Last year, amongst many other things, I bred a ghost mojave to a 100% het ghost black pastel spider (black bee). Sounds like a cool pairing, right? To my knowledge the ghost mojave black bee hasn’t been produced yet and I was gunning to be the first. With eight eggs in the incubator I was feeling optimistic; all I needed was a little love from the Odds Gods and I would hit on something amazing to share with the world. I watched with hopeful anticipation as the eggs finally pipped. And like a popped water balloon I felt the excitement rushing out of my body as I checked the contents of each egg. Disappointment. Disappointment. Disappointment. To say that I got murdered on the odds was a bit of an understatement. But I didn’t just miss on the ghost mojave black bee. The clutch didn’t produce a single ghost black bee, honey bee, ghost mojave,
Every year I am fortunate enough to produce some absolutely amazing ball pythons. There have been a tiny handful of times when the animal I produced was unique to the world, the first combination of its kind. I admit, it’s a neat feeling. Being the first to make a particular morph and getting to name it is a goal for many in the business. The naming of a morph is your chance to become a permanent, albeit largely irrelevant, part of the industry’s history. It’s unlikely that anyone will remember that it was you who named it or that you were the first but you and a small group of others will always know. Die in a car crash tomorrow and you will soon be forgotten by most. But the name given to that designer morph combination will still have the moniker you decided. That small contribution to something that will outlast you is, well, …cool.
My name is Colin Weaver. I am a ball python breeder. My best customer is named Colin Weaver. He is also my biggest problem.
I can’t seem to get it right. I’m in the ball python business to make money. That’s not something I keep secret. If I owned snakes purely for the love of snakes I’d own fewer than ten of them. Instead I own hundreds. I don’t know anybody who keeps hundreds of anything out of love. Most people who keep things in quantity do so for financial gain. I’m not different.
If you start out as a hobbyist you may find that you are lured into monetizing your operation. You buy a pretty snake and say, “Hey, it would be cool to get another one of these and try to breed them.” You buy a mate for your animal and that’s the first step down a long and expensive road. With ball pythons it’s not so simple, though. The color and pattern variations produce some very real problems that cause you to become a burden to yourself. Let me explain.
Suppose you buy a male pastel jungle ball python. They are pretty and quite affordable these days. You also really like spider ball pythons so you buy one of those, too. Your spider is a girl so you decide to pair the two up with each other. Eggs are laid, incubated and hatched. When all goes well what will you get? A bumble bee (hopefully a few). You could sell that bumble bee for some nice cash but are you really going to do it? I’ll wager no. You don’t have a bumble bee and they sure are pretty. So you keep it. Now you have (at least) three snakes. What should have been a money-generating event actually turned into a collection-size increasing event. You keep your bumble bee and also add a pinstripe to your collection. You breed them a few years down the road and now all hell breaks loose. You produce spinners, lemon blasts, more bumble bees and perhaps even a spinner blast. Second verse, same as the first. You don’t have any spinners or lemon blasts. You (like most other people) also don’t have any spinner blasts …until now. Can you really sell them now that you have them? Think of the possibilities they represent. Don’t you want to have these in your collection? What sense would it make to sell them and they buy them again later? So year after year, clutch after clutch, you find yourself keeping the best stuff you produce. You could, and arguably should, be selling these little nuggets but you just can’t bring yourself to do it. So you become your own best customer and you are your own biggest hinderance to profitability. It’s a vicious cycle and I’m in deep.
I, like many other breeders, keep back large numbers of my very best production every year. I should be selling it, taking the cash, paying off my house and buying nice cars and saving for retirement. But I don’t. Instead I’m cash-poor and snake rich, always trying to one-up my own collection.
I can’t seem to drink my own Kool-Aid. Sometimes you have to take the cash, sell the snake …even when it hurts. But it’s oh, so very hard to do.
I love white snakes. Beauty through simplicity.
Whether we’re talking about Ivories, Black-Eyed Leucistics or Blue-Eyed Leucistics I just don’t see how you can go wrong. Shame on me but I don’t have any Super Fire’s (black-eyed lucy’s) in my bag of tricks but I do keep blue-eyed lucy’s and ivory’s. They’re awesome.
Every now and then I catch wind of someone talking about how Ivory’s aren’t very attractive because as babies they look kind of dirty. What I ususally tell those people is that they need to see an adult Ivory. With age comes some impressive changes. Adult Ivory’s tend to be white as a fresh snow with a faint yellow line running down the back. Jet black eyes, red irises. R – I – D – I – C – U – L – O – U – S ! ! ! ! Wanna’ see it get cooler? Peep this: Pastel Ivory. Imagine a white snake dipped in a vat of soft yellow glow; like the stain of a buttercup on your skin. Sick! I haven’t seen a super pastel ivory ball python yet but I certainly do look forward to the day.
The key to the Ivory ball is the Yellow Belly, of course. Yellow Belly’s make Ivory Ball Pythons!!! This makes Yellow Belly females the single most under-valued snake in the reptile business these days. Like many other breeders I know, I have pretty much resolved myself to the fact that I’ll never sell another one. Besides making Ivory’s the Yellow Belly gene is like a scrub brush for every other morph; it just makes it better. I kept every female Yellow Belly I produced this year and will probably do the same again in 2009. I may let a few go, but not many. I’ll actually pick them up from others who are willing to let them go. I’m not alone in my thoughts. I did sell all of the Ivory’s I produced, though. Gotta’ pay the bills, I guess. If money wasn’t a factor I think I’d end up keeping 95% of what I produced. If you’re a breeder reading this you’ll probably agree with me. We’re our own best customer.
