The sight of a snake huddling in your honeysuckle bush may raise your hackles, but snakes play an important role in the garden. About 125 species of snakes reside in North America, but only a few are poisonous. Snakes use honeysuckle plants for temporary shelter and habitat. They also use honeysuckle to find prey that also use the plant as part of their habitat.
Honeysuckle plants consist of native and invasive species that range in size from a few feet to 16 feet in height. While both types of plants add visual interest and fragrant blooms to the garden when in bloom, invasive types crowd out native plants that wildlife and birds find beneficial. Consider planting native types such as northern bush or American fly honeysuckle, since they do not form extensive mats that run over other plants. Besides attracting snakes, native honeysuckle plants work well to attract birds, butterflies and bees to your garden. These creatures help pollinate honeysuckle and other flowers in the landscape.
Since snakes cannot produce their own body heat, they spend part of their day in warm areas where they sun themselves. Providing an open area in the sun where the creatures can rest after visiting your honeysuckle plants helps them digest their food and gain energy. Warm sites remain especially important to female snakes when they are producing eggs or young. Snakes hunt prey around plants, including honeysuckle, as well as in brush piles.
Snakes eat harmful insects, mice, rats and other annoying creatures that invade gardens and homes. As part of the food chain, owls and hawks may visit your yard, where they may hunt for snakes as well as rodents, giving you even more defense against creatures that cause problems in the garden or house.
To encourage snakes to visit your yard, plant groundcovers, perennials, annuals and vines, such as honeysuckle to attract garden snakes. You’ll also encourage more frogs, lizards and birds to visit your yard, giving you even more creatures to help keep the bad insects to a minimum. You can also leave some wild areas by leaving small brush or stone piles that offer the snakes a place to make a home. In parts of the country where venomous snakes hang out in the garden, brush piles may pose a hazard.
Honeysuckle makes a beautiful shrub for the garden or landscape. You can grow them on trellises and in hedge rows. Insects find their way to the plants, then snakes who rely on the bush as an important spot to hunt for prey, feed on the insects. For gardeners who prefer not to encourage snakes close to their front door or high-traffic areas of the garden, plant honeysuckle bushes in areas where wildlife feels safe but people seldom visit.
- University of Maine Cooperative Extension Publications: Maine Invasive Plants Shrubby Honeysuckles
- Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension: Invasive Exotic Plant Species: Honeysuckle
- University of Pittsburgh: Snakes of North America
- The Washington Post: Don’t fear snakes; appreciate their role in the garden
- British Columbia Ministry of Environment: Attracting Snakes into your Backyard