Aparallactus capensis (Black-headed centipede-eater, Cape centipede-eater)

Swartkop-honderdpootvreter [Afrikaans]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria > Squamata > Serpentes (snakes) > Family: Atractaspididae > Genus: Aparallactus

Aparallactus capensis, Gauteng. [photo D. Koen , from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Aparallactus capensis, Gauteng, South Africa. [photo D. Koen , from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Aparallactus capensis, Mpumalanga, South Africa. [photo L. Verburgt , from SARCA Virtual Museum]


The Black-headed centipede eater can be identified by its distinctive black head and collar, its small thin body and strictly nocturnal lifestyle. It grows to an average length of 30 cm and a maximum length of 40 cm.

Distribution and habitat

Found throughout the eastern half of South Africa (as well as throughout Lesotho and Swaziland), it is also present in southern and central Mozambique, Zimbabwe and eastern Botswana. It favours the following habitats: moist savanna, lowland forest and grassland where it is typically found in termite mounds.


Exclusively eats centipedes.

Predators, parasites and disease

Eaten by other snakes (including garter snakes and stiletto snakes), spiders, scorpions and centipedes (very rarely).


Oviparous (egg-laying), lays between 2 and 4 eggs in summer.


Has an average life span of 20 years.

Medical importance

Although venomous, it is not thought to be dangerous to man and due to the small size of its teeth it is unable to pierce the skin when biting.



  • Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg.

  • Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishing, Cape Town.


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