Milk snakes are a non-venomous species of king snake and are recognized immediately by their bright and bold tri-color patterns that come in combos of black, red, orange, white, cream, and yellow banding. There are currently around 24 recognized subspecies of milk snake found in Canada and right across North and South America – and a particularly beautiful and sought-after milk snake subspecies is the Honduran milk snake.
Honduran milk snakes are a harmless subspecies of milk snake found in the tropical parts of Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and are one of the larger milk snakes, capable of reaching up to 6 feet in length. They possess a striking tri-color pattern of bright reddish orange with black and yellow banding and make very popular pets with breeders because of their potential for creating many bright and eye-catching color morphs.
As the larger of the milk snake subspecies, Honduran milk snakes will soon take up sufficient space in your home and will need careful temperature and humidity control within their enclosure to simulate their tropical rainforest environment. If you’re interested in a pet Honduran milk snake or simply want to know a bit more about them, check out our brief guide below, where we’ll be looking at their color morphs and how to breed them as well as how much they cost and more.
Honduran Milk Snake Colors
Wild Honduran milk snakes have bright reddish-orange bodies with black stripes and between each of the black stripes is usually a ring or ‘band’ of white or pale yellow. This gives the Honduran milk snake its distinctive tri-color pattern.
Aside from the tri-color Honduran, there is a second naturally occurring color phase of the Honduran milk snake known as the “tangerine phase” – in this snake, the white/yellow bands are replaced with a light orange color.
Honduran Milk Snake Genetics
The Honduran milk snake is a tri-color morph and as a subspecies of the milk snake, it is closely related to the king snake, which belongs to the same genus as the milk snake known as ‘Lampropeltis’. Translated from Greek, Lampropeltis means “shiny shield”, which is an apt description for the Honduran milk snake’s smooth and glossy scales.
Milk snakes have been bred in captivity since the 1970s, and in that time, breeders have been able to create many stunning color morphs based on the variations of the original tri-color and tangerine types as well as many designer morphs thanks to heritable genetic mutations in the milk snake such as the recessive ‘Anerythristic’ trait – this can create much darker colored or Albino milk snake morphs since Anerythristic means it lacks the red or orange pigment.
How Much is a Honduran Milk Snake?
Honduran milk snakes are relatively affordable, costing around $100 or less in some cases, but it really depends whether you buy from a local reptile store or an independent breeder. Bear in mind that Tangerine varieties may cost more than the original tri-color pattern snakes because they are less common.
What Do Baby Honduran Milk Snakes Look Like?
As hatchlings, baby Honduran milk snakes will look similar to their adult form, only without the pale yellow/white sections that show in between the black bands. As a result, juvenile Hondurans will only appear to have the duo color of reddish-orange with black bands and will adopt their tri-color pattern of red, white, and black as they mature.
Honduran Milk Snake Shedding
Around 2 weeks after they have hatched, baby Honduran snakes will begin their first shed of many throughout their life to make way for the new and glossy layer of skin.
From start to finish, the entire process of shedding from preparation to completion will last around 1 to 2 weeks, so it’s important to visit your local vet if they have issues shedding after this time.
You’ll know it’s shedding time for your Honduran milk snake when their scales begin to look dull and hazy and their eyes turn a cloudy blue color. They may also hide more inside their enclosure and have a decreased appetite. Juveniles will 12 times or more in a year, whereas adult Hondurans will shed less frequently every 2 to 3 months.
Honduran Milk Snake Facts
- Honduran milk snakes get their name from the long-held belief that they drink milk from a cow’s udders. This myth surfaced when milk snakes were commonly found in barns and stables, but this is only because rodents (their favorite meal!) are in steady supply there.
- Milk snakes are cannibalistic. Other than during their breeding season, your Honduran should be housed separately, because they are likely to eat their companion snake!
- They are commonly mistaken for the venomous coral snake. Milk snakes have very similar markings – and even display similar behavior – to the coral snake. This is great news for milk snakes in the wild who can deter predators but pretty unfortunate for inexperienced owners who can’t spot the difference!
- As with many reptiles, the incubation temperature of Honduran milk snake eggs can sometimes determine the sex of the offspring – in warmer temperatures, for example, males are usually created, whilst cooler temperatures create females!
How to Breed Honduran Milk Snakes?
If you keep a healthy male and female Honduran milk snake together, they may breed without encouragement. However to make sure they are both in a perfectly ‘healthy’ state to breed, you’ll need to set the right conditions first, and this starts with a cool down kind of ‘hibernation’ period to promote follicle growth in the female and fertile sperm production in the male.
Some breeders cool their milk snakes down by making them each fast for a few weeks to clear out their digestive tract before introducing a gradual drop in temperature in their enclosure. Slowly, they are warmed up and feeding begins again – around which time the female prepares her “breeding shed” to indicate her receptiveness to mate.
Are Honduran Milk Snakes Nocturnal?
Yes, Honduran milk snakes are typically nocturnal in the summer and diurnal (day-active) throughout the fall. For this reason, they won’t require UVB (Ultra-violet B) lighting in their enclosure, though having incandescent lighting is important to control the temperature in their environment.
Honduran Milk Snake Morphs
Anerythristic Honduran milk snake – As alluded to earlier, the Anerythristic trait lacks red and orange pigment, so this morph of the Honduran can range from appearing wholly black with gray bands to having subtle hints of violet, pink, and pastel grey where some color has survived.
Albino Honduran milk snake – In the total absence of the black pigment (melanin), the albino Honduran is a bold and stunning morph in candy corn colors of bright orange, red, and pure white bands.
Ghost Honduran milk snake – Breeders created their first Ghost Honduran in 1999 by combining Hypomelanism with Anerythrism. The result is a beautiful pastel-colored body of pale purples, pinks yellows, and sometimes the faintest hint of orange. In some variations, the black bands are present but faded, while some have no dark shade at all – hence, Ghost.
Hypomelanistic Honduran milk snake – Also referred to as “Hypos”, this morph has a mutation that reduces the black pigment, producing varied results of either very smoky black rings or even gray and pale brown, making for pretty unique and gorgeous results.
Honduran Milk Snake Eggs
About 7 to 10 days after the females pre-lay shed, she will produce anywhere between 3 and 24 eggs at a time depending on her size!
Honduran milk snake eggs are usually large tubular eggs that are white or cream colored and firm to the touch. Once laid, they need to be safely incubated in a sealed box with a moisture-rich substrate such as vermiculite to keep the eggs nicely humid.
Honduran Milk Snake Temperature
Hondurans are accustomed to a warm environment, so to keep them comfortable, you will need to keep a heating mat at one end of the enclosure.
At the warm end of the tank, keep temperatures around the mid to higher 80 degrees Fahrenheit range and at the cooler end, temperatures should not exceed 82 degrees with a night-time drop into the low 70’s mark to mimic the day/night cycle.
Honduran Milk Snake Teeth
Being a non-venomous species, milk snakes do not have fangs and do not really have any identifiable teeth to speak of. They have very tiny needle-type teeth that recline back into the mouth to make it easy for them to grab onto prey.
Though juveniles can nip and bite when scared or stressed, they will rarely do any damage to human skin. Even so, it is good for owners to be prepared for dealing with a milk snake bite, especially for younger, inexperienced owners.