Identifying Snakes and other Poisonous Creatures of Kerala

continuation of Nonvenomous – Venomous Snakes and other Creatures found in Kerala

Bronzeback tree snake in the below image known as mara pambu has a mild form of venom, Harmless to humans.

Mildly Venomous Bronzeback Tree Snake
Bronzeback Tree Snake is mildly Venomous

* Hump Nosed Pit Viper / Hypnale hypnale / Churutta

This snakes are only found in India and Srilanka. It is a very small snake. Mostly found in leaf litter. This snake is very slow and almost feels dead but it delivers amazingly fast strikes when irritated. It also shakes its tail like rattlesnakes. Single bite is very harmful to humans, blood loss occurs from all body openings including skin pores. Death occurs in 4 to 6 hours. Even if the person survives with proper antivenom administration, severe permanent tissue damage will occur. In short if you get bitten by this snake. Life is over.

Fully grown Hump nosed pit viper head is smaller than cashew-nut seed
Fully grown hump nosed pit viper found in leaf litter

Spotted this fully grown snake while moving cashew-nut leaves with bare hand. Lucky enough it didn’t bite. Initially I felt it was dead. However to my surprise it striked on the stick in a split of a second. I could not even see the strike.

Hypnale hypnale is know as Churutta in Malayalam
Hypnale hypnale – Churutta in Kerala

Some other Poisonous creatures commonly found in Kerala.

Hammerhead Worm / Chattuka Thalayan – This species comes under flat land worms. The hammer head is generally non poisonous but considered a pest by vermiculturist because they feed on earthworms. However flat worm in the below image is very poisons, it is immediately killed when spotted in Kerala using salt. It doesn’t bite, but the poison passes from the mucus trail left by it. Yellow, red, blue and some other bright color are signs of danger in nature.

Poisonous Hammerhead Worm - Chatuga Taleyan of Kerala
Posionous Hammerhead Worm – Chattuka Thalayan

Wasp / chekali – There are many types of wasp found in India. Most of them sting. It is most of the times painful with swelling at the stung area and discoloration of skin. Solitary wasp are not very dangerous but social wasp attack in large numbers and it can become fatal. Novice misunderstand them as bee colony.

Asian Hornet / kadenel Unlike wasp and bees. Hornets are extremely strong, their body is somewhat strong like a rhinoceros beetle. Hornet sting is extremely pain full. It has neuro toxin venom. If multiple bite is delivered above heart level or to any major vein death can happen in a few hours. If below heart level chances are less. However it also depends on the particular person immune defence capacity. Severe and uncontrollable trembling occurs at the bite area with burning sensation. Also bite area turns bluish and swells.
Toddy tappers in Kerala always encounter them on coconut trees. Hornet loves toddy. Tappers are always at the risk of losing their lives.
Best and only traditional treatment for hornet bite is consuming and liberally applying the juice of flower and leaf of pigeon peas / thuvara parippu (toor dal).

Few days back lost all my bee colonies because of hornet. they kill bees with their strong mandibles, take their larvae and honey. In a matter of hours they can take down a large bee colony. I also feel Indian bees have cross breed with other bees. Native bees normally defend their colony well by attracting hornet into their hive and encircling the hornet and killing it with heat generated by several bees.

Asian Hornet and honey bee killed after hornet attack
Kadenel – Asian Hornet and apis cerana after a fight

Gaint Asian Hornet / Kat Kadnel – This type of Hornet is extremely dangerous one stung can be fatal. They have blackish apperance and almost twice the size of Asian yellow black stripped hornet. As the name resembles Kat(Forest) Kadnel, they are normally seen in thick vegetation. However it can be occasionally spotted in villages. As of now I don’t have an image. Will update if I am able to click an image. No online resources have the right image of Kat Kadnel from India.

Spiders – There are many types of spiders on western ghats. Most spider bites are harmless to humans. The ones that build webs on trees and houses are mostly non venomous and hardly bite humans. Other spiders don’t need web to catch prey instead hunt using venom. Spider in the below image looks somewhat similar to tarantula(it has tiny hair on belly area). However it is Huntsman spider commonly found in most houses of Kerala, they do bite humans when hurt or while carrying eggs. Flesh starts to rot and ooze liquid at the bite area. Bite area will have several small bumps with severe itching(it is very mild not to worry much but treatment is required or else it may get infected and deep tissue may rot). But Kerala also hosts tarantula spiders, Immediate treatment is required for tarantula bite, severe complication are involved, even body gets crippled. As of now I don’t have an image of tarantula, will post whenever I encounter.

Male and Female Huntsman Spider with Egg Sack
Huntsman Spider with Egg Sack under the Belly

The hunstman spider bite is not fatal but as mentioned earlier flesh starts to rot, treatment is required. Tricky part is the same bite area will rot again the next year and a year after. please follow the treatment. kottakkal arya vaidya sala offers medicine like Vilwadi kashayam and Gulika(traditionally vilwadi is prepared using bael tree root along with 10 other herbs grinding the mixture with goats urine. I wonder modern day ayurvedic companies use healthy goats urine and not stall grain feed goats urine). Please note ayurveda is not over the counter medicine, consult a physician.

Scorpion and Centipede – Scorpions and centipedes are also commonly found in houses and they deliver nasty sting and bite. But it is not fatal. Incredible pain is felt for 24 hours.

First aid for Mild Venom Bite

Vishapacha – This is a perennial shrub. This plant is very effective for poison treatment. It is my understanding that this plant is also very effective for permanent treatment of bleeding piles(Hemorrhoids). This herb is located throughout Kerala mostly in wet areas like paddy fields. Locally it is known as Naga-Padam naga means cobra and padam hood.

vishapacha perennial herb - Clinacanthus siamensis
Vishapacha or locally know as Nagapadam herb

Cheriya Ulli/ Small Shallot – Grind small shallot well and apply the paste to the bite area, this has to be followed immediately after the bite or stung.

Tulsi – Tulsi leaves can also be used in similar ways for minor bites of insects.

How to keep Snakes away from your Property

*Plant Vembyu (Vacha-Hindi) – Snakes dislike the smell of vembyu. Small variety of vembyu is the best to keep snakes away and traditionally it was used to treat severe infected wounds in livestock and even treat rabies. Scavon vet cream by Himalaya has vacha one of the main ingredients.
Traditionally people planted Tulsi, aromatic and medicinal plants near the house to keep away insects, pest, bacteria etc.

* Nagadali Plant / Common Rue:- This plant is also effective in keeping snakes away. Although I have not seen the plant- It seems it is very effective as per some people who have used it.

* Urine:- Cows Urine or even human urine is effective to keep snakes away. Snakes normally don’t come near the cow shed. They even move away if they sense approaching cattle.

*Garlic:- Plant garlic around your house or drop garlic and its peel in your property. Snakes dislike garlic. It is very effective. Garlic for snakes is like pepper to humans.

*Kerosene:- Kerosene is very effective in keeping snakes away. If snakes get into your house pour a little kerosene in the room and in a few minutes you will see snake leave the place.

PS: Bael / stone apple leaf resembles the shape of the trident. Leaf is offered to Lord Shiva in Puja. Interesting part is Lord Shiva is linked with snakes(cobra). Almost every bael tree I have seen has lots of holes near it’s base area on the ground. Most elders ask their kids to keep away as they have most of the time witnessed snakes near koovalam tree. Root is one of the main ingredient used to treat venomous bites. Lord Shiva, snakes, poison treatment, trident shape of bilva leaves everything is interwoven.

I will keep updating this page as and when I learn and understand more on this topic.

