Bungarus fasciatus – Banded Krait

Bungarus fasciatus, Banded Krait portrait

Bungarus fasciatus, Banded Krait portrait in its habitat.

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!

Amazing black and yellow pattern of the Banded Krait

The amazing black and yellow pattern of the Banded Krait, on the move in a forest streambed in Northern Thailand.

facts

Dangerous? Yes, very dangerous!; fixed front-fanged, potent venom, and widespread, including habitats close to human populated areas.
Venom Neurotoxins
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 further south 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.
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.
Bungarus fasciatus portrait from Eastern Thailand

Bungarus fasciatus portrait from Eastern Thailand

Description

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.

Similar-looking species

There are a couple species that might look a bit similar, though generally this species is quite easy to distinquish.

  • Lycodon laoensis – Yellow-barred (Laos) Wolf Snake (up to 50cm) 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 (250cm) are black with thin yellow bands that usually do not encircle the whole body like in the krait. Also, the krait has much wider yellow bands. Just like the banded krait, the Mangrove Cat Snake has enlarged vertebral scales, but the body is not triangular shaped and the tail of the Cat snake is not stumped.
  • Ophiophagus hannah – King Cobra 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 60cm. King Cobra lacks enlarged scales on the dorsal ridge.
  • Bungarus candidus – Blue or Malayan Krait (up to 160cm) is quite similar to the Banded Krait, however it has white instead of yellow bands, and generally the body shape is not as triangular shaped as in the Banded Krait.
Mating Banded Krait, Bungarus fasciatus

Two Banded Kraits, Bungarus fasciatus, mating end of November, early evening, in Eastern Thailand. The sperm being clearly visible.

Behaviour

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.

Krait pattern camouflage

Surprisingly, the Banded Krait pattern blends in when it has a little bit of cover.

Range & habitat

The Bungarus fasciatus is found throughout Thailand. Though, 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. Usually near waterways.

Banded krait from mangrove forest

This Banded Krait was found near a limestone outcrop in a mangrove forest.

Taxonomy

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.

Banded Krait from Khao Yai

Banded Krait found in a rocky river bed, in Khao Yai.

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.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *