front-fangedSpeciesVenomous

Banded Krait

Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus)

These are yellow and black kraits here in Thailand. In some other part of the world (Borneo) they are black and white. There are also Blue Kraits aka “Malayan Kraits” which are black and white. And the really incredible looking Red-headed Krait which looks nothing like either of them.

[Last updated: 14 July 2023]

Banded Krait Snake at Bangkok, Thailand Snake Farm
Yellow Banded Krait. Highly venomous, deadly, and relatively common in Thailand. There is a white and black krait also called the Blue Krait. Above is at the Red Cross Snake Farm in Bangkok. ©Vern Lovic

Bungarus Fasciatus (Banded Krait)

A large Bungarus fasciatus (banded krait) from Southeast Asia.
Yellow and black Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus) venomous and deadly. © Tom Charlton.

Thais say: (ngoo sam lee-um, or ngoo kan plong) This is a bit confusing in Thailand where in southern Thailand any viper is known as Ngoo sam lee-um. Lee-um means triangle, and so some people confuse the triangle-shaped heads of the vipers with the triangle cross-sections of the kraits.

Length: average 1.5 m up to 2 m (about 6.5 feet) In Thailand they don’t usually reach a full 2 meters, but I have seen one that was just over 2m.

Range: All over Thailand and most of Asia. Never found in Krabi province, oddly enough.

Notes: Banded kraits are secretive, meaning they are mobile at night and prefer grass or other greenery to hide them. I have seen a few dead on the roads – but I don’t go digging up ratholes or termite mounds. I may start if I don’t find one soon.

I’ve been looking for three years to find a krait with yellow and black bands like these.

At dinner last night I was looking around a small restaurant with many ponds, for snakes. I asked the owner’s son if they had seen any. He said, Ngoo Sam lee-um. That could be the one. I’ll get their permission for some late-night herping and try to bag one.

I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. This restaurant is located on a small hill close to sea level in southern Thailand. There are many frogs at the ponds, and probably many snakes too.

Update 2021- I’ve been to that restaurant numerous times and have not had a call from them about this krait. I am not sure they have been found in Krabi. I have never found roadkill B. fasciatus here in Krabi.

I have found a large 2-meter banded krait dead on the road banded krait in Surat Thani on the main highway leading to Krabi.

Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus) Curled Up In A Barrel
Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus) Curled Up In A Barrel

Habitat: This Thailand krait lives on the ground and in rat holes and termite mounds, under stumps or rocks and in other cool, damp places. Recently I saw photos of one in some limestone rocks here in Thailand. They prefer wide-open areas near water.

Rice fields and mangrove areas are the best places to start looking for them at night.

They have been found as high as 1,524 meters in Malaysia and about 2,300 meters in Thailand.

Active Time? The snake is mostly nocturnal and is quite active at night. Most bites occur at night, as the kraits move close to people sleeping – usually on the floor, and probably the person moves and the krait bites. More dangerous at night, during the day they are not biters. These kraits are common in the northeast Thailand provinces.

Recently a six-year-old boy was bitten and could not be revived. The snake had come up into their home in Surin to escape some flooding.

Food: Other snakes almost exclusively – rat and cat (Boiga) snakes. In captivity, I have seen them eat the following live snakes: Calloselasma rhodostoma, Chrysopelea ornata, and Gonyosoma oxycephalum. One noted herpetologist states that these kraits don’t like to eat water snakes.

Will also eat rats, mice, frogs, lizards if snakes cannot be found.

Defensive Behavior: The banded krait is slow acting during the day, lethargic, and usually not interested in striking. However, it can protect itself quite well – it is a strong biter and has been recorded as killing a large type of cattle 60 minutes after a bite.

Banded Krait skull showing fangs, jaw, and other dentition.

Banded Krait skull showing fangs, jaw, and other dentition. Skull located at Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok, Thailand. ©Vern Lovic.

