The Unheralded Hissers

“AHHHHHHHHH!  Gross, or EEEEEEK,” are probably the most common responses to our guest today.  Meet the roach.  Labeled as one of the most undesirable animals to be found in the kitchen, this insect sure has one bad rap.  Pest control companies have convinced everyone that roaches can make you sick.  While, I would not be thrilled to have an infestation in my kitchen, this is simply not true. “Although cockroaches carry disease organisms, they are not known to transmit it to humans.” Clay Kirby of the University of Maine.

hmroach

I have even had a few keepers refuse to even touch the creepy crawlies.  Of course, the little guys with their cute little antennas eventually would wriggle into their hearts.  (Figuratively! Sheesh, you people are gross.)

There are over 4,000 species of roaches scientifically discovered.  There are probably just as many left undiscovered on the planet.  Less than one percent of all these species are known to dwell in human domiciles, the rest want nothing to do with us. http://blattodea-culture-group.org/content/cockroaches-amazing-diversity

Roaches are important decomposers in the ecosystem.  They are able to eat tougher things than worms and many other decomposers, turning dead plants into rich, dark soil.  Without the roaches, plants would have a tough time getting the nutrients they need from the soil.

Our own Malagasy Hissing Roaches are one of the most fun group of animals to watch.  They are more like little goats than bugs.  The males would constantly play king of the cardboard mountain, pushing rivals back with the shiny black “horns” on their exoskeleton.  Each night, a new battle would begin.  Hordes of roaches would crawl out from their hiding places in a fury of hissing and head-butting in attempt to dethrone the king. One tenacious little bugger would perpetually guard the food dish.  Only the tiny fingernail sized nymph could sneak under his radar unnoticed for a bite to eat. We ended up scattering their veggies all over the cage after that.hissingcockroach

One night working late I heard a strange scuffling noise coming from the roach enclosure.  Looking in I noticed a large male wriggle his body around in a sort of dance.  For a minute I thought he had watched too many episodes of Seinfeld with Elaine dancing at a party.  Then I noticed a few females watching him with interest a few inches away.  Either he was making a huge fool of himself, or these guys get on the dance floor to woo a cute girl.

After the wooing, these roaches make wonderful mothers.  Hissing roaches lay a perfect stack of long oval, bright yellow eggs like a line of jewel cases for cds sitting all in a row.  She then sucks the eggs back into her abdomen for safe keeping.  Some roaches even care for their soft little nymphs until they molt a few times and their shells harden.  Good girl!

Find out more about the shy bug that cannot bite, hisses like a snake for defense, and tastes delicious!  (Don’t take my word for it, ask the lemurs.)

Confused Tortoise

Matt is an African spurred tortoise (Geochelone sulcata).  He visits us for summer camp and enjoys mowing the lawn, eating delicious veggis from the garden, and visiting with the neighbor’s dog through the fence.

Matt must have had too many conversations with the chocolate lab next door.  Could this be defined as an identity crises?

Sulcatas grow quickly, eat constantly, and leave copious amounts of poo in their wake.  An adult Sulcata can easily weight over 100 pounds!  The largest African Spurred tortoise on record lived at the Giza Zoological Gardens weighing in at 232 pounds!

These tortoises are very difficult to care for.  They require constant warm dry temperatures, a very secure enclosure, eat a large variety of food, and are constantly getting into trouble destroying their surroundings.  We fondly call them little reptilian tanks.

I love watching Matt explore the wonderful outdoors and being the silly clown that he is.

Basic Reptile Pet Advice

Like any pet, caring for a reptile or amphibian requires time, money, and love. In addition to the requirements of a dog or cat, reptiles have special needs.

Reptiles and amphibians spend most of their time sleeping, they do not like to be touched or petted, and will not catch a frisbee. We receive calls daily about reptile pets that are no longer wanted by their owners. While reptiles are kept in a domestic setting they are still wild animals.

artiguana

Green Iguana

Consider rescuing a reptile before purchasing one. Shelters and rescue agencies regularly receive unwanted reptile pets, and often have all their animals checked by a veterinarian before putting them up for adoption.

A great resource for reptile information online is: kingsnake.com

Join your local Herpetology Organization to meet others interested in reptiles. Many hold fun meetings and exciting field trips.

Virginia Herpetological Society

The 10 Most Commonly Seen Snakes in DC Metro Area

Eeek! What is that snake in my backyard? We receive several calls a year from frantic and fascinated homeowners alike from the District and surrounding areas of Virginia and Maryland wanting to know what kind of snake is in their backyard

Here is a little guide to help you out.  Remember, all snakes are harmless if you leave them alone.

All snakes are able to flatten their head and shake their tail when scared.

(Disclaimer: Leave all snakes you find alone, they belong in the great outdoors; this includes your backyard. This guide is not intended to be the end all and be all of snake identification guides. All snakes can be born with different patterns and colors than what is typical for the species. As with ALL wild animals: Respect, watch, and admire from afar.)

