Creature Feature: Nelson’s Milksnake

Nelson’s Milk Snake

Lampropeltis triangulum nelsoni


Creature Feature: Nelson’s Milksnake

Reptiles Alive Name: “Milkshake”

Hissstory: We received Milkshake from a reptile rescue group in 2004.

RA Diet: Milkshake does not actually drink milkshakes.  He much prefers defrosted frozen mice.

Natural Diet: Milk snakes have a varied diet including birds, small mammals, lizards, and other snakes – even venomous snakes!

Range: Nelson’s milk snakes are found in Mexico and Central America.

Habitat: Nelson’s milk snakes live in dry woodlands and rocky areas.  They spend most of their time hiding underground in burrows or rock crevices.

Size: Nelson’s milk snakes can grow 14-18 inches long.

Life Span: Milk snakes can live 15 years or more.

Reproduction: Female milk snakes lay 3-8 eggs in July.  The eggs typically begin hatching in September.

Cool Facts: 
Only mammals drink milk, so why name a snake a “milk snake?”  No one knows for sure how the milk snake got its name, but some people believe that when the first Europeans began settling in the eastern United States a farmer saw a snake biting the udder of a cow.  It is physically impossible for a snake to milk a cow. Perhaps the cow had stepped on the snake and the snake was trying to get the cow to move.

The milk snakes include species and sub-species living throughout North, Central, and South America.  They range in color, but most have a “tri-color” pattern of red, black, and yellow or white bands around their body.  Although this pattern makes them similar in appearance to the venomous coral snakes, milk snakes are completely harmless to humans.

Creature Feature: Hissing Roaches

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

Gromphadorhina portentosa

Reptiles Alive Name: Too many to name

Hissstory: Our first few hissing roaches were donated to us by Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington, VA.  Within a few months, we had lots, lots more.

RA Diet:
 Chopped leafy greens, vegetables, monkey chow, dog food, fruit, leftovers. (Hey, they are roaches they like leftovers!)


Natural Diet: Roaches are scavengers – they will eat dead and decaying plants and animals laying on the forest floor.

Range: Madagascar

Habitat: Hissing roaches live in the tropical rain forests of Madagascar.

Hissing roaches are a relatively a large roach, growing to about 3 inches.

Lifespan: Hissing roaches live for about two years.

 Male hissing roaches have two large bumps on the tops of their heads. They use them to battle for females just like goats do. After mating, females will keep the eggs inside her body until they hatch. Gestation is 60-70 days. Females have about 30 young

Conservation: Cockroaches are one of the most important species on our planet!  As decomposers, they create soil by eating decaying plants and animals.  Without decomposers like cockroaches, plants and trees could not grow.  Without plants and trees, animals and humans could not survive.  So, you might not want to live with, hug, or kiss a cockroach, but cockroaches are a super important animal.

Cool Facts: Hissing roaches produce a hissing noise by pushing air through holes in their abdomen. There are at least five different hisses.  Different hisses are used in courtship, to defend territory, and warn of danger.

Creature Feature: Haitian Roaches

Haitian Roach or Death’s Head Roach

Blaberus craniifer

Reptiles Alive Name: We have too many to name!

Hissstory: Our colony came from a few roaches given to us by a zoo.   They multiplied quickly!

RA Diet: Greens, monkey food, vegetables, dog food, fruit, leftovers. (Hey, they are roaches they like leftovers!)

Natural Diet: Just about ANYTHING! Roaches are scavengers living off of dead and decaying plants and animals. Hungry?


Range: Florida, the Caribbean,  and Central America

 Roaches can survive pretty much anywhere within their range.

Size: Haitian  roaches are relatively large as roaches go – they can grow to about 3 inches.

Lifespan: Haitian roaches can live for about two years.

Roaches breed constantly. Females will lay an egg sac which looks like stacks of CD’s.   She will then suck them back up into her body in order to incubate them.  Totally weird!

Conservation: Roaches play an important role in the natural world.  As scavengers, they work as a kind of “clean up crew.”  They are also an extremely important food source for tons of other animals, including birds, frogs, and even baby crocodiles!

Cool Facts: 
Roaches are sometimes used by engineers  building robots.  The engineers study how the roaches move and try to build robots and computers that can imitate the roaches’ behavior.

Giving Thankssssssssss

I would like to give thanks today for all the people who have helped Reptiles Alive this year.

Virginia Olin, Brenda Parker, Jack House and all the others who have graciously saved and donated newspapers to us all year – you help form the base of our animal collection.

Dr. Anne Hiss, Dr. Emily Hoppmann, and Dr. David Crum – thank you for helping us treat sick and injured reptiles here at Reptiles Alive.  We could not do it without your expertise in reptile and wildlife medicine.

Suzanne D’Alonzo  and the staff of the Alexandria Animal Welfare League- you work so hard to save injured, stray, and abandoned animals of all species, including reptiles.  Truly, I appreciate your being there for reptiles.


Bonnie Keller  – thank you for caring for so many of the confiscated and abandoned reptiles that have no where else to go.

Janis Geritts  and Reade Harbitter – thank you for taking time out of your busy Keeper schedule at the National Zoo to give us “behind the scene” tours.  Great Fun!

Aaron Pennington – I could not be writing this right now without all the help you give us in the computer and technology department.  You are SO KIND to help us when our computers and related equipment stop working.  We are completely dependent on you.  We are at your mercy.

