snakes love cool, damp hiding places. Pine straw mulch is an excellent hiding place, especially if it is under a bush or other shady location. Tall grasses provide cover, and snakes have plenty of places to slither away if danger approaches. Underneath your mulch is the perfect place for snakes to hide.
Protection from Heat and Cold
Snakes do not have a good system for regulating their body temperature. They rely on moving between cool and warm places to keep their bodies at just the right temperature. In the winter, they move near your home for warmth. In the summer, they will seek cool, shady places underneath your plants.
How To Keep Snakes Away From Your Yard
The best way to keep snakes out of your yard is to eliminate water sources, food sources, and hiding places. You can also use several plants to help make your yard less enticing to snakes. Snakes have something called the Jacobson’s organ, which gives them an incredible sense of smell. They use this organ to sense their prey.
The sensitivity of the Jacobson’s organ is an excellent tool for hunting, but it is also sensitive. Snakes are repelled by strong smells, such as citrus, garlic, or cinnamon. Strong smells also mask the scent of prey, and they will be more likely to go elsewhere. Here are a few plants that snakes do not like to be near.
What Mulch Do Snakes Hate?
Pine straw and hardwood mulch are close to the snake’s natural habitat, and they will find them attractive hiding places. The same cannot be said for cypress or cedar mulch. Snakes dislike cedar oils, and these types of mulches will keep them away. They should be refreshed often to retain their effectiveness.
Another tip for keeping snakes out of your mulch is to be careful about how thick you apply it. A thinner layer of mulch leaves snakes and their prey more exposed, making it a less enticing place to stay. A mulch layer of about 2-inches should be enough to suppress weeds but not enough to attract snakes.
Now you know why snakes might be attracted to your yard and which types of mulch they prefer. Pine straw mulch makes the perfect hiding place, and they have everything they need. The best way to keep snakes out of your yard is to reduce what they are attracted to and use plants they do not like. If you do these things, you will not have to wonder if that rustle in the leaves was a snake.