Article co-authored by Sandeep Saini
Great resource on Indian snakes with images

This article has 15 Comments
  1. Found a snake less than half a Meter long in my well,resembling a viper. Is well water contaminated and poisoned?


    I dont think so. Snakes never contaminate water with their poison. If you were to swallow snake venom it will pass through your body without doing any harm.

  2. I remember a small non-poisonous snake very common in Palakkad during the 60’s. It was called ‘Theshaankutty’ or ‘deivaankutty’. Do you have details on this snake?

  3. I sprayed, garlic crushed with water, with my hand, near to a seemingly small snake which entered our lab. There was no noticeable difference in its behavior.


    Dear Vishnu,

    Traditional variety of Garlic is very strong and bet you cannot eat one easily; however modern day hybrid is way to big and is not pungent, you can easily eat lot of it. Why? because garlic is loaded with sulfur, most garlic farmers add sulfur compounds while cultivating. May be try a better garlic next time.

  4. Im from kottayam kerala. About 6yrs ago I saw a spider in my kitchen. It was jet black in colour large hairy thick legs large pincers the back end of body was somewhat pointed and when i enter the kitchen it made a sound similar to that of a rattle snake. I thought it was a tarantula. Tried searching about it in net. Any idea what it was

  5. What is the firstaid of venoumos snakd bite?somebody canhelp?what is the fisrtaid of cobra bite?then anali?russel viper?

  6. I heard that Mangoose and snakes are enemies. I found they were not attacking each other even they were in the same vicinity moving.
    Any fact is behind it?.

  7. Do you have any information about this dreaded spider called ‘ooranpalli’ in Thrissur?


    Not sure. Sorry for delay in reply.

    1. Oorampuli is a very aggressive poisonous spider seen in Kerala. Unlike snakes, it may run after you and bite.Symptoms of poison are excruciating pain and severe muscle cramps all over the body. Fatal in children if untreated. Treatment is injections of muscle relaxants.

  8. Your article is really helpful ,i am a avid snake lover till date i have pics of common sand boa, spectacled cobra , rat snake(both yellow and black)and buff striped keelbackand, hump nosed pit viper,i would really like to know abt more abt poisonous water snakes though i am not sure if water snakes r poisonous pls help me i have seen one near our house it looked to me like a dig faced water snake but again socueyy triumped they killed it , so i want to know if it was poisonous or not as i want to take initative for helping these wndrful creatures

  9. I am genuinly thankful to you for this informative article. Recently a bronzeblack treesnake was spotted in my terrace and just vanished with in no time. So i was scared whether it entered inside home or gone somewhere else…..,venomous or not and so………. After reading your article i got a bit relieved because i came to know that this snake is harmless to humans .

  10. I am genuinely delighted to glance at this webpage posts which carries lots of valuable facts, thanks for providing such statistics.

  11. Thank you for this article- this is very informative. As you say all animals have the same right as us.
    Recently there was a snake in basement of the apartment we live. Some of the locals killed it and said that it was a anali (on searching found that it is a viper. not sure if that is true.) From your article and the searches I have seen, vipers always have marks on their body. This snake was long black and had a heard shaped like a viper. I am leaning towards wolf snake. How can one be sure?

    Dear Suja,
    you are welcome.

    Most viper’s are sluggish, they will have spiral body shape like a loaded spring. Other snakes are generally straight. Manderi viper is a exception.
    Also wolf snakes look similar to krait but there will be great difference in viper and wolf snake.
    please read my earlier post on identifying wolf snake with krait snake. –

    1. Thank You for you informative article. For a long time I was searching for some information about this Bipalium(Chattuka Thalayan).I usually see this worm in my rooms and toilets. My father in law said it is very poisonous which increased my curiosity.


      you are welcome.
      When there was no electricity people prepared and ate food almost early in the evening because this kind of worms could possibly get into food. Worst part is if unknowling chattuka thalayan was grind into chammanthi or cooked in curry people consuming it would get killed. It was much feared worm.

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