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.
Anything Ghost just does it for me. Take any morph out there and add ghost to it: Boom! Better! Bada-bing Bada-boom! I’m always amazed to see what the ghost gene does to a morph. I absolutely love Ghost Mojaves (I can’t get enough of them). Ghost Black Pastels, a morph that you might think would be not too different from a normal ghost, are actually exceptional looking animals. Easily a favorite in my book. I’m so anxious to produce a ghost super black pastel that I can hardly stand waiting for the eggs. I’ll be a wreck on day 53 of that clutch. I haven’t seen a ghost clown yet and I both yearn for and fear the day I do. It’s going to wreck my bank account. I’m not close to producing them on my own this year or next year so I’ll have to drop some quan in the lap of someone parting with a male. Clown anything is a winner in my book.
One of my favorite ghost morphs right now is the cleverly named Humble Bee (aka the Ghost Bumble Bee, aka Ghost Pastel Spider). I guess we could also be calling this guy a Pastel Honey Bee. But I think I like Humble Bee best. It pleases me. Not sure who named it but they did a good job. One of the things I like so much about ghosts is watching the way they change colors throughout their lives. Every phase they go through is cool to see.
I suppose it’s possible that in a few years I may look back at the Humble Bee and wonder why I was so excited about them. Today I can’t see how that’s going to happen, though. They’re stunning. But with Ghost Spinner Blasts and Ghost Killer Blasts so close to being produced (may have been produced already, I’m not 100% sure) I can only dream of how the Humble Bee may pale in comparison. But then again, maybe not. I still don’t get tired of looking at my Honey Bees. I’d like to build an army of Honey Bee females. Aw heck, who am I kidding? I want to build an army of ball pythons.
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.
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.