Regina septemvittata

** Harmless **

Common Name:


Scientific Name:

Regina septemvittata



Regina is derived from the Latin word regius which means "queen".


septemvittata is derived from the Latin words septem which means "seven" and vitta meaning "stripe". This refers to the number of light and dark stripes found on some specimens.

Vernacular Names:

Banded water snake, brown queen snake, moon snake, seven-banded snake, olive water snake, pale snake, queen water snake, seven-striped water snake, striped water snake, willow snake

Average Length:

15 - 24 in. (38 - 61 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

28.1 in. (71.5 cm)

Record length:

36.3 in. (92.1 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier IV - Moderate Conservation Need - The species may be rare in parts of its range, particularly on the periphery. Populations of these species have demonstrated a significant declining trend or one is suspected which, if continued, is likely to qualify this species for a higher tier in the foreseeable future. Long-term planning is necessary to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: has a relatively small, narrow head; back can be brown to gray, sometimes with three indistinct darker lines; sides are marked with a yellow stripe; belly is usually off-white but may be brownish and marked with four dark brown lines; these lines may appear as rows of dots in young specimens which are more distinctly marked than adults; has strongly keeled scales in 19 rows; anal plate is divided *1013*. In VA., maximum known SVL is 555 mm (21.9 in.) and maximum total length is 715 mm (28.1 in.). Tail length/total length ratio is 20.4-34.4 (avg. = 25.4+/2.3, n=55). Outside Virginia, the maximum known total length is 38 inches *11523*. Adults are usually 15-24 inches in length *11523*.

SCUTELLATION: ventrals 124-151 (avg. = 138.1+/-4.2, n=61); subcaudals 47-87 (avg. = 71.9+/-8.7, n=47); ventrals + subcaudals 183-230 (avg. = 209.0+/-11.5, n=47); dorsal scales keeled; scale rows 19 at midbody; anal plate divided; infralabials 10-10 (53.5%, n=43), other combinations of 9-11 (46.5%); supralabials 7-7 (81.0%, n=42), other combinations of 6-8 (19.0%); loreal scale present; preoculars 2-2; postoculars 2-2; temporal scales usually 1+2/1+2 (82.9%,n=41), other combinations of 1-3 (17.1%).

COLORATION and PATTERN: Dorsum of head, body, and tail uniform dark brown with a cream colored lateral stripe on scale rows 1 and 2 on each side; dorsal color often darker on scale rows 3-5 than above; three thin, very dark brown to black stripes occur on the dorsum of some specimens; 2 dark brown ventrolateral stripes present; venter cream with 2 narrow dark brown to black stripes that break up on the tail; these may be distinct or occur as broad stripes leaving a narrow cream, midventral line; chin and labials white; a distinct line separates the white supralabials from the dark brown dorsum of the head; the white lateral stripe is continuous with the white on the head.*10760*

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Adult males average slightly less in SVL (412.3+/-67.1 mm, 305-522, n=18) than females (440.0+/-72.6 mm, 318-555, n=27), but reach a similar maximum total length (males 712 mm; females 715). Sexual dimorphism index is 1.07. Average tail length/total length ratio in males (26.9+/-2.1, 23.2-34.4,n=20) is similar to that in females (24.5+/-1.9, 20.4-29.9, n=35). The average number of ventrals is similar between the sexes (males 139.7+/-4., 133-151, n=24; females 137.0+/-4.0, 124-143,n=35), but the number of subcaudals is higher in males (77.8+/-7.0, 62-87, n=18) than in females (68.2+/-7.6, 47-79, n=29). Consequently, the number of ventrals + subcaudals is higher in males (218.3+/-8.3, 198-230, n=18) than in females (203.2+/-9.1, 183-219, n=29).*10760*

JUVENILES: Juveniles are colored and patterned as adults. the dark ventral stripes are usually narrow but widen with age. At birth, queen snakes are 134-162 mm SVL (avg. = 146.4+/-5.4, n=38), 180-213 mm total length (avg. = 199.1+/-7.1), and weigh 2.7-3.2 g (avg. = 2.9+/-0.3, n= means of 3 litters).

CONFUSING SPECIES: R. septemvittata may be confused with R. rigida which lack the lateral white stripe, but have dark oblique lines on the neck and 2 rows of half moon shaped spots on the venter. Nerodia sipedon in the range of R. septemvittata have dark crossbands anteriorly and blotches on the dorsum alternating with dark blotches on the sides posteriorly.*10760* Geographic Variation: Sample sizes are sufficiently large in 3 regions, upper Piedmont, lower Piedmont, and southern Ridge and Valley, for geographic comparisons of scale characters. The variation in average number of ventrals is similar across regions, as is the number of subcaudal scales and the the number of ventrals + subcaudals.*10760*

REPRODUCTION: females bear up to 18 living young in August and September *1014,1006*. Mating occurs in spring and fall. In VA. litter size is 5-13 (avg. = 9.8+/-2.5, n=11). Records of birth dates for Virginia females are 17-31 August.*10760* Also, Brown reported litter sizes of 2 to 15 *11517,11523*.

BEHAVIOR: They can occur in a variety of aquatic habitats, but prefers small streams where crayfish abound; frequently basks on branches overhanging such streams. *1013*; periodicity=day only *949,2075*. Populations in the VA. Piedmont are at risk from siltation and damming of streams. Thorp has encountered one individual on a road during the day, but has found many others basking on branches over hanging the water by streams and lakes *11523* Thermoregulation occurs in 2 ways, by basking in full or partial sun on the branches of overhanging vegetation, or by absorbing the heat from beneath flat rocks in full sun. Snakes found under rocks are usually lying in a pool of water. Escape behavior is to drop off overhanging branches and hide beneath cover in water or swim away. This snake will not bite if caught, but may eject musk from glands at the base of the tail or may defecate.*10760*

ORIGIN: Native *2075*.

LIMITING FACTORS: The longevity record for this species is 19 years and 3 months *11523*.

References for Life History

  • 949 - Minton, S.A., 1972, Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana, Indiana Academy of Science Monograph, Vol. 3, 346 pgs., Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis
  • 1006 - Linzey, D.W., M.J. Clifford, 1981, Snakes of Virginia, Univ. of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, VA
  • 1013 - Jackson, J.J., 1983, Snakes of the Northeastern United States, 111 pgs., Ext. Serv., Univ. of GA, Athens, GA
  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 2075 - Wright, A.H., Wright, A.A., 1957, Handbook of snakes of the United States and Canada, Vol. 1, 564 pgs., Comstock Publ., Ithaca, N.Y
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11517 - Brown, E.E., 1992, Notes on Amphibians and Reptiles of the Western Piedmont of North Carolina, Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society, Vol. 108, Num. 1, pg. 38-54, 17 pgs.
  • 11523 - Thorp, T.J., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert Review for GAP Analysis Project, Three Lakes Nature Center and Aquarium


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Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


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