how to make a bumblebee ball python
Snake Care Guides

Bumblebee Ball Python Genetics (with Breeding Information Guide)

Bumblebee ball pythons are bright yellow with beautiful black markings. But like many ball python morphs, the steps you have to take to breed one can be rather complicated. Genetics can be hard to understand, so how do you make a bumblebee ball python?

How do you breed bumblebee ball pythons? They’re a crossbreed of a pastel and spider ball python. When these two snakes mate, you have a 25% chance of each egg hatching into a bumblebee. Unfortunately, spider ball pythons have neurological problems (head wobble) that they pass on to bumblebee offspring.

Some people don’t believe that you should breed either spiders or bumblebees because of their health issues. Their head wobble and lack of balance make it quite difficult for them to eat and would mean that they wouldn’t survive in the wild.

What Is a Bumblebee Ball Python?

Ball pythons are a snake that’s common to West Africa. You can find them anywhere from the westernmost points of Africa, including Senegal and Guinea, all the way to central African countries like Sudan and Uganda.

They’re the most popular pet snake today, because of their docile nature and the number of different colors and patterns available. They’re also very easy to care for in captivity.

They are known as a ball python ‘morph’. This is a particular breeding and pattern that breeders have created through selective breeding. Examples include albino ball pythons, pure black ball pythons, and, of course, bumblebee ball pythons. Because they’re specially bred, they aren’t found in the wild. Every bumblebee ball python you find will have been captive bred and reared.

As the name suggests, they are mostly yellow with black stripes along their body. The stripes aren’t completely solid like they are on a bee. They look the same as the ball python’s regular dark outline pattern, although a little thinner.

Bumblebee Ball Python Morphs

Besides their basic yellow and black pattern, there are also other variations you can get. For starters, some have a more distinct yellow color than others. Some border on cream, whereas some are yellow-green. A stronger black pattern than others. In some bumblebee ball pythons, the black pattern doesn’t extend along their sides. It’s just on top of their back.

Others also have elements of other morphs included. You can find:

  • Albino bumblebee ball python. These are the same as bumblebees, except their dark pigmentation is gone, replaced by a cream color pattern. The rest of their scales stay yellow. They also have the albino’s classic red eyes.
  • Scaleless bumblebee ball pythons. Some are scaleless just on their heads, whereas others have no scales anywhere on their body whatsoever.
  • Pied bumblebee pythons. These often have pure white bodies with bumblebee yellow and black heads. Pied is short for piebald, which means that they have spots or sections of pattern separated by blocks of color.
  • Clown bumblebee pythons. Clown ball pythons have a big wide dorsal stripe (on their back) and an unusual head pattern. Clown bumblebee ball pythons have the long stripe but are yellow and black instead of dark.
  • Axanthic bumblebee pythons. These have the same pattern as bumblebees, but they’re also axanthic, which is where the snake isn’t yellow. Instead, they’re gray and black.
  • Killerbee bumblebee pythons. These are bred in a slightly different way (one of the parents is different). This makes their yellow much brighter, and also helps their colors stay bright until adulthood.

Of course, you can also breed a bumblebee ball python with any other morph you like. However, because of the way that their genetics work, you’re not necessarily going to breed anything new or different. This is something that breeders are still finding out more about, as they breed bumblebees with ever more interesting patterns and color combinations.

How Big Does a Bumblebee Ball Python Get?

Ball python morphs don’t significantly differ regarding size, either compared to one another or compared to the ‘original’ morph.

Ball pythons are smaller than many other kinds of snake. When they hatch, ball pythons are a similar length to most other hatchlings, at about 10 inches long. They’ll very quickly grow longer over their first and second years. After two years, they’ll be about adult length.

How long is the bumblebee ball python? When they’re fully grown, females are a little longer than males. They reach between 4 and 5 feet long. Males, on the other hand, only growing to 3 or 3 ½ feet long.

Unlike humans, snakes continue to grow longer and heavier throughout their adult lives. As such, you can expect older specimens to get to about six foot long.

Bumblebee Ball Python Prices

The price of a bumblebee ball python depends on a few factors.

First, the age and health of the animal inform the price. If the snake has taken well to their captive diet and fed at least three times, they’ll command a higher price. That’s because, unfortunately, some snakes never learn to feed on a captive, frozen/thawed rodent diet, and when you take your new pet home, they’ll sadly slowly starve to death.

How much do bumblebee ball pythons cost? While a regular bumblebee will cost around $150, an albino might cost $300. Axanthic bumblebee pythons cost $500 to $600. The more exotic morphs are even more expensive.

Ultimately, though, the price is up to the breeder. They base their prices on demand, so you might end up paying a little more or a little less. Shop around and see what prices you can find.

Here’s some further information on the cost of owning a pet snake.

How to Make a Bumblebee Ball Python

There are two known ways to create a bumblebee ball python. The first is to breed a spider ball python and a pastel ball python together.

The genetics of these two morphs are heterozygous, and pastels are co-dominant. This means that the baby snake can carry the genetics of both of these variations at once.

If the snake is born with the genetics of both of these snakes at once, they’re bright yellow with a black pattern—in other words, a bumblebee.

How Does Genetics Work?

In genetics, you get one set of genes from your mother and one set of genes from your father. Genes are sections of DNA that do something—like giving us green eyes or red hair. These genes combine in our chromosomes. Different animals have different numbers of chromosomes.

While humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46, snakes have different amounts. According to a paper in Nature Communications, southeast Asian pit vipers have 36 chromosomes. On the other hand, the Trans-Pecos rat snake has 40, and other snakes have different numbers still.

These chromosomes and genes are what give us our distinctive characteristics. However, because we get genes from two different sources, sometimes the genes in one chromosome are different to the genes in the other member of the ‘pair.’

When this happens, usually only one gene is ‘expressed.’ That’s because some genes are dominant, and some are recessive. You, therefore, might carry two versions of the same gene.

What Does Heterozygous Mean?

When you’re breeding snakes, it makes a big difference if they’re heterozygous or not. Heterozygosity is where the snake carries two different versions of the same gene, one on each chromosome. One chromosome might say ‘this snake should look like a normal ball python,’ whereas the other says ‘this snake should be yellow with black stripes.’

A few different outcomes are depending on whether the gene is dominant or recessive. If the yellow and black gene is recessive, then the snake will look like a normal ball python. The same applies vice versa, too. However, the snake is still a ‘carrier’ for the yellow and black gene even if they look like a normal ball python. They can therefore still pass this gene on to their children.

What Is Homozygosity?

Homozygosity is the opposite of heterozygosity. This is where the snake only has one form of the gene in question, which is present on both chromosomes.

Whether the gene is recessive or dominant, it doesn’t make a difference. The snake will still look the way that both copies of the gene say it should.

When a snake is homozygous, and you breed it with another homozygous snake with the same genes, the offspring stand a 100% chance of looking the same as their parents.

Unfortunately, when you’re breeding interesting snake morphs, they’re often heterozygous which means that you can’t guarantee whether their mutation will be passed on to their children. This is the case with bumblebee pythons and each of the morphs that they’re bred from.

How old does a ball python have to be to breed?

What Does Co-Dominant Mean?

Co-dominance is where a gene is dominant (i.e., expressed) but it’s ‘happy’ for the other gene to be expressed too. If the snake has two different kinds of gene, but one or both of the genes is co-dominant, then they’ll look like a mixture of both genes.

Let’s say that you breed a ball python that’s black all over, and that the black gene is a co-dominant gene. Let’s also say that you bred a ball python that’s red all over, with genes that are either dominant, recessive or co-dominant.

You might think that if you bred them together, that one of the genes would ‘become’ dominant over the other one. But you’ll get a mix of the two. The ball python will be red in places, and black in others. This is how breeding bumblebee pythons works. One parent has the yellow color all over. The other has the black pattern that makes them look a little like a bee.

How to Breed Two Bumblebee Pythons

So, there are two ways to breed bumblebee ball pythons. The first is to breed a spider ball python and a pastel ball python together. These two morphs are the result of dominant mutations. A spider ball python has a dominant Spider gene and another recessive gene.

According to the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, the Spider gene alters the “distribution of dorsal melanophores […] forming a web-like mesh.”

Pastel ball pythons have a co-dominant gene that makes their yellow areas appear yellower. If they’re homozygous, then the effect is doubled, and they’re even more yellow. When you breed a pastel with a spider, there’s a 25% or one in four chance that the offspring will have both the pastel and spider genes.

If you wanted to be surer of the result, you could try breeding a spider ball python with a ‘super pastel’ ball python. Super pastels are homozygous, i.e., they have two versions of the pastel gene rather than just one. By breeding a super pastel with a spider, the offspring has a 50% chance of being a bumblebee python. The offspring of a spider and a super pastel is called a killer bee, and they’re much brighter yellow.

How Old Does a Ball Python Have to Be to Breed?

Breeding age in bumblebee ball pythons is the same no matter what morph you’re talking about. Males reach sexual maturity once they’re old enough to produce sperm plugs. These are what the male snake leaves behind in the female’s cloaca.

They stop the female from being able to breed with any other male so that the male snake knows that it’s his eggs she’ll be laying. Once he’s about a year old/700 grams in weight, he’ll be old enough to produce them, which is a sign that he’s ready to breed.

However, it’s much more important to make sure that the female is of age than the male. The female will be able to breed and produce eggs from early on in life. However, if she breeds to soon, she won’t be big or strong enough to lay the eggs she needs to lay.

If she can’t, then they’ll get stuck inside her. If that happens, they’ll break, and she’ll very quickly die. She’ll be old enough to breed at about three years. More specifically, make sure that she’s 1200 grams at the very least before breeding.

How do You Get Two Ball Pythons to Breed?

To get the two snakes to breed, you have to first have them go through a period of lower activity. Most snakes go through a process called brumation during the winter. It’s a little like hibernation. When brumation is over in the spring, the snakes can start to mate.

Ball pythons don’t brumate, but they’re affected by temperature in the same way. You should, therefore, reduce the temperature in their enclosures so that it gets to the mid-70s at night. Gradually reduce the temperature over two weeks.

Then after two or three months, gradually increase the temperature to normal levels. Then, introduce the male to the female and see if they want to mate. If not, take the male out and try again tomorrow. If he doesn’t seem like he’s in the mood, put him in an enclosure with other males for a brief period.

This will encourage him to feel like he needs to ‘compete’ with them for the female’s affection. Introduce the pair again, and they’ll be more likely to mate. Be prepared, because they might stay connected for up to two days. Don’t disturb them during this time.

The female would lay eggs a month or two later if mating was successful. The first sign that she’s ‘pregnant’ (the proper word is ‘gravid’) will be when you see the outline of eggs inside her.

You need to prepare an incubator for the eggs, at the correct temperature and humidity. Check our egg incubation guide for further details. They typically take about 55 days to hatch.

Bumblebee Python Breeding Problems (Head Wobble)

Unfortunately, playing around with genetics can have unfortunate side effects. As is apparent from papers on the topic in journals like Toxins, we don’t fully understand snake genetics. And that can cause problems when we try and breed them.

The spider ball python morph has an issue called the head wobble. This is a problem caused by inbreeding, where the snake has minor neurological issues. Because the bumblebee ball python is bred from a spider ball python, this condition passes on to the bumblebee too.

The head wobble expresses itself in many ways. The condition gets its name from the fact that the head wobbles and bobbles backward and forwards, almost like in a person with Parkinson’s disease. It also has other side effects. For example, if you flip a snake upside down, it will quickly right itself.

However, snakes with this neurological issue take a minute or so to even realize that they’re upside down. Spiders and other snakes with the same problem also find it much more difficult to eat, struggling to strike out at prey that’s right in front of their nose.

As you can probably see, the head wobble is an expression of a wider issue related to balance, location and ability to survive. While some people think it’s cute that they sometimes even rest upside down, or that they struggle to strike at prey, other people think that you shouldn’t breed a snake with clear neurological disabilities.

Should I Breed Bumblebee Ball Pythons?

This is a question that’s divided the snake breeding community. Bumblebee ball pythons have a genuine disability, which makes it difficult for them to strike, eat, or even move around correctly.

Some countries, like Sweden, have laws that prevent people from breeding animals that have defects which cause them issues with their quality of life.

But there are arguments for and against, including:

For:  Against:
The majority of bumblebee ball pythons (and other affected snakes, like spider ball pythons) seem as happy as any other snake. It’s unclear how the snake feels because of their disability. For all we know, they could be in pain.
Some snakes get over their head wobble, which disappears as they age. Besides that, some snakes hardly have a wobble at all. They wouldn’t survive on their own in the wild because of their neurological problems. They’re unable to defend themselves properly and don’t understand how showing a predator their underside might be a problem.
While it does take a snake with a head wobble longer to eat, they usually manage it in the end. Bumblebee pythons don’t starve because of their head wobble. Other breeding problems like kinks are looked down on. Breeders would look at you like you’re mad if you tried to breed snakes with kinks on purpose. Head wobbling is no different; it’s just ‘cuter’ which is why people think it’s fine.
They do everything else just the same as other snakes (breeding, going to the toilet, shedding, etc.) When you handle a bumblebee ball python, their lack of balance makes it more difficult for them to stay stable on your hand and keep their grip. This can lead to them falling.
Stress seems to be a significant factor in encouraging corkscrewing and poor balance. Keep your snake in a stress-free environment, and the problems won’t be so bad. Because of their bad aim, sometimes they can bite your hand by accident when they’re trying to feed. This doesn’t hurt an awful lot, but it can be stressful if you’re not a seasoned breeder.

Only you can decide whether to breed bumblebee ball pythons or not. There aren’t any laws or regulations that tell you that you can’t. The best thing to do would be to handle one and spend time with one. You can then make an informed decision.