ALL snakes listed are non-venomous unless otherwise noted.

1. Northern Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi) – a small, brown snake (15 inches) with darker paired spots down its back.

brownsnake

2. Ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus) – A small gray snake (up to 20 inches) with orange to yellow belly and a yellow or orange ring around its neck.

ringneckgreat

3. Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) – A greenish or brown snake covered in checkered spots, and a yellow to white line down its back. Grows up to 48 inches long.

garterside

4. Black Ratsnake (Elaphe obsoleta) – A large and harmless black snake that can grow up to 80 inches long (6.5 feet).  The body is shaped like a loaf of bread. Belly is black and white checkered becoming gray near the tail.  Baby or juvenile black rat snakes are often confused with other snakes as they are gray or brown with black blotches on the body.  They are wonderful at taking care of rats and mice.

blackratsnake

 

babyblkrat

5. Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) – A large shiny black snake that can grow to six feet.  These guys will slither away very quickly.  The young look very much like the baby black ratsnake.

blackracer06

6. Wormsnake (Carphophis amoneus) – A small shiny brown snake with a pink belly.  They look very much like a large worm, growing to 15 inches.  They think earthworms are delicious.

intwormsnake

7. Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) – A large gray to brown snake with darker blotches on its back.  They are non-venomous, that is they have no poison.  Watersnakes live in and around water snacking on fish.  Note: there are NO cottonmouths or water moccasins in the DC area.

nerodiaonroad

8. Red Bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) – A small grayish brown to black snake with a red belly.  They sometimes have black stripes down the back and light blotches on its neck.

occipitomaculata

9. Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster) – It may look like a cornsnake, but its a kingnake!  This gorgeous gray to brown snake with orange spots or blotches grows to 47 inches.

moleking01

10. Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) – VENOMOUS (Poisonous)* This is the only venomous snake found in the DC metro and surrounding counties.  Copperheads, like all snakes, will leave you alone if you leave them alone.  This beautiful snake has eyes like a cat so it can hunt at night.  Copperheads can be pinkish, tan, brown, and even a light rust color.  Nearly every snake in the area has been mis-identified as a copperhead, although uncommon in the area treat all snakes with respect. This snake provides humans with a very valuable rodent control service.

copperintsml

Remember:  Treat all snakes with respect.  Leave them alone as they belong where you found them just like the birds and butterflies living in your backyard.  Experts sometimes have trouble identifying snakes as all animals can be born all black (melanistic), patternless, or albino.

Find out more and join Virginia Herpetological Society

Visit your local nature center

Sources:
Pinder, MJ and JC Mitchell, “A Guide to the Snakes of Virginia.” 2002 Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Conant, Roger, “A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of Eastern & Central North America” (Peterson Field Guide Series)

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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 class.read 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 there.read 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

Reptiles Alive LLC visited our 1st grade friends and did the “Reptiles Alive!” show. They exceeded all of our expectations and were excellent at keeping the students engaged. The students have talked about it for days after, even repeating some of the facts they have heard! I would highly recommend Reptiles Alive!read more

Brittney Gjorgjievski

Brittney Gjorgjievski

16:12 14 May 18

Reptiles Alive was a MAJOR hit at the Mattie Miracle Walk & Family Festival. Rachel was incredibly professional, engaging, and clearly loves what she does. She made the show and meet & greet fun for both kids and adults. Can’t wait to have Reptiles Alive back next year to our event. We received a lot of positive feedback from our guests and we were thrilled to see how well attended the show was at our event. Thank you Reptiles Alive!!!read more

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

01:58 22 May 18

Caroline did an awesome job for our kindergarten Reptiles Alive performance. She held their attention and told fun stories. The reptiles are so cool! Every time she introduced a new reptile, the kids were amazed. I recommend the “meet and greet” time as well. My students will never forget touching a boa constrictor! Thanks Reptiles Alive!read more

Michelle Baldwin

Michelle Baldwin

03:00 09 Jun 18

Reptiles Alive! came to our elementary school for a 3rd grade assembly. Nothing ruffles this organization — they can handle kids of all ages, big groups or small, and bring a *ton* of animals. They are engaging, age-appropriate and bring their own mic system so hearing is not a problem. I highly recommend the meet and greet afterward.read more

Stacey Evers

Stacey Evers

19:25 22 Jun 18

The show was a success, we had around 20 kids between 5-12. Lizzard Liz was great, she was able to keep all of them really interested. The reptiles were amazing, she even brought a small alligator and a boa constrictor.read more

florencia behrensen

florencia behrensen

14:39 02 Jul 18

Caroline at Reptiles Alive! always gives us the best show! It is fun and informative with a variety of reptiles each time she comes. We LOVE Reptiles Alive at Happy Faces Daycare in Centreville, VA!read more

Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts

13:56 12 Jul 18