By combining different types of genes, you can produce beautiful snake morphs such as bumblebee ball pythons. Also known as pastel spiders, they are bright yellow with black markings.
The bumblebee ball python morph is a combination of the pastel and spider morphs. These traits are codominant, so they can both be expressed without one overriding the other. To make a bumblebee ball python, breed a pastel ball python with a spider ball python. Each hatchling has a 25% chance of being a bumblebee ball python.
Unfortunately, bumblebee ball pythons can sometimes have a neurological problem called ‘head wobble’ or ‘spider wobble’. This disorder impairs the snake’s motor skills. Though many cases are relatively mild, some breeders believe that it is unethical to breed snakes that have the spider gene.
What Is a Bumblebee Ball Python?
Ball pythons are medium-sized constrictor snakes with a placid temperament. They are originally native to Africa, but are also bred in captivity. Wild ball pythons are light to dark brown, with blotches along their backs. But bumblebee ball pythons are quite different.
A bumblebee ball python is a type of morph, first bred in 2001 by New England Reptile Distributors. Morphs are snakes with different patterns or colors than their wild-type counterparts. They’re the result of two specific genetic mutations that can be selectively reproduced.
What Do Bumblebee Ball Pythons Look Like?
Bumblebees have a bright yellow background color. They have white bellies, and thin black stripe-shaped dorsal markings. Small spots and blotches are common too. Some can be paler or darker than others.
The original name for the bumblebee ball python was the ‘pastel spider’. This is because the morph is a result of combining the pastel and spider genes. But the nickname ‘bumblebee’ caught on quickly, owing to their black and yellow stripy appearance.
Bumblebees are the same size, shape, and temperament as normal ball pythons. They do, however, demonstrate the ‘head wobble’ – a neurological impairment that’s caused by the spider gene.
Bumblebee Ball Python Morphs
The bumblebee ball python is a designer morph. This means that it’s a combination of more than one trait. In this case, the pastel and spider genes combine to make the bumblebee morph.
But the pastel and spider genes can also be mixed with other genes, to create unique looking snakes. By breeding a bumblebee ball python with a snake carrying another compatible trait, many combinations are possible:
|Albino bumblebee:||The yellow background is lightened significantly, and the spider pattern is white rather than black.|
|Bumblebee clown:||This results in a reduced pattern, and a long dark stripe running along the snake’s spine.|
|Pied bumblebee:||The pied (or piebald) gene results in large white patches interspersed among the bumblebee pattern.|
|Axanthic bumblebee:||The axanthic gene removes yellow pigment, creating a white snake with the classic dark bumblebee pattern.|
|Calico bumblebee (calibee):||This combination creates a gradient effect. The yellow color is brightest around the black markings, and faded on the rest of the body.|
There is an almost unlimited number of morphs that you can make using the pastel and spider genes. The more genes you add, the more unique the snake will look. Some breeders have produced designer bumblebee ball python morphs carrying 5 or 6 different codominant traits.
How Much Do Bumblebee Ball Pythons Cost?
The easiest way to obtain a bumblebee ball python is to buy one. Standard bumblebees, carrying just pastel and spider genes, aren’t too expensive. They typically start out at around $130 each. Individual snakes with particularly striking patterns can reach $200.
A bumblebee that carries (or is ‘het for’) a recessive gene, e.g. albino, will cost more. These snakes cost between $200 and $225. Although the snake doesn’t visually express that gene, it can pass it on to its young.
Designer bumblebee ball pythons, expressing 3 or more codominant traits, can be costly. The more traits the snake has, the more expensive it will be. One extra trait may add $100+ onto the cost. But a bumblebee expressing 6+ additional traits may cost over $10,000.
You can also breed bumblebee ball pythons yourself, at home. For a chance of hatching one, you’ll need a male and female that carry the right genes.
What Genes Make a Bumblebee Ball Python?
The bumblebee morph won’t occur randomly. It relies on certain genes being present. If you know what genes your ball pythons carry, you can figure out what morphs they may produce.
The bumblebee morph is produced when a snake carries one copy of the spider gene, and one copy of the pastel gene. It could inherit both genes from one parent, or one gene from each parent.
The pastel and spider genes are codominant. This means that one doesn’t override the other. Codominant genes can be expressed simultaneously, so the resulting snake displays elements of both traits.
In this case, the bumblebee carries the typical spider pattern. However, the pastel gene lightens the background color from brown to yellow.
Both the pastel and spider genes are also codominant with themselves. That means that if a snake inherits two copies of the pastel or spider genes, they will look different than if they only had one. But the combination of two spider genes is, unfortunately, fatal.
Ball Python Pastel Gene
Pastel is one of the most popular and oldest ball python morphs. The gene was first discovered and selectively bred for in 1997. It is alternatively known as ‘pastel jungle’.
Ball pythons carrying one copy of the pastel gene (and no other traits) look similar to normals. However, their coloring is lighter, and yellow pigmentation is intensified. They also have lighter eyes, heads, and lips.
This lightening effect is what makes bumblebee ball pythons yellow. When combined with the spider gene, which already lightens the skin, a gorgeous yellow color results.
Ball pythons that have two copies of the pastel gene are called super pastels. Super pastels are even lighter than pastels, with a reduced pattern and a faded head.
A ball python with two pastel genes and one spider gene is called a killer bee ball python. Killer bees are lighter than bumblebees. They have dark grey markings, rather than black, and very little pattern on their heads.
Ball Python Spider Gene
The spider ball python gene, which was first discovered in 1999, is also extremely popular. Spiders are some of the most sought after and best-selling ball pythons around, due to their beautiful pattern.
Spider ball pythons have a gorgeous coffee-brown background color, which fades to tan along the spine. Their markings are dark brown or black, and they typically have green eyes.
Unlike the wide blotches that you see on normal ball pythons, spiders have a thin, spindly pattern. It looks almost like a web, hence why this morph was named ‘spider’. Some people also describe it as looking like barbed wire.
The spider gene is dominant, so if a snake carries the gene, it will always express it. This gene is what causes the bumblebee ball python’s stripy appearance.
Like the pastel gene, the spider gene is codominant. But the combination of two spider genes – ‘super spider’ – is nonviable. If a snake inherits two spider genes, it will die before hatching, or shortly afterwards.
That’s why, if you want to breed a bumblebee ball python, only one parent should carry the spider gene. If both parents have a copy, you will get some nonviable eggs.
How to Breed a Bumblebee Ball Python
The most reliable way of getting a bumblebee ball python is breeding a spider ball python to a pastel. If you start adding in other traits, you’ll reduce the chances of producing a bumblebee.
When breeding a spider to a pastel ball python, each gene has a 50% chance of being passed on. So, there are four possible results from this combination: normal, pastel, spider, and bumblebee. Each baby will have:
- 25% chance of being spider (inheriting the spider gene, but not the pastel gene)
- 25% chance of being pastel (inheriting the pastel gene, but not the spider gene)
- 25% chance of being bumblebee (inheriting pastel and spider genes)
- 25% chance of being normal (inheriting neither gene).
In theory, this means that 1 in every 4 eggs will be a bumblebee ball python. The average ball python clutch size is 4-8, so you’ll likely get one or two bumblebees per clutch. However, it is partially a matter of luck. If you don’t get any bumblebees in your first clutch, try again.
You can also breed a bumblebee ball python to a normal ball python, for the same odds. If you breed a bumblebee to a pastel, you still have a 25% chance of getting a bumblebee. But you’ll also have a 13% chance of producing a killer bee (with an extra pastel gene).
How To Identify a Pastel Ball Python
It can be difficult to tell the difference between normal and pastel ball pythons. They look very similar, except pastels are slightly lighter in color. This can make it difficult to figure out whether your snake has a chance of producing a bumblebee.
Some pastels are lighter than others. And the older a pastel gets, the darker it will look. This is a natural process called ‘browning out’. A pastel that’s several years old may eventually start to look normal.
