Snakes have fascinating eye colors. They have a variety of shades, but blues are perhaps the most beautiful and striking color of all. There are very few snakes with blue eyes.
Blue-eyed leucistic ball pythons (blue-eyed Lucy’s/BELs) have naturally bright blue eyes. This, in combination with their pure white scales, makes them expensive. All snakes also go through the ‘blue phase’ before they shed. Their eyes turn blue because they develop a second see-through eye cap before shedding.
So, why are BELs the only known ball python morph to have blue eyes consistently? And why do a snake’s eyes turn blue before they shed? Read on to find out.
Blue Eyed Leucistic Ball Python (Blue-Eyed Lucy)
Blue eyed leucistic ball pythons are the best known blue-eyed snake. They’re a ball python morph. Morphs are genetically different snakes that have a different color or pattern to normal. BELs, as they’re also known, have several trademark features:
- They’re white from nose to tail. Their color can range from pure white to a yellow tinge, or slightly pink. They may also have an ivory dorsal stripe (i.e., along their back).
- They have bright blue eyes. They can either be a piercing blue, or a slate blue-gray.
Aside from that, they’re the same size, shape, and temperament as a regular ball python. The biggest difference is the price. You can buy a regular ball python for $20 or $30 if you find one cheap.
But blue-eyed leucistic ball pythons are more expensive snake morphs. For a beautiful specimen, you could pay thousands of dollars. This is generally the case with interesting morphs like BELs.
BELs are not found in nature. They have been bred specifically by breeders from a combination of other morphs. There are several ways to breed one, using any two of the following morphs:
- Butter ball pythons
- Lesser ball pythons
- Mojave ball pythons
- Phantom ball pythons
- Russo ball pythons
Breed any combination of two of these snakes together, and there’s a chance of creating a BEL. Each variation looks about the same as a snake produced from a different combination. The cleanest combo is considered to be two het Russo ball pythons bred together.
Which Ball Python Morphs Have Blue Eyes?
No other morph consistently has blue eyes like the BEL. However, there have been individual instances of snakes that have blue eyes aside from blue-eyed lucies. Examples include:
- Lesser ball pythons
- Cinnamon lesser ball pythons
- Axanthic lemon blast ball pythons
- Black pewter lesser ball pythons
- Super pewter ball pythons
There’s no way to breed these snakes to have blue eyes. The only way to be sure is to breed a BEL. Also, the blueness of their eyes will vary. Some could be described as green-blue or gray rather than pure blue like a BEL.
It’s not clear why some of these snakes have blue eyes, while most specimens won’t. They each either are, or are bred from the five morphs that can be bred to create BELs. There is presumably something in their genetics that can create blue eyes.
But only a BEL consistently brings out these genes. It’s also been reported that rat snakes, garter snakes and more can carry blue eyed leucistic genes. The only reason you don’t see many are that they aren’t bred as much as ball pythons.
Why Does a Blue-Eyed Lucy Ball Python Have Blue Eyes?
The reason is genetic. Everything to do with a morph’s appearance is genetic—their color, pattern, length, and more. The BEL has a set of genes that turn it white. These genes also cause them to have blue eyes.
There’s a simple reason why it’s only BELs that consistently have blue eyes. That’s because the genes that cause blue eyes are almost always a part of a BEL’s genetic make-up. In other morphs, those genes are only infrequently expressed.
That means that it’s likely that the blue-eye genes are linked to the white genes for their scales.
Are There Venomous Snakes with Blue Eyes?
There are no U.S. species of venomous snake that has blue eyes. As of yet, only a few specimens of pet snake have been found to have blue eyes. None of these are venomous.
However, it is possible that you see snakes with blue eyes in the wild. How? Because they don’t usually have blue eyes, they’re just going through the blue phase.
This is what happens before a snake sheds. Their eyes turn blue for a brief period. This applies both to venomous and non-venomous snakes.
Why Do Snakes’ Eyes Turn Blue?
Aside from BELs, your pet snakes’ eyes might turn blue at regular intervals throughout their life. You’ve likely seen this happen before. It occurs not long before your snake has to shed.
This is called the ‘blue phase.’ It’s a period just before your snake sheds where their eyes turn a murky color. Most snakes with blue eyes that you see are going through the blue phase.
According to BMC Veterinary Research, the blue phase occurs because of the way the snake’s eye is protected. Because they don’t have eyelids and eyelashes, and can’t blink, snakes need to protect their eyes another way. They have clear eye caps that they can see through instead.
These eye caps are made from the same material as their scales. The only difference is that they’re see-through. They stop any dust from getting into your snake’s eye. They’re also strong enough to resist scratches, and even light bites.
If the snake shed their eye cap before creating a new one, their eye would be vulnerable. So, they develop a new one that grows underneath the old one.
This gives their eye a murky appearance. Any blue tinge to their eye is a result of fluid getting caught between the two layers. At the same time, their belly will turn a light pink color. This will all clear up and the blue tinge will go away, and shortly after they’ll shed.
Do All Snakes Go Through Blue Phase?
Both venomous and non-venomous snakes go through the blue phase. While each snake is unique in its own way, they all shed the same. They all have to develop a second eye cap before shedding their first.
However, there may be occasions that you don’t notice the blue phase. When this happens, the color is far less noticeable. All that you’ll see is that their eyes are murky, but not blue. You may also still notice the pinkness of their belly.
This isn’t a problem. It doesn’t mean that your snake isn’t going to shed. It’s just that there isn’t any fluid caught between the two eye caps. There are no side effects of this occurring.
How Long After a Snake’s Eyes Turn Blue Will It Shed?
The average time between the blue phase and shedding is seven to ten days. The murkiness in their eyes should clear up, and their belly will return to normal. They will then stay ‘normal’ for about a week.
After this period, they will shed their skin. A healthy snake will shed their skin all at once. They will create a hole in their scales by rubbing their nose against their enclosure. They will then keep rubbing their nose to peel back the scales in one long go.
If your snake is healthy, then you may not notice them shed. That’s because they often do so in the late evening. You can tell your snake has shed because their scales look clean and new.
Not all snakes follow a set ‘schedule’. The time between the blue phase and shed may take longer, up to three weeks. It may also not take quite as long. If that’s the case with your snake, don’t worry. It’s not a sign of any problem.
Snake Went Through Blue Phase but Didn’t Shed
If your snake goes through the blue phase but doesn’t shed, it’s a bad sign. This occurs when they begin the blue phase, but don’t leave it. Their eyes still have a cloudy appearance that won’t go away.
Your snake isn’t ill, but it means you aren’t caring for them correctly. it means their humidity is low. When the humidity is too low, your snake’s skin will dry out. They can’t create a hole in their skin, and if they do, their skin won’t come off easily.
Instead, it will come off in little patches. This will cause your snake stress. In the worst case, it can even cause death. This occurs when the scales at the tip of their tail don’t come off. They cut off circulation and kill the tissue, causing sepsis and death.
It’s easy to prevent this from occurring. Use a mister or an automatic spray system to raise the humidity to correct levels. Alternatively, consider leaving a small water bowl in your snake’s enclosure. This is a good solution for two reasons:
- The evaporation of water from the bowl keeps the humidity high on its own.
- Your snake instinctively knows to sit in water before they shed, to loosen their skin.
If you do offer a bowl, change the water each day. Leaving it would allow it to become full of bacteria. Your snake may defecate in the water, too, so change it if you ever notice them do so.