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Queen Snake

Regina septemvittata

What do they look like?

Queen snakes are common snakes measuring 34 to 92.2 cm in total length. They are brownish or olive-colored on their backs, with a yellow band running down the sides. Younger snakes have horizontal black bands on the back. The stomach scales are bright yellow, with 4 brownish lengthwise stripes that converge towards the tail. Their scales are keeled. Queen snakes have rounded pupils. Unlike similar-looking garter snakes, queen snakes have a divided anal plate and lack a light dorsal stripe.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    34 to 92.2 cm
    13.39 to 36.30 in

Where do they live?

Queen snakes range from the southern Great Lakes south to the Florida panhandle and east through the Carolinas and north to southeastern Pennsylvania, New York, and the Georgian Bay in Ontario. These snakes are generally restricted to east of the Mississippi River, although there is a disjunct population in south-central Arkansas and Missouri. A third, small population of queen snakes occurs on Bois Blanc Island in Lake Huron.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Queen snakes spend a lot of time in and around the water. They are found near shallow, rocky rivers and streams, the edges of lakes, ponds, ditches, and canals, and in marshes. They are found in habitats with abundant crayfish. Preferred habitats are open or partly shaded. Queen snakes bask on rocks and logs along the water's edge or hang from tree limbs above the water. In the northern part of their range they hibernate in the burrows of crayfish or mammals.

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

How do they grow?

The eggs of queen snakes develop within the bodies of females, where they hatch. Females then give birth to live young. (Florida Museum of Natural History, 2006)

How do they reproduce?

Males use their tongues to "smell" for females that are ready to mate. Once they find a female that is ready, they crawl alongside each other and mate.

Queen snakes breed in the spring, typically in May. They are a live-bearing snake species and give birth to 5 to 31 (usually 10 to 12) from August to September. Males and females reach sexual maturity at 2 years old, but its likely that females don't breed for the first time until they are 3 years old. (Florida Museum of Natural History, 2006; Harding, 1997)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Queen snakes breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Queen snakes breed in the spring, often in May.
  • Range number of offspring
    5 to 31
  • Average number of offspring
    11
  • Range gestation period
    90 to 120 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

Females supply their eggs with lots of nutrients and carries them in her body until they are born. Once the young are born, however, females do not provide care.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

It is not known how long queen snakes live in the wild. A captive lived for over 19 years. (Harding, 1997)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    19 (high) years

How do they behave?

Queen snakes are solitary outside of the breeding season. They are active during the day and throughout the year in warm climates. In the northern part of their range they hibernate through cold weather. (Florida Museum of Natural History, 2006; Harding, 1997)

Home Range

No information on home ranges is available.

How do they communicate with each other?

Like other snakes, queen snakes use their sense of smell to find prey and mates. They use their vision as well and are likely to be sensitive to vibrations. Aside from mating, little is known about communication among queen snakes.

What do they eat?

Queen snakes eat mainly crayfish. They prefer to eat freshly molted crayfish to avoid eating the hard exoskeletons. Occasionally they take small fish and tadpoles. Queen snakes search for prey by swimming and searching under rocks and other underwater objects where prey are hiding. They flick their tongues in and out of their mouths in the water to find prey through smell.

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats non-insect arthropods
  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • fish
  • aquatic crustaceans

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Queen snakes are preyed on by herons and raccoons. They may also be eaten by larger snakes, predatory fish, large frogs, hawks, otters, and mink. Small queen snakes may also be threatened by their crayfish prey if grabbed by their strong claws. Queen snakes are not aggressive but will bite if harassed and will smear their attacker with foul smelling secretions if grabbed.

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • cryptic

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Queen snakes prey on crayfish and are also prey for many small to medium-sized predators.

Do they cause problems?

There are no known negative effects of queen snakes on humans. Some fishermen kill queen snakes because they think they compete with them for fish. They misunderstand what crayfish eat.

How do they interact with us?

Queen snakes are valuable members of the ecosystems they live in.

Are they endangered?

Queen snake populations are considered stable throughout most of their range. Populations in the Great Lakes region and the Delmarva peninsula of Maryland are declining, mainly as a result of habitat degradation such as development along streams, rivers, and lakes and pollution of aquatic systems.

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (author), Animal Diversity Web.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
freshwater

mainly lives in water that is not salty.

heterothermic

animals that have little or no ability to regulate their body temperature, body temperatures fluctuate with the temperature of their environment, often referred to as 'cold-blooded'.

hibernation

the state that some animals enter during winter in which bodily functions slow down, reducing their energy requirements so that they can live through a season with little food.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

solitary

lives alone

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Florida Museum of Natural History, 2006. "Regina septemvittata" (On-line). Florida Museum of Natural History. Accessed January 17, 2008 at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/FL-GUIDE/Reginaseptemvittata.htm.

Harding, J. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2007. "Regina septemvittata" (On-line). IUCN Redlist. Accessed January 17, 2008 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/63887/all.

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Dewey, T. 2008. "Regina septemvittata" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 19, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Regina_septemvittata/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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