Venom Toxicity: Very toxic. Deadly. This yellow/black banded krait from Thailand appears to have venom that is very toxic to humans. The typical LD-50 studies to assess the toxicity of venom in mice, rate this as a very toxic venom as well.

These snakes rarely bite during the day, but if they do, they can transfer enough venom to kill you. I read about a person dying in 30 minutes, and another dying in 15 hours.

A famous American herpetologist, Joe Slowinski, was killed by a baby krait (Bungarus multicinctus) in Burma while on a remote expedition. He finally succumbed after 30 hours. They can be quite deadly.

The cause of death is that your muscles are paralyzed and your diaphragm can’t work any longer to pull oxygen into your lungs.

Kraits are very deadly in this regard. However, if you are able to get to a hospital with a ventilator you will likely be OK. There is no specific antivenin for snake bites from this snake, but polyvalent venom is used – which can also treat bites from Naja kaouthia and Ophiophagus hannah.

Interesting to note… when fed on a live garter snake the krait venom acts instantly to cause death. Apparently, krait venom is very efficient with snakes – the krait’s primary diet.

Handling: The banded and Malayan blue kraits are not known to bite during the daytime. However, at night time they bite rather easily, as evidenced by the numerous krait bites that occur at night to people usually laying down to sleep on the floor either outdoors or in their homes with the door open.

I would never handhold kraits like the man is doing in the photo above. The krait venom is so toxic, it’s just not worth the risk – however small. Their venom is stronger than that of monocled cobras.

Antivenin:  Polyvalent. It is advised by experts to get antivenin in your bloodstream for krait bites before you have symptoms because once symptoms develop you may have lost nerve functioning that will likely not return.

Offspring: Mating in March-April and 4-14 eggs laid about 60 days afterward. The mother krait remains with the eggs for another 60 days before they hatch. Baby kraits are about 30cm long at birth and have venom.

I couldn’t find in the literature whether the mother left the eggs as they started hatching – so she didn’t eat them herself or not. The King Cobra does this instinctively because it also eats other snakes.

Update: I was contacted by a man who was bitten by this same type of krait during the night (midnight) at an impromptu show at a bar in Bangkok. The snake handler let him hold it and it bit his arm deeply. He was lucky to live and had lingering effects for more than five years after the bite!

Banded Krait Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Bungarus
Species: B. fasciatus

Binomial name
Bungarus fasciatus
Classified by Schneider in year 1801

Photo of Two Adult Banded Kraits:

2 Banded Kraits - Bungarus fasciatus from southern Thailand, Nakhon si Thammarat province.
Quite deadly, but shy snakes – see the video below. ©ThailandSnakes.com

Video of Jackie with Banded Krait from Nakhon Si Thammarat, Southern Thailand:

Venomous Snakebites and Near Misses from Southeast Asia.
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Venomous Snakebites and Near Misses!

More than 34 stories of venomous snakebites and very near misses from Southeast Asia’s most deadly snakes – King Cobra, Malayan Pit Viper, Monocled Cobra, Banded Krait, Malayan Krait, and more! Digital Book with over 100 pages by Vern Lovic.

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55 Comments

  1. We have sometime in the garden… Cobra too…
    We are in San Sai, Chaing Mai…

  2. Hi Vern, My name is Tejesh Senapati. I live in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, India. We live in an area where it’s surrounded by jungle and we witness or hear a lot of stuff (Bears, Scorpions, Cobras, and other snakes) in our area. Last night (22-3-16), I witnessed a live baby Banded Krait by the side of a road while walking to my office from a shopping complex. At one time I didn’t even the species, but when my friend identified it as “Maniyar”. Some of the villagers passing through that way called it the krait. The Krait “banded krait” wasn’t long either. It’s hardly the length of my palm. I was sort of thrilled to witness it live. I had no idea what damage it’d have done to me if I tried to crush it’s head. We thought of killing it, but since we didn’t have any stick or instrument to kill it so we let it escape into the median of the roads. But curiosity took the better of me. I came back to my room and googled the name of the snake and it’s effects. And it’s then I came to know that I made a good decision not killing it even by foot (sandals). It had to be killed though or else it’d bite the kids playing in the evening. What should we do now?

