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Is burning paper soaked in honey repulsive for snakes?

3 mins read

Claim: Burning paper soaked in honey is repulsive to reptiles and will chase snakes away from houses and surroundings.

Burning paper soaked in honey has no harmful effect on snakes.

Full Text

Following the recent death of a female staff of the Nigerian Airforce from a snake bite in her toilet at her home in Abuja, more reports of snakes found in toilets have surfaced on the internet, sparking fear amongst many Nigerians and giving rise to various tips on how to keep snakes away from homes and surroundings.

One of such is a viral image that claims that burning paper soaked in honey will drive snakes from homes or offices, as the smell of burning honey is repulsive for reptiles.

“Burn a paper soaked with honey in the middle of the house/office. Keep doors open & snakes will run immediately as the smell of burnt honey is a strong repulsive nightmare for all dangerous reptiles,” it reads.

The image, designed with the picture of a snake and text, urges members of the public to share the information.

Screenshot of the viral image.

Further search by Dubawa uncovered a widely engaged post on Facebook promoting the burning of paper soaked in honey as a means to keep snakes away.

Screenshot of the claim on Facebook

The post authored by Sure Truth, a page that claims to provide “good body healthy tips, family tips above all natural home remedy with herbs,” had been shared over 1,700 times, also generating 576 likes and 190 comments.

The same claim was also found on the official website of Boboye Oyeyemi, PhD, the Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

Verification 

Checks by Dubawa show that while burning honey is one of the ways to verify the authenticity and purity of honey, there is no evidence that burning a paper soaked in honey repels snakes.

Doug Sofranko, a herpetologist, notes that some remedies purported to repel snakes such as the burning of honey, are actually harmless to snakes. 

“Burning honey does not work and moth balls do not work either. The chemical in mothballs is toxic to mammals and to insects but it is harmless to snakes. I don’t know why so many people think this works – it does not,” he said.

Sofranko explained that snakes do not have the sense of smell as humans and as such, do not use their sense of smell to perceive danger.

“Snakes do not smell like we do. Further they do not use their sense of odor detection to warn of danger. They do not recognize a good smell or bad smell like humans and other animals do,” he said.

Snakes smell through their mouths by flicking their tongues, collecting chemicals from the air or ground, which are acted upon by a pair of organs on the roof of their mouths called the Jacobson’s or vomeronasal organ. This makes it possible for snakes to follow trails left by preys or potential mates.

“That means the only way the [odor] molecules can get to them is through the mouth,” says Kurt Schwenk, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut.

However, Sofranko revealed that snakes can be kept away from homes and surroundings to avoid unnecessary risks to family, pets or the environment.

“Other than making the area less desirable and habitable for snakes, there is no way to keep snakes away.”

This includes keeping homes and surroundings clean and free of possible areas for hiding, including tall grasses, cracked or damaged walls or roofs, littering refuse and other things that can attract rodents and other snake preys. It is also important to fumigate homes and surroundings to prevent rodent and snake invasion.

Conclusion

There is no evidence that burning paper soaked in honey can repel snakes from homes and surroundings. This purported snake repellent indeed is not harmful to snakes.

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