Bungarus fasciatus – Banded Krait
Even though the Banded Krait (sometimes referred to as the Yellow-banded Krait) – Bungarus fasciatus is perhaps the most common of all the Thai kraits, we personally believe it is also one of the most beautiful ones. The combination of its movement and the striking black and yellow pattern, make it hypnotising to watch. The Banded Krait is the largest of all kraits, and can reach over 2m. The venom is supposedly not as potent as the other Thai kraits, but a bite could anyhow be life-threatening!
|Dangerous?||Fixed front-fanged, potent venom, and widespread, including habitats close to human populated areas. But even though for ‘krait standards’ fairly common, it is certainly not a species one would encounter often. It’s reluctant to bite, more likely to hide its head when handled, but nevertheless one should be very careful in its presence.|
|Length||Up to 220cm|
|Diet||Primarily snakes, but does occasionally take other prey like frogs, lizards, fish and snake eggs|
|How easy to find||Of all the kraits in Thailand, this is the species we encounter most often, though it seems like in certain regions Bungarus candidus is more commonly seen. It has a wide range of habitats, but many of our sightings have been within relatively close proximity of water. It requires quite a bit of luck to see this species, but with a bit of time, you might get lucky.|
|Best time of year||The wet season seems to be the prime active season. But also November and December can still be successful. We have seen it all year round.|
|Best time of day||At night|
|Threats||Being widespread in the country, and still rather common, we guess there is no serious threat.|
|Notes:||We have encountered a mating couple on 26 November 2015, at about 19:00 (PM) on the edge of a dry ricefield bordered with trees and shrubs. This was in Eastern Thailand.|
The Banded Krait – Bungarus fasciatus – has a black body with yellow bands usually of pretty much equal width of the black bands. The body is strongly triangular shaped with enlarged vertebral scales, the head can be quite distinct from the neck. The Banded Krait has a thick stumped tail.
There are a couple species that might look a bit similar, though generally this species is quite easy to distinquish by it’s characteristic pattern. Most slighlty similar looking species lack the enlarged middorsal scale row. With the exception of the Mangrove Cat Snake (Boiga dendrophila), but the two can fairly easily be distinguished by different pattern.
- Lycodon laoensis – Yellow-barred (Laos) Wolf Snake
(up to 50cm)
This harmless wolf snake is a small snake that has black and yellow banding. Apart from the first few bands, the pattern on the rest of the body does not show the perfect bands as in the krait. The wolf snake has no enlarged vertebral scales.
- Boiga dendrophila – Mangrove Cat Snake
(up to 250cm)
Mangrove Cat Snakes are black with thin yellow bands that usually do not encircle the whole body like in the krait. The ventrals of the Mangrove Cat Snakes are normally black without the banding that is seen in the Yellow-banded Krait. The krait has much wider yellow bands. Both the Banded Krait and the Mangrove Cat Snake have enlarged vertebral scales, the body of both species may appear triangular shaped though this is usually more pronounced in the krait. And especially in adult kraits the tail is stumped whilst it tapers to a point in the Cat snake. The Mangrove Cat Snake has no pattern on the top of its head, whilst the Banded Krait has two yellow pointy shapes pointing towards the nose. Also, the cat snake has vertical pupils versus round pupils in the krait, but this might not always be easy to see in the field.
- Ophiophagus hannah – King Cobra
King Cobra juveniles can look a bit similar, especially from the North/ Eastern King Cobra population. These juveniles are also black with yellow bands, however the yellow bands are much thinner compared to the black parts. The juveniles should be not much longer than 60 – 70cm. King Cobra lacks enlarged scales on the dorsal ridge. The yellow pattern on the top of the head form bands in these juvenile King Cobras. The head pattern of the kraits shows two yellow pointy shapes starting from the neck area, pointing towards the nose.
- Bungarus candidus – Blue or Malayan Krait
(up to 160cm)
The Malayan Krait is quite similar to the Banded Krait, however it has white instead of yellow bands (though the Banded Krait can be black and white too), the tail of the Banded Krait is really stumped, unlike the long tapered tail of the Malayan Krait. And generally the body shape of the Malayan Krait is not as triangular shaped as in the Banded Krait.
The Banded Krait, Bungarus fasciatus is a nocturnal species. It is terrestrial and hunts actively for its prey. In all these years we have only seen one active in daytime in evergreen forest, but this seems unusual for this species.
Range & habitat
The Bungarus fasciatus is found throughout Thailand. Though, from what we have heard it seems to be less common in the far South of the country. They inhabit quite a variety of habitats ranging from open agricultural areas to primary evergreen forests, and also mangrove forests. Often near waterways.
Recent DNA research (Laopichienpong et al. 2016) suggests there are multiple species within the range of what is now known as the Bungarus fasciatus. Even though minor differences seem to be present between individuals we have seen in the East and in the South-west of Thailand, not sure if this is just local variety or difference at species level.
How to find this species in Thailand?
Most of our encounters with the Banded Kraits have been in forest edge habitats, and near streams/ in stream beds. Also in/ along rice paddies, preferably bordering areas with more dense vegetation. Seems to get active as soon as darkness falls. Being large snakes with a rather striking pattern, it’s usually not hard to miss. But like all kraits encounters are uncommon so require time and luck. Wet season, and perhaps even the early winter months are the best season.