    1. Hello Tejesh! Well, to me, you are lucky because I still have not found a live one in Thailand!

      1.) Educate the kids that are playing in the dark that this snake is never to be touched, teased, stepped on, hit with a stick, etc. Banded kraits have a very strong venom that renderes people immobile (paralyzed) and some effects cannot be reversed.

      2.) See about installing lights in the area where the kids play.

      3.) Stay out there a couple nights around the same time you saw it – and catch it with a long snake hook – and relocate it to an area where there are no people around.

      Cheers!

      Vern

  3. Hey this is Asif

    Last night i found a banded krait snake, in my house.. ..it was about 1.5 meter long… or near to 2 meter long.

    It was looking very dangerous… With yellow and black stripes. I got little bit of experience to catch snake from The show of Animal planet. The show is Deadly 60s.

    So I try in that way, and I hold the snake by its tail, and slowly press its head with a stick …and I was able to hold the head of the snake. Some of my friends told me to kill the snake. But truly I don’t do that. I took the snake, and escaped him far away from the house.

    1. Any idea what possessed you to do that? I mean, there you are, no experience at all with venomous snakes and you pick up a snake and hold it by the head which can kill you despite medical treatment in some cases… and what was the reward?

  4. I was a lucky on and many knowmon Koh Samui, I was bit by one and on for over 5 hours. They had the expert co e to see me after that. The monnks all talked about this even in the north of Thai.

    They killed the snake making sure they didn’t cut the yellow, has to be cut through the black by custom. I don’t remember much after bit but they sure did. They own much land in the mountains of Maenam.

    This is a true story, I also had trouble with the cobras there. If you go to Koh Samui and ask them about the one bit it 2006 that was me.

    3 days of total tripping! 5 joufs not breathing they said. In the mountains with no access but motor bikes for only the most experienced riders.

  5. My nephew’s visiting and someone told him about this story and he wanted to see what they looked like. I am known for snake bites starting with a rattle snake when I was young, a kid.

    I was told if I get the antivenom would actually kill me. So if you go to visit Maenam on Koh Samui Thailand across the street from the Honda ask about this at the Buddha shop or ask PUn at the Honda dealer. They will tell you the story… 2006.

    They love frogs in the evenings so if you’re looking to find the Krait that’s the best way. The foot hills up to the mountains of Maenam on the island…

    1. I really don’t understand what you’re saying. Can you take a few minutes and re-write your story? Are you saying a banded krait (Bungarus fasciatus) bit down on you for 5 hours? On Samui? And you didn’t pull it off? And you were ‘tripping’ for 3 days from it?

  6. Hi there, great page!
    I spend a lot of time on Koh Phangan and have been lucky to see many snakes in my time. In fact on my first trip many years ago a green tree snake fell out of the coconut tree into the hammock i was in nearly giving me a heart attack! The one that sticks with me is the night i saw what i think was a big banded krait. I was driving my bike down a hill on a dirt track late at night and thought why has someone laid a hosepipe across the track? And why has it got yellow and black stripes? I couldn’t stop in time and actually rode over it. It was over 6 foot long and nearly as thick as my wrist. I was only driving a moped so i think it was ok. A couple of weeks later we were sitting in a thai friends bungalow one night and a baby snake came in, it was a baby banded krait, an exact replica of the big one i saw. The Thai guy freaked out and killed it saying it was very dangerous. We also had a big python which ate all the local cats!

    1. Hi Ollie, thanks for your commment – love reading these stories! Are you 100% sure it was a banded krait? Do you have my free ebook which shows in detail the banded krait? Kraits have wide bands.. there is another snake – Laotian Wolf Snake – which has some yellow in the bands…

      The first snake – around 2 meters long – are you 100% sure it was yellow bands on black?

      Cheers man, Vern

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