To tell the difference between a pastel and normal ball python, look for the following clues. Pastel ball pythons have:
- Lighter eyes. Normal ball pythons usually have dark brown to black eyes, whereas pastels have green eyes.
- Clean bellies. A pastel has a pure creamy white belly. Normal ball pythons typically have some brown markings on their ventral scales.
- A yellowish tint to the scales. This is easiest to see when the snake is young.
The best way to ‘prove’ that you have a pastel is to breed from it. Breeding a normal ball python to a spider will only yield two potential results. 50% of the clutch will be normal, and the other 50% will be spiders. You can’t produce any bumblebee ball pythons if the pastel gene is not present.
To ensure you get a pastel ball python, buy one from a reputable breeder. You can never be sure what you’re getting if you buy from pet stores, or adopt preowned animals.
How to Get Two Ball Pythons to Breed
Breeding ball pythons can be a difficult process, especially if you’ve never done it before. Fortunately, it gets easier the more often you do it.
Ensure both your snakes are the correct size and age for breeding. If one of them is too small, you won’t have a successful clutch.
Male ball pythons should be at least 1 year old and weigh 700 grams or more. Females must be 3 years old, and weigh at least 1200 grams. Once your ball pythons are the correct weight and age, follow these steps:
- Gradually lower the vivariums’ air temperature to the mid-70s (Fahrenheit). This will encourage the snakes to go into brumation.
- Increase the temperature to normal after 2-3 months. After brumation, ball pythons get the urge to mate.
- Introduce the male snake to the female. Monitor them for a few hours to be sure they won’t fight.
- You should see the male ‘locking up’ with the female. This is when he inserts his hemipenes into her cloaca. Their tails will twist together and they’ll stay still until it’s complete.
Leave your ball pythons together for several days. If the female is gravid, she will start to look swollen. According to PLOS One, ultrasound can also be used to confirm the pregnancy.
Your female ball python will lay eggs after 1-2 months. Place the eggs into an incubator, and they’ll hatch 55-65 days later.
Do Bumblebee Ball Pythons Have a Wobble?
There is one problem with breeding bumblebee ball pythons. Unfortunately, as well as producing an attractive pattern, the spider gene also results in some neurological impairment. This is called the “head wobble” or “spider wobble”.
Head wobble syndrome affects a ball python’s motor skills. Ball pythons with head wobble can’t raise their head without it trembling. These snakes often have trouble orienting themselves, moving around, and aiming when striking.
Almost every ball python with the spider gene will demonstrate some level of head wobble. This includes bumblebees, as they carry the spider gene. The intensity can vary greatly depending on the individual snake.
Most cases of head wobble are mild. But in rare severe cases, these snakes can struggle to move and eat. It’s hard for them to catch, grip onto and swallow their prey.
In a study by the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, 89% of scientists concluded that the spider wobble poses moderate to high welfare concerns. It’s not known whether the condition is painful, but it’s likely to cause frustration and stress.
Because of this, the International Herpetological Society decided in 2017 to ban the sale of spider ball pythons at their events.
Can You Breed Out the Bumblebee Wobble?
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to selectively breed a bumblebee ball python that does not have head wobble. The problem that causes head wobble is permanently linked with the spider gene. And without the spider gene, bumblebee ball pythons can’t exist.
In the past, ball python breeders have tried to eliminate head wobble through selective breeding. They deliberately paired specimens that showed no head wobble, or a mild version. But they found that snakes with mild symptoms can still produce babies with severe problems.
Whether your bumblebee ball python has mild, moderate or severe symptoms will be a matter of luck. If it carries the spider gene, it will have a random level of impairment, irrespective of its parents’.
Although it’s legal to breed snakes with the spider gene, some people argue that it’s unethical. Others claim that there’s no problem, as ball pythons with head wobble can still live long lives.
Whether you personally breed bumblebee ball pythons is a matter of personal choice. If you decide not to, there are many other beautiful ball python morphs without genetic problems.