The Scarlet Kingsnake, Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides, is found in the eastern regions of the United States, mainly in Florida. It is a subspecies of the milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum.
It is significantly smaller than most other kingsnakes, usually under 20 inches long. This snake has a tri-color pattern of black, red, and yellow bands that mimic the venomous coral snake. A method to help differentiate between venomous and non venomous tri-color snakes in North America is found in the popular phrases “red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black venom lack” or “If red touches yellow, you’re a dead fellow; if red touches black, you’re alright, Jack”.
While the phrases can be helpful in North America to partially identify a certain amount of risk with the venomous coral snakes they should not be used as a means of identification. If “red touches black” it does not necessarily mean you are dealing with a non venomous snake and it certainly does not necessarily mean you are dealing with a scarlet kingsnake. Be advised that the “phrases” are not accurate outside of North America. Other localities have venomous snakes where the red and black touch – and even within North America there are other snake species besides the Scarlet Kingsnake which are not venomous and have similar markings.