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January 8, 1988

Rhymes to Meet Snakes By

JAMA. 1988;259(2):218. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720020020022

To the Editor.  —A poem on display in a Nairobi, Kenya, nature museum provides a simple method for differentiating poisonous from nonpoisonous snakes bearing red, yellow, and black bands. It reads as follows: "Red and yellow kill a fellow/Red and black, venom lack."The accompanying explanation states that if the red and yellow bands are in contact, the snake is poisonous. Adjacent red and black bands identify its nonpoisonous cousin. While I do not know if this is true throughout the world, it certainly applies to the identification of the Eastern coral and scarlet king snakes.1