I made a quick trip through my building with a camera earlier this season. Here are a few photos of who happened to be locked up at the time. It’s kind of like looking at a precursor to Christmas (Christmas being the day eggs hatch, of course). I continue to love the whole cycle. It’s filled with milestone all along the way. You’ve got breeding followed by ovulation followed by pre-lay shed followed by egg laying followed by hatching. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year through.”
Click on each thumbnail for a full-size view.[nggallery id=6]
Albino X Albino Het
Albino X Spider Het Albino
Super Pastel X Black Pastel
Bumble Bee Het Ghost X Orange Ghost
Clown X Pastel Het Clown
Ivory X Yellow Belly
Pastel Lesser X Black Pastel
Pinstripe X Pastel
Pinstripe X Spider
I took this picture with my phone (which had a crappy camera in it) back in early 2008. I bred Ivory balls to a few Spider Ball Pythons in 2008 because I saw Spider Yellow Belly’s at the 2007 NARBC show in Chantilly, VA. To me they were absolutely stunning. They were the best looking Spiders I had ever seen. And that seems to be the way it goes with Yellow Belly Ball Pythons. Add that gene to anything and it makes it better. The Yellow Belly Bumble Bee (aka Bumble Belly) is ridiculous. I saw a few of those this year and remember thinking, “And I thought Bumble Bee’s looked awesome…”.
Take everything that has been done with designer Ball Python morphs and add Yellow Belly to it and it will be better than the original. The only exception I’ve seen to this is the albino. Albino Yellow Belly’s look like albinos. The difference is too subtle to be visually appreciated. I am interested in seeing what happens with Albino Spider Yellow Belly’s, though. Since Albino Spiders’s tend to be an overabundance of yellow/orange with the white of the spidering not standing out in most specimens I wonder if the Yellow Belly gene can clean that up and get some nice, high-contrast spider albinos. Time will tell.
Having a Yellow Belly Spider in your collection is a good idea if you want to make cool combos like Bumble Belly’s (aka Yellow Belly Bumble Bees), Spinner Belly’s (Spider Pinstripe Yellow Belly’s) and to the best of my knowledge no one has yet produced an Ivory Spider. My best guess is that it won’t be anything dramatically different than an Ivory but what if it does something else? You just never know with the Yellow Belly gene. It can unlock some really unexpected and cool stuff.
As I write this I have 1.0 2008 Spider Yellow Belly still available. Drop me a note if you are interested in adding him to your collection.
The Perfect Genetic Stripe Ball Python[singlepic id=42 w=150 float=left] [singlepic id=43 w=150 float=left] [singlepic id=44 w=150 float=left]
The Genetic Stripe Ball Python is a stunner. They are, however, highly variable. The best genetic stripes are the truest representation of thier name; an unbroken stripe running the length of their back …and nothing more. The three photos above illustrate a perfect genetic stripe ball python (click on each for larger view):
The key features I look for in a Genetic Stripe Ball Python that I want to add to my collection are:
- Lack of any breaks in the dorsal stripe (e.g. the stripe is solid, uniform and unbroken from head to tail)
- Little to no pattern on the sides.
- Not that it makes a difference in their appearance but they need to be rat feeders, too.
Genetic Stripe Ball Python: Great, but not perfect
The picture below is another Genetic Stripe Ball Python that I consider to be be a very nice animal, but not quite a perfect one. Her stripe is perfect, unbroken and exactly what I shop for. Unfortunately she has a small amount of pattern on her side. This is the functional equivalent of a beautiful model only being 5′ 5″ rather than the standard 5′ 7″+. It doesn’t really matter too much, she’s still a knockout. But she probably won’t make it to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.[singlepic id=45 w=150 float=left] [singlepic id=46 w=150 float=left] And here is another nice Genetic Stripe; he has a nice solid, unbroken stripe with just a touch of pattern on the sides. This picture was taken back in 2006 at Ian Gniazdowski’s facility (Outback Reptiles). She is not one of my breeders.
I have seen a lot of Genetic Stripe Ball Pythons for sale that are simply not very nice. Sometimes people try to sell them with special names to make it seem like they are something unique and different than a perfectly striped specimen. But seriously, calling an ugly Genetic Stripe Ball Python anything other than what it is (ugly) is like calling a brown diamond a “champagne diamond”. It’s just smoke and mirrors marketing. I don’t have any ugly specimens to show you because I don’t keep them in my collection. Do some searching on Internet and you’ll likely find some real brown-baggers out there.
As is usually the case, you get what you pay for when it comes to high-quality ball pythons. If you want to produce exceptional animals, price can’t always be your deciding factor. Sometimes it will cost you a little more on the front-end but it will pay off exponentially later down the line. Keep this in mind when you’re out shopping for a Genetic Stripe: No matter what the seller tells you perfectly striped parents (or hets that come from such) are MORE likely to produce nicely striped offspring. High quality begets high quality. Ugly Genetic Stripes with irregular patterns, broken stripes and lots of side saddling are more likely to produce the same. In a time when there is an even increasing amount of competition in the industry you don’t really want to be the one peddling champagne diamonds when the guy next to you is offering flawless gems.