Department of Planning and Natuiria Resources
Division of Fish and Wildlife
U.S.V.I. Animal Fact Sheet #04
Virgin Islands Worm Snake
Suborder Ophidia (Serpentes)
* Tail Spine Present
* Color distribution: bicolor: Grey/Brown
above and cream
+ Eyes Greatly Reduced
+ Head shape: Rounded or Weakly
+ Body Cylindrical
The animals in the genus Typhlops are
generally known as worm snakes. Many
snakes of this genus inhabit the Greater Antilles,
the Bahamas, and some of the Lesser Antilles.
Their bodies are almost perfectly cylindrical,
and their scales are small, smooth, and tightly
set, all of these being adaptations to a
subterranean existence. They lack the enlarged
ventral scales seen in other snakes. They are
grey or brown on the dorsal side and a creamy
grey ventrally. Their eyes are reduced to tiny
dark spots under the skin, an additional
adaptation to their subterranean life, and they
are only able to distinguish between light and
dark. Their head is slightly flattened and round.
The tail ends in a sharp point, which can inflict
a startling but totally harmless prick on any
hand that holds them. Like all snakes in the
U.S. Virgin Islands, the worm snake is not
Distribution & Habitat
Worm snakes may be found throughout the
Virgin Islands. On St. Thomas they are fairly
common in moist areas. In St. Croix they have
been found in drier areas. They have
occasionally been seen on cement walkways and
streets. They are commonly confused with
worms and may be more common than the
average gardener is aware.
The most obvious way to distinguish
between the blind snake and a worm is to look
for the grooves that encircle the worm's body.
These are not present on the Worm snake.
Worm snakes are smooth and cylindrically
shaped with small scales, visible to those with
very good eyesight. When threatened above
ground the worm snake will coil up with its
head protected by the coils and the tail exposed.
It will lash out with its tail, which may have a
white tip on the end. In contrast, worms will
coil themselves into a sticky writhing ball.
In contrast to most other snakes, the worm
snake doesn't feed on large prey. It is
specialized to feed on ant or termite pupae,
larvae, eggs, and occasionally adults. The worm
snake lives closely associated with its prey,
under termite mounds, rocks, and fallen logs, it
"swims" easily into loose soil when its lair is
disturbed. The snake feeds on the bodily fluids
of termites and ants. The snake crushes the prey
which releases the body juices into its mouth,
which it swallows. The exoskeleton is
regurgitated (spat up).
The worm snake lays soft shelled eggs like
other reptiles. They are likely to deposit their
eggs in protected areas, where the young will
hatch and quickly be able to find food. The
reproduction of the worm snake has not been
studied. So we do not know the length of time it
takes for the eggs to hatch, or the numbers of
eggs laid. The reproductive biology of the VI
worm snake is unknown.
Status in the VI
The ecology and general biology of worm
snakes in the U.S. Virgin Islands is also
unknown. The little we do know is from
anecdotal evidence collected by individuals over
the years. What we do know is that they are not
very abundant because very few people have
seen them. Those who have are mainly
gardeners and farmers or others who spend time
working with soil. There appear to be areas on
the islands where the worm snakes are more
common than others. These are more rural
locations, were people have worked the land,
particularly by hand. They may also be seen by
homeowners with cats. The cats may bring
these snakes into the house. Worm snakes are
frequently confused with earthworms because
they are similarly shaped and colored.
What you can do to HELP
1. Worm snakes are not venomous and are
very valuable to us in the tropics. They eat
soft bodied invertebrates (primarily termites)
and other insects that we consider pests.
2. Worm snakes need to eat regularly, and
unless they are fed termites or other small
soft-bodied invertebrates they will die.
They do not make good pets.
3. Reducing the amount of pesticides and
chemicals we use to control pests will help
the worm snakes.
4. Please, if possible let them take care of
themselves. They have been doing theirjob
for millions of years, and are a great benefit
5. Remember it is illegal to, or attempt to; take,
catch, possess, injure, harass, or kill any
indigenous species. The only exceptions are
for people holding valid permits from the
Division of Fish and Wildlife
7. For more information on this and other
animals in the Virgin Islands please visit out
Written by William Coles 2002.
THIS PUBLICATION WAS PRODUCED WITH
FUNDS FROM THE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION
AND RESTORATION PROGRAM (WCRP).
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON
OUR NATIVE ANIMALS CONTACT
DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
6291 ESTATE NAZARETH, 101,
ST. THMAS, VI 00802
PHONE 340-775-6762 FAX 340-775-3972
45 MARS HILL, ST. CROIX, VI 00840