That’s the word I always use when I talk to people about ball python breeding. The combinations are endless. That’s actually the title of a book I haven’t started to write. I can’t see a day during my lifetime when every combo that can be made will have been created. And unless things go poorly for me I should have about another 50-60 years to hang around. There are just too many different ways to put all of these different ball python genes together. More than once the analogy comparing ball python breeders to artists has been made. We are artists using locus and alleles as our paint; the ball python as our canvas. Cliche? Perhaps. Effective? Yes.
Ball python breeding is also something of a competitive sport. The big breeders in the business are always trying to be the first to produce a particular morph. There’s money involved, certainly, but there are also bragging rights and notoriety to be had if you’re the first to produce a particular combination of genes. Above all else you get to name the morph when you are the first to reveal it to the world. Panda Pied, Silver Streak, Lemon Blast, Bumble Bee, Clown, Spinner Blast, Cinnamon, CinnaBee and Pewter. The list goes on. Naming a morph must be a cool thing to do and after a decade we’re still just getting started. This blog post addresses a seldom seen morph. I don’t know if this one is mine to name. I doubt that it is. Surely someone beat me to it. But I call it the Black Bee, the Black Pastel Spider.
I’m not one the big breeders. I’m in the middle of the pack, playing catchup in a game that requires more than just money and luck. It requires connections, inside tracks and relationships that give you dibs on getting the first of something new that is discovered. The number of us that have these kinds of connections can probably be counted using less than two hands, no toes required.
Even though I’m not currently a big name breeder I can still dinker around with the genes and alleles available. And even without new and exciting things coming out of Africa the current raw materials available allow for all kinds of new and seldom seen combos. Like many of you who are reading this I have spent countless hours staring at the pages of Kevin McCurley’s, John Berry’s and Dave and Tracy Barker’s ball python pictorials. Pardon the crudeness but they are the ball python enthusiasts equivalent to Playboy (or Playgirl, as the case may be). I lust after the images I see. Some of the animals in those books are spectacular, some are even more than that. They are beyond words. Many of them I have seen in person and I’ve even managed to produce a good number of them. But many of them are still just pictures in a book; animals that exist in some collection I’ve never seen. But on occasion some of the animals in those books don’t amaze. They don’t blow you away. In fact, there are a few that leave you thinking, “I don’t see it. What’s the big deal?” Once such snake is the Cinnamon Spider, also known as the CinnaBee.
The first time I saw a CinnaBee was in a photo. At first glance I thought it was a normal spider. A year or so later I saw one on Brian Barczyk’s table at a trade show. I could definitely see the difference between it and a normal spider but I was not terribly impressed, especially when you consider the beautiful results being produced from combining other genes with the spider gene. Consider, for example, the Coral Bee Spider Ball Python, the Axanthic Killer Bee Ball Python, and the Honey Bee. And it would be sinful to not mention the Bumble Bee. A friend and fellow snake breeder once said to me, “it’s the one snake that looks like a piece of candy”, and he’s right. A nice bumble bee is hard to beat. That is, until you bring in the killer bees.
I do not do a lot of stuff with the Cinnamon Pastel. I just don’t care for it as much as the Black Pastel. Both genes are similar and I think we’re all in agreement that the gene is a similar allele at the same locus. Some people tell me they don’t see a difference between black pastels and cinnamon pastels. I think they are blind. Every time I encounter a nice female black pastel I add it to my collection. At the beginning of the 2008 breeding season I was deciding how to pair my black pastel females and, having never before seen a Black Pastel Spider, I decided to breed a Honey Bee (Ghost Spider) to one of my Black Pastel girls. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had seen the CinnaBee and was largely unimpressed. The Spider gene simply overwhelms the Cinnamon gene and makes for a subtle morph. If you want see some pictures of the CinnaBee you can visit Kevin McCurley’s N.E.R.D. site. I thought that maybe, just maybe, the Black Pastel allele would do something different when mixed with the spider gene. I was hoping that it would better mix with the spider gene than the Cinnamon allele did. But, it didn’t. What I got was a fairly normal looking spider that was overall darker in color. The normal gold and yellow glow you expect to see from a normal spider was gone. It was replaced by a darker (yet strangely lighter) overall appearance. Despite not being spectacular the coloration has grown on me as the animals have aged. I really like them. Are they stunners like the Bumble Bee? Not even close. But they do carry some very cool genetics. Because my sire was a Honey Bee they are also het ghost so they are even more powerful in their combo potential.
But words don’t do much to express what a snake looks like. Pictures do more. The images below show three spider ball pythons. The top animal is a normal spider ball python that is actually a sibling of the black bee (Black Pastel Spider). The second (middle) animal is the black bee ball python. The bottom animal is a Spider Yellow Belly, which is obviously of no relation to the other two. I added him in to show contrast between the three animals to help show how truly different they are.
Click on the image to open a much larger view so you can more closely examine the details of all three spider ball pythons (normal spider, black pastel spider (black bee) and yellow belly spider ball python).
Note: After clicking on the image your web browser may resize the images to fit your screen. If you want to see them at their full resolution, click on the image again.
Another important difference that distinguishes the Black Bee Ball Python from a normal spider ball python is its belly coloration and pattern. The image below show three different ball pythons. The belly on the the left is a Black Bee Ball Python, the center belly is a normal Spider Ball Python and the belly on the right is a Yellow Belly Spider Ball Python. The Black Bee has significantly more pattern on its belly and it is also missing most if not all of the yellow that normally goes up the sides. A normal Spider ball python has varying amounts of yellow flecking that go up the sides of the animal. The Yellow Belly Spider obviously has a ridiculous amount of yellow on its belly. I actually have spider yellow belly’s that are even more yellow. Even they can have a lot of variation in the amount of yellow.
In conclusion, the Black Bee Ball Python is a subtle morph. If you haven’t seen many of them or seen one out of context you could easily overlook it or mistake it for a normal ball python. So keep your eyes open. Maybe, just maybe, someone produced one and didn’t realize what it was. If you find it, buy it! It’s a genetic rockstar!
If you have any additional questions about the Black Bee Ball Python please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.