Serpents in the Soil – Brahminy Blind Snake

Another day, another Zoom call. As I listened to the presenter speaking, I watched tiny rivers snaking down the windowpane. Lightning crackled through the pewter clouds as thunder pounded the roof. These apocalyptic afternoon storms had been the norm in Singapore over recent weeks. The torrential rain slowed to a drizzling stop, as did my conference call. I had an hour before my next call, so I grabbed my wallet intending to run the 200 meters to the local mini-store to pick up some food.

I stepped out of my door and into the clinging post-storm humidity. Everything was wet and small puddles were slowly draining. On the glistening tiled floor in front of me, a small shiny black coil caught my eye. Perhaps a plant root or some string washed from the roof. Perhaps it was some kind of worm or millipede. I bent over to study it but still couldn’t make out what I was looking at. I knelt down and put my face to it when suddenly a little face with two black dot eyes lifted it’s tiny head up. It couldn’t be a snake, could it?

A phone shot of the yet to be identified Brahminy Blind Snake

My eyes are not as sharp as they used to be, I felt certain that I was looking at my first living and breathing Brahminy Blind Snake. I pulled out my phone and took a quick ID snap from above before scampering back in the house and grabbing my camera and macro lens. Within a minute I was back outside, laying on the wet, warm tiles. I took a shot and sat up and zoomed the photo on to what I assumed was the head end. It was now beyond doubt. I had found the second smallest snake on the planet, waiting for me outside my door. The macro zoom revealed a graphite weave of tiny dark mahogany scales. The black dots that I had noticed were not fully formed eyes, but appeared to be the blind spots under the skin. Perhaps eyes that either never evolved or were were never needed. It is said that the snake can identify light and dark, but cannot identify shapes.

An Urban Brahminy Blind Snake in Singapore

The Brahminy blind snake is common and widespread, but it spends almost its entire life underground, so it is rarely seen. Growing to a length of between 10 to 17 centimetres (4 to 6.5 inches), this non-venomous, completely harmless, worm-like reptile feeds on ant and termite grubs that it finds in the soil. It’s scales are evolved to prevent the protective jaws of ants from being able to grip the smooth glassy body of the snake.

Like earthworms, occasionally on rainy days the little snakes surface, and can be encountered crossing footpaths, where they are usually mistaken for an earthworm. People seeing snakes and stepping over them without a second thought.

Brahminy blind snakes are native to Asia and Africa, but due to their tiny size and habitat, they have accidentally found their way all over the world. They travel in the soft peaty soil of plants shipped for the horticulture industry. This mode of colonisation has given the snake its other name – the Flowerpot snake.

As well as it’s unusual lifestyle, the Flowerpot snake has one more trick that has helped it spread far and wide. They reproduce by parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction. Every known Brahminy blind snake is female. Each female will lay up to 8 unfertilised eggs that will begin cell division, eventually creating offspring genetically identical to the mother.

A Singapore Brahminy Blind Snake
Brahminy Blind Snake with open mouth

Having taken a few moments to observe my little blind snake I noticed that we were being watched by greedy eyes of the ever present Javan myna birds. I put down a large leaf and allowed my Flowerpot friend to wiggle aboard before making a few more shots. The snake lifted its head and opened it mouth. Then a tiny forked tongue darted out as she explored her new surroundings. I transporting her to the safety of the heavily planted garden area where, with a rather dramatic wiggle, she was gone.

I wondered if it was my first and last encounter with this little worm of a snake, or perhaps now I will view all worms on wet pavements with fresh eyes. I will certainly be on the lookout for these unique little reptiles on warm rainy days.

Leave a comment below – where have you seen the Brahminy Blind Snake? It would be fascinating to learn how far around the globe they have traveled.

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Categories: Asia, Singapore, UncategorizedTags: , , , , , ,


I am a wildlife blogger and traveler, using images & stories to inspire wild connections.


    • Hi Josh! I can’t recall seeing one before this encounter, but I do wonder now. Something that can live and travel in a flowerpot must have got to almost every country by now. I’m hopeful that I’ll get some comments from people that have found them in unusual places.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is said to be the Barbados Threadsnake. Considering most of the tiny snakes live underground it would be reasonable to assume that larger specimens exist that haven’t been seen yet. The honour may change in future is larger individuals show up.


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