Ball pythons are gorgeous snakes, but some ball python morphs suffer from a condition called “wobble”.
For example, sider ball pythons are born with a neurological disorder that causes their heads to tremble and wobble. Depending on the snake, your ball python may have a severe wobble or a more moderate case of the illness. However, all spider morphs have the condition.
What other ball python morphs have wobble and what do you need to know before making one your pet?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the ball python head wobble, what it is, and what you should know before you decide to take a ball python with wobble home.
Table of Contents
What Ball Python Morphs Have Wobble
A ball python morph is a combination of genes that change a ball python’s colors and patterns. These beautiful snakes change colors as they grow, either fading or intensifying.
The genetic mutation responsible for wobble syndrome is present in hundreds of ball pythons that bear the distinct patterns of the ball python spider morph. As fate would have it, spider morphs and the genetic mutation responsible for their patterns also caused a neurological disorder.
All spider ball python morphs have a central nervous system disorder that leads to a noticeable head tremble. The reptile community calls this “spider wobble.”
The ball python morphs that have wobble syndrome include:
- Woma Ball Python
- Super Spotnose
- Super Sable
- Power Ball
- Hidden Gene Woma
- Sable & Spider
- Spotnose & Spider
- Spotnose & Hidden Gene Woma
- Spotnose & Champagne
- And many other morphs
What Is The Spider Morph?
The spider ball python and the many combos that it creates are noted by their drippy dorsal and ropey body markings. Their eyes are usually green, with a golden hue spread across their body with orange scales and black spider web stripes. They also have unique headstamps that make mistaking them almost impossible.
The spider morph is a dominant gene, meaning only ball pythons baring its markings are at risk for the wobble it creates. While other morphs carry the “wobble” gene, Spiders and Woma pythons carry it in far greater numbers.
Its origins are unknown, but some speculate that the spider morph originated from a wild-caught snake imported in 1999 by NERD (New England Reptile Distribution).
Today there are over 4,000 morphs and combinations, but as a general rule, any snake name with the word “bee” contains the spider gene. Explore the complete list of morphs here.
For a ball python to have head wobble syndrome, it must have the markings of this type of morph. If you pair one morph with another that creates non-spider morphs, they won’t have wobble syndrome, even if one of their parents does.
What Is the Disposition of the Spider Morph?
This species of spider morphs is particularly gentle, with a very low risk of bites. Likened to the labrador retriever, spider ball pythons are gentle and predictable.
Baby ball pythons with spider genes can be jumpy at first but calm down as they age and get used to handling. They can be shy initially, but they become gentle pets over time.
What Is The Ball Python Head Wobble?
Wobble syndrome is denoted by sometimes sharp head twisting, often referred to as corkscrewing, and head swaying that comes and goes. In some snakes, these characteristics are nearly unnoticeable or simply look like the snake lost its balance.
Check out this video to see the wobble in action.
The wobble can also be noted by head shaking and corkscrewing simultaneously. Depending on the severity of the wobble, it can prevent the snake from eating and moving in a coordinated way.
Can It Be Cured or Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no way to cure the spider wobble without removing the beloved characteristics of this morph. The only way to do so is to stop breeding spider ball pythons altogether. Various spider combos can reduce the severity of the head wobble but do not breed it out.
You’ll notice the wobble more during feeding and stress, but there is no cure or treatment. However, some breeders have paired the blackhead morph gene allelic to spider ball pythons and have noticed a decrease in the wobble of its offspring.
It’s believed that the blackhead has a higher amount of a specific type of protein (it’s currently unclear which one), and the spider has a lower amount. When combined, the protein cancels each other out, creating a healthier new breed of snake.
What Other Health Conditions Can Occur?
Spider ball pythons are also susceptible to other health conditions, including:
- Mouth Rot
- Respiratory Infections
- Fleas and Mites
- Shedding Issues
- Parasites, both Internal and External
However, depending on how severe their wobble is, it could be their ultimate demise. Some cases are so bad that euthanasia is recommended to put the animal out of its discomfort. Wobble can become lethal if a python is bred with another ball python of the same gene.
Unfortunately, breeders cannot predict how severe the wobble will be or what other illnesses will occur with any given spider ball python. This leaves many pet owners with no option but to take the risk of ownership.
Are Ball Pythons with Wobble Legal?
Yes, ball pythons with head wobble are legal. You can still breed them, and no one can legally stop you from doing so. State and federal laws permit the breeding of spider ball pythons. Keep this in mind. However, some countries and organizations prohibit them from being sold at events.
Despite their legal status, there are multiple reasons why you should think twice before you breed them. Their neurological issues are fairly severe and can lead to a seriously decreased quality of life.
Even from a financial perspective, spider ball pythons are incredibly common these days, so breeding them won’t produce a significant return on investment.
Why Some People Think It Should Be Banned
Most breeders firmly believe they should be banned because of the head wobble. In this video, you can listen to an impassioned breeder tell you exactly why they feel it is quite cruel to breed or buy the spider ball python.
Add to this that, as mentioned previously, the International Herpetological Society (IHS) prohibited the sale of spider ball pythons at their shows in 2018. This news was extremely controversial and lead to serious questions for the reptile community.