Jennifer Rafter – we miss you!  Thank you for being a part of the Reptiles Alive team for so long, you were here almost from the very beginning.  We will visit you often at your new Delmarva Discovery Center.  We can’t wait to see the sturgeon, gar and all the reptiles and amphibians you will exhibit.  Turn the DDC into the Reptiles Alive Discovery Center ;)

Tony Bulmer – whew, thank goodness you are willing to work so tirelessly almost every weekend! Your skills and professionalism as a wildlife educator help to make Reptiles Alive a success.  You have been with us now for almost 8 years!  And we don’t know what we would do without you.  Thank You.

Rachel Walker – You are an integral part of our team.  Night shows, weekend shows, summer shows.  Big shows, little shows.  Cub scouts, schools, birthdays – you do them all!  You are a talented wildlife educator –  I know because I read all of the fantastic and amazing evaluations all of our clients send in.  And even though it is not your favorite, you are willing to help out in the Keeper department.  You have even spent time entering the data for our Wildlife Exhibitor Permit reports.  I REALLY appreciate that!  Thank you Rachel!

Jennifer Pennington – I can’t even begin to thank you properly for everything you have done for Reptiles Alive.  You help in So Many Ways.  Our website – yep, that is all you.  Our blog – started by you.  Facebook – you again!  Graphic design for just about everything?  Oh, Jen again!  How about your work as a wildlife educator?  Lets see, you spend tons of time preparing for and teaching a ton of after school classes.  That is hard work!  In addition, you perform shows far away, nearby, early in the morning, late at night (including New Years Eve! THANKS!!!!)  You are an amazing and talented wildlife educator, our shows would not be the same with out you.  (We wouldn’t even have Ecosystems Alive – one of our most popular shows!)  And, of  course, you help with everything else.  Keeper Work?  check.  Answer phones? check.  Taking care of the entire organization when I’m away on vacation?  Oh yeah – that too!

One last thank you – To All of our Clients and Fans – we would not be here at all without you!  Thank you all so much.

Happy Holidayssssssssssssss to Everyone from Reptiles Alive!

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We had a great experience with Reptiles Alive for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Rachel arrived exactly on time, set up quickly, and immediately engaged the group of curious children. We had an impromptu dance party while waiting for last minute guests and Rachel was very accommodating. The children LOVED the show!! And my soon-to-be 11 year old wants them to come for his birthday! I highly recommend Reptiles Alive for your next event!read more

Kelly Maguire

Kelly Maguire

22:57 12 Mar 18

We just had Reptiles Alive come to our preschool and the kids loved it!! We had 4 shows over 2 days to accommodate all our children and everything went great! Caroline was very easy to work with and quick to respond to all my emails. She was our presenter too and was early each day and ready to go when the kids arrived. She really geared her show towards our audience (2-5yr olds) and had them laughing and answering her questions and touching the animals. It was perfect… we would definitely book them again!!read more

Lauren Dolinski

Lauren Dolinski

20:47 01 Mar 18

We booked Reptiles Alive for our son’s 7th birthday party. Miss Rachel put on an amazing show for the 20 kids we had over. The highlight was when my son and I had the chance to hold a long and surprisingly heavy boa constrictor named Sunflower. The show was both educational and fun for the kids, and it kept them captivated for a full hour – priceless!!read more

Rick Jandrain

Rick Jandrain

01:53 06 Feb 18

Rachel is an awesome instructor and very good with many kids. The reptiles were fascinating. This was a great birthday party for my daughter and her second grade more

Robert McKeon

Robert McKeon

23:26 26 Feb 18

We invited Reptiles Alive for our birthday party. Ms. Rachel did a wonderful job to educate the kids about the fun facts of Reptiles and also kept them entertained and focused. It’s not a easy job facing a bunch of 7-year-old boys and 3-year-old preschoolers. We highly recommend Reptiles Alive show. It’s fun and full of knowledge!read more

Tianchan Niu

Tianchan Niu

22:09 17 Dec 17

We had Reptiles Alive join us for a country club event and they did an outstanding job! Ashley was amazing and so professional. She was very interactive with the children and played the role perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience!read more

Chelsea Barb

Chelsea Barb

20:20 28 Mar 18

We’ve been working with Reptiles Alive for the past 4 years now and they show up and show out every time. Everything from booking to the day of is efficient and friendly. At our past event, presenter Liz did 6 shows back to back for our campers, which is truly impressive and phenomenal. We will continue to work with Reptiles Alive for years to come and really appreciate the work and educating that they do!read more

Lydia Vanderbilt

Lydia Vanderbilt

21:09 05 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive gave an awesome show at our elementary school! The presenter was so much fun and really engaged the children. Very cool reptiles and a great interactive meet and greet at the end. The kids loved it!read more

Jonathan Grau

Jonathan Grau

14:52 07 Apr 18

I am in charge of grade level assemblies at our school and our 3rd grade has RA in for their Rain Forest show every year to reinforce the things they have learned about in class. This is my second year working with them and I have been absolutely thrilled with the interaction to book the event and with the presenters. They engage the kids and help make them a part of the show. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program and the amazing people that work more

Kim Painter

Kim Painter

23:32 07 Apr 18

We love this show at our preschool!! The kids have so much fun and learn a lot! They are very organized and always start on time. We have always had a wonderful experience with Reptiles Alive and can’t wait to have them back again!read more

Melissa Jones

Melissa Jones

15:06 20 Apr 18