Bungarus candidus – Blue Krait

Bungarus candidus from West Thailand

Bungarus candidus, Blue Krait from West Thailand

The Bungarus candidus commonly known as Blue Krait or Malayan Krait, is one of the most common species of Kraits in Thailand. It occurs in a wide variety of habitats and is found from low to high elevations. There seem to be some minor differences between populations in different parts of the country, who knows this could one day be considered a complex of species…
We have encountered this species in humid evergreen forest, but also in arid conditions on sandy soil.
Like all kraits, the Bungarus candidus is highly venomous and should therefore be approached with care.

facts

Dangerous? Yes, very dangerous, deadly; fixed front-fanged, very potent venom; Receiving a bite however is very unlikely unless you try to handle it. Be reminded that the neurotoxic venom will not hurt, so do not be mislead believing it might have been a dry bite!
Venom Neurotoxins
Length 1.10m – 1.60m
Diet Primarily snakes, but also feeds on othe rprey like lizards, frogs and rodents
How easy to find Widespread, but encounters are uncommon.
Best time of year Wet season is the prefered time
Best time of day Night time
Threats Most likely no major threat, but if at all it is likely human persecution.
Notes: N/A
Bungarus candidus, Blue Krait

Bungarus candidus, Blue Krait

Description

In Thailand the Blue Krait, Bungarus candidus is virtually always banded, black and white. All black specimens might occur though seem to be extremely rare in Thailand.
Northern specimens tend to have thinner white bands than the Eastern or Southern/ Western specimens in which the white bands are generally wider. Most of the time the white bands have little black specks.
Take extreme care when identifying black-and-white banded snakes, as even various professional herpetologists have made huge mistakes (in some case even a fatal mistake!). Do not free-handle any black-and-white-banded snake until you are 200% sure it is one of the harmless species.
Kraits are known to be docile in daytime, and some people therefore consider it to be fine to free-handle these snakes in daylight. In my honest opinion that’s just extremely stupid. There is really no need to show off. If you’d really want to show off, you use a snake hook to proof you are smarter than most! Remember that even if treated with antivenom, 50% of the people die…

Similar-looking species

Vertebral scales of Bungarus candidus

Enlarged vertebral scales of Bungarus candidus, Blue Krait

There are various species that resemble the Bungarus candidus. The easiest way to tell it’s a krait is by the significantly enlarged vertebral scales, the single middle row of scales. Still, be careful, especially in younger specimens this might not always be as clearly visible.
I won’t mention all black-and-white banded snakes here, various wolf snakes, as well as the bridle snakes could be confused with kraits. The bridle snakes have a much longer and slender appearance than the Blue Krait, but the wolf snakes are very similar in built. I will mention the best mimic, plus the other black and white Thai krait that could be confused with the Bungarus candidus.

  • Lycodon subcinctus – White-banded Wolf Snake, harmless and the best Bungarus candidus mimic of all wolf snakes. There is some variation within this species, possibly it is a complex of species, and apart from the fact these wolf snakes do not have the enlarged vertebral scale row found in kraits, there is hardly any difference at all.
  • Bungarus multicinctus – Many-banded Krait is at first glance similarly black and white as the Bungarus candidus. But bands are thinner and much higher in total number, should be generally over 40 total count. Also the black actually tends more towards deep dark brown, and the white bands are clean without the black specks that are usually found in the white banding of the B. candidus.
  • Bungarus fasciatus – Banded Krait is easy to distinquish from the Bungarus candidus simply by color. The Bungarus fasciatus has black and yellow bands, also in general the triangular body shape is much more eminent than in the Blue Krait. Also the head of the Banded Krait is more distinct than in the Blue Krait.

Behaviour

These snakes are nocturnal and terrestrial. They are active hunters that will move around at night in search of prey, mostly other snakes.
Interesting behaviour in all the krait species is that once ‘under attack’ (when you get too close) they will hide their heads under the coils of their body and the muscles seem to be very tight. If bothered it might make short powerful moves and then freeze in a new position. In most cases there is no attempt of biting, but obviously care should be taken!

Range & habitat

As mentioned earlier, the range of the Blue Krait, also known as the Malayan Krait is widespread throughout all of Thailand. And habitat type varies a lot from moist primary evergreen forests to dry deciduous shrubby areas with sandy soil.
Waterways and rocky areas seem to be amongst their prefered habitats, though not exclusively.

Taxonomy

There is a bit of variation between the Northern, Eastern and South/ Western populations of the Bungarus candidus. Maybe this might proof in the future to be enough ground for splitting the species into multiple species.

Blue Krait in its habitat, West Thailand

Blue Krait in its habitat, West Thailand

How to find this species in Thailand?

Since the Bungarus candidus is a nocturnal species, the best time to look for them is at night 😉
And because kraits are primarily snake eaters one can guess that their population density is likely to be lower than most other snakes species. In other words, it’s not a species you will encounter everyday. One of the reasons it is high on the list for most herpers that visit Thailand. My experience is that they are most active in the wet months of the year, and searching near waterways and rocky areas seems to increase your chances. They are not the best camouflaged snake species in Thailand, so you might not need skilled/ trained herping eyes. It’s generally just a matter of time and luck to come across one. Once you do cross paths, it is usually hard to miss.

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