Rough Green Snake Opheodrys aestivus

Rough Green Snake Diet. What do they eat?

The Rough Green Snake diet is dictated by their ecology – both in the wild and in captivity. Let’s take a closer look…

Last updated on February 1st, 2023 at 09:30 am

For those who love snakes but hate rodents, a rough green snake may seem like the perfect pet. Their primarily insect-based diet can be a benefit in some ways and a challenge in others. This is why it is important to understand the dietary nuances of this species before you get too involved.

If you are looking to add this hardy little snake to your family or if you are simply intrigued by their wild existence, then you are in the right place. Everything you need to know about the rough green snake’s diet can be found below!

Feeding ecology of Green Snakes

Rough green snakes, Opheodrys aestivus, are North American Natives. These small and slender snakes reside in arboreal habitats that range from New Jersey to central Texas. They also reach as far south as Florida.

If you haven’t stumbled upon this seemingly widespread species in your travels to these places, you’re not alone. A preference for forest habitats on the brink of bodies of water and this snake’s small size makes them hard to find by accident.

 Luckily, for herpers and exotic pet lovers, the rough green snake is a diurnal species. This behavioral preference, as well as their environment type and appearance, are all well suited to their preferred prey, small invertebrates.

A soft yellow underside and a green upper body help this snake blend in with the foliage it hunts in, while its slender 24 to 32-inch frame is perfect for balancing on branches that overhang the water.

These attributes put the rough green snake in the perfect position to ambush preferred wild prey while simultaneously hiding from predators.

Rough Green Snake diet

What are their favorite foods in the wild?

The preferred prey items that drive this species’ hunting patterns and habitat choices are all insects. In the wild, rough green snakes have been known to commonly hunt:

  • Caterpillars
  • Grasshoppers
  • Spiders
  • Dragonflies
  • Damselflies

These insects generally make up 85% of a wild rough green snake’s diet, with the remainder of their diet including small vertebrates like lizards or frogs.

Preferred prey species can vary depending on the exact habitat of this snake and the season. Generally speaking, the prey listed prior are all commonly found around water sources with dense vegetation that is full of tall branching plants. 

What do rough green snakes eat in captivity?

Rough Green Snake diet

It may sound like a rough green snake is a perfect solution to a pest problem, but their diet is much different in captivity. For starters, it is impossible to provide this species with the same variety of insects in captivity.

No amount of time spent outdoors catching wild insects could duplicate their natural diet, especially if you live in an area where they are not native.

Here is what a captive diet looks like next to a wild diet:

Various other insects & small vertebrates

Feeding wild insects can pose a few risks to captive rough green snakes. First, it is unlikely that they will receive enough variety to have a nutritionally balanced diet.

Unlike species that feed primarily on one type of vertebrate, like rats, invertebrate predators require a lot of variety to get all of the nutrients they need.

In captivity, there are still ways to implement some variety and alternative options to provide a nutritionally balanced invertebrate diet, but we will touch on that a little later.

Another major concern for feeding wild insects to captive snakes is the chance that those insects could be poisonous to your snake, transmit disease, have parasites, or contain a pesticide.

It is not uncommon for pesticides and other insect baits to be used in close proximity to human residences. If you were to feed your snake a contaminated insect they could be affected as well.

It’s better to stick with captive-bred insects that you can trust for nutritional value and safety.

Rough Green Snake surveying area

How often do you feed a rough green snake?

Most adult rough green snakes will eat two to three times a week. These meals should include some variety and a full-sized meal can be considered a few large hornworms or about three adult crickets.

Juveniles are still growing and need to eat more frequently, about four to five times a week. Their prey will be smaller to match their size and hunting capabilities.

Black soldier fly larvae and pinhead crickets are common domestically bred options that are suitable. 

Caring for a diurnal hunter that still acts on many of its wild habits makes it important to feed live prey during the day. A good enclosure will give your snake room to climb and hunt from either real or artificial vegetation.

Regardless of your snakes’ size and age, it is generally recommended to feed more soft-bodied prey than hard-bodied prey.

Soft prey items are easier for your snake to digest and if you have any specific questions a licensed exotic veterinarian can be a great resource for determining the best diet and feeding regimen for your snake.

Rough Green Snake at night

Do Rough Green Snakes need supplements?

Rough green snakes certainly require supplements when they are kept in captivity, but the supplements they need are administered indirectly. The most important supplements for a captive invertebrate predator are not the supplements given directly to them, but the supplements that are given to their prey.

Captive-bred invertebrates intended to be prey for exotic species are stuffed with important supplements in a process that is commonly called “gut-loading”.

In some cases, captive-bred insects will be gut loaded by the producer, making for easy and nutritious meals. In other cases, you may have to buy supplements and feed them to your snake’s prey before feeding your snake.

 It is best to check in with your insect provider to determine exactly what supplements are being fed to their insects if they are being gut-loaded.

This prevents you from excessively gut loading your snakes’ prey, which could lead to death, or feeding a nutrient-sparse diet, which could lead to various health issues.

Reptile husbandry normally includes concern for supplementing adequate vitamin D3, but rough green snakes should not receive any supplemental vitamin D3.

As a diurnal species that require UVA/UVB lighting, they produce their own vitamin D. This means supplements that contain it can lead to hypervitaminosis D. This condition results in the complications listed below, and if it is not properly managed it can result in death.

  • Bone resorption
  • Hypercalciuria
  • Osteoporosis
  • Soft tissue mineralization
Baby Rough Green Snakes hatching

Do Rough Green Snakes need UVA/UVB light?

UVA/UVB lighting is a must for rough green snakes. In the wild, this species spends much of its time basking and hunting in the sunlight, so it is important to replicate that habitat as closely as possible.

Not only will these lights mimic their natural environment and promote natural behaviors, but they will also stimulate the body to synthesize vitamin D3.

As discussed prior, rough green snakes get all the vitamin D3 they need by synthesizing it through sunlight. This natural vitamin production acts like a self-made supplement, helping the snake properly metabolize and use the calcium they get from their diet.


Adult Rough Green Snake

The rough green snake may feast on a diverse diet of insects and small vertebrates in the wild, but they can be successfully kept in captivity for 12 to 15 years if they are well cared for.

This care requires a well-balanced captive-bred insect-based diet that contains the proper amount of nutrients and enough variety to keep your snake engaged. Most importantly, these snakes require UVA/UVB light.

In a way, this is the most important supplement you can provide for a rough green snake if you want them to survive and thrive in captivity.

If their dietary requirements haven’t bugged you out and you are ready to provide steady care for 10+ years, then this species can make for an interesting pet.

Other resources related to rough green snake diet:

Rough Green Snake – Chesapeake Bay Program

A Guide to Caring for Pet Green Snakes

Rough Green Snake – Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures on …

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