Soon thereafter, petitions to ban the breed and make owning them illegal began popping up left and right. Some snake veterans viewed outlawing the snake as an assault on hobbyists.
At the heart of the issue is the spider gene. While the severity of the head wobble varies from snake to snake, some spider ball pythons have problems feeding themselves and have serious problems holding their heads up. This lack of motor control is sometimes imperceptible but still exists.
On the other hand, people who love the breed love it because of its attractive markings. They are considered designer snakes because of their beautiful patterns.
Even though the IHS in the UK has strong opinions about the spider ball python, they have not been banned here in the US. In fact, sellers don’t have to disclose any sign of the spider wobble to buyers.
This brings on a potentially new set of problems, as many first-time snake owners might not know how to care for the spider ball python. Yet, scientists and breeders are split on whether or not the spider ball python suffers a poorer quality of life than a normal ball python will. Some of them tout that even severely affected pythons can still breed and lay quality eggs.
Reasons Why Some People Bred Them
Some of the most common arguments for breeding spider ball pythons include:
- The morph is extremely popular and will bring in decent side income.
- Spider pythons are common, making them easier to find anywhere snake lovers go.
- It’s commonplace to breed them, so there is no reason not to.
- They happen to be one of the most foundational ball pythons, so it makes no sense to stop breeding them now.
- We need them so we can study the neurological disorders associated with them.
- There is no hard evidence that the disorder causes pain, discomfort, or stress.
- They can still breed like any other morph.
- They are very beautiful.
- Some people find their wobble to be ‘cute’.
Whether or not you should breed spider ball pythons is an ethical conversation. Ultimately, however, you really need to know if you can breed them.
Can You Breed Spider Ball Pythons?
Yes, you can breed snakes with the spider morph. Breeding snakes of the same morph create what’s known as a ‘super,’ and the subsequent offspring of two ball pythons is called a super spider ball python.
There is no evidence of any living super spider snakes. The reasons behind this vary, but it is generally believed that super spiders don’t exist because:
- The eggs don’t develop and are called ‘slugs.’
- Any snakes born from the eggs often die quite quickly after hatching.
- If there are snakes inside the eggs, they won’t hatch.
Breeding to produce a super spider is quite popular because of the potential financial outcome of producing one. No breeder has claimed to have done this, so it likely isn’t possible.
How Long Do Spider Ball Pythons Live?
The spider ball python’s life expectancy is about 30 years, and some can live up to 50 years. However, how long they live depends on their wobble, its severity, and any other health issues that pop up throughout their life.
Most ball pythons also grow up to 6 feet in length and can have trouble eating and drinking as the wobble restricts their movement.
What’s The Difference Between Standard & Spider Ball Pythons
The color pattern for spider morphs is thought to be “reduced.” This contrasts with normal ball pythons with large brown and golden blotches separated by dark brown and thick black markings. Spider ball pythons are known to have larger patterns with thinner black markings.
Additional Differences in Spider Ball Pythons
Another element of spider ball pythons is that they have unmarked ventral surfaces. They have white and bright yellow markings on the lower parts of their sides. Some atypical head markings also are common with this morph, which is a bit more complicated than the traditional light patterns of normal ball pythons.
Even more interesting is that spider morphs tend to have sizeable differences in their patterns from snake to snake. No two spiders are identical, making the breed so exciting to most breeders.
Most Popular Spider Combos
The spider mutation is passed on with a dominant pattern, which makes it a favorite when creating spider combos. A spider combo is two spider morphs coming together to form one breed.
These combos include:
- Killer Bee (Super Pastel & Spider)
- Spider & Caramel
- Bumblebee (Pastel & Spider)
- Albino & Spider
- Honeybee (Spider & Ghost)
- Spinner (Pinstripe & Spider)
- Spider & Clown
- Spider & Axanthic
- Spider & Yellowbelly
There can also be other morphs that combine three spider genes, including:
- Black Pastel & Spider x Pastel
- Orange Dream Spinner (Orange Dream x Pinstripe x Spider)
- Spider Blast (Spider x Pastel x Pinstripe)
- Albino x Spider x Ghost
The reality is that the spider pattern is limitless. You can create any number of combinations that feature the spider mutation, and the patterns will be truly unique each time you breed them.
What You Need to Know Before Owning a Snake with Wobble
Owning a ball python with severe wobble is not for the faint of heart. Even more moderate cases of wobble can be challenging to uneducated snake owners. If you insist on owning one, there are a few ways to keep them happy.
For starters, ball pythons typically hunt birds and rodents in the wild. The males are superior climbers and often look for birds, while females are more partial to rodents. They never eat plants and should never be fed them.
As ambush predators, they sit motionlessly and wait for prey to walk by. They will then quickly strike, coil their body around the prey, and suffocate it before consuming it whole.
Wild ball pythons thrive in the forests and grasslands of West and Central Africa. They don’t move quite as quickly inside their tanks.
Unfortunately, because they move so slowly, many mistakenly believe they don’t require a large tank. This is not true.
Ball pythons can grow to 6 feet, which is quite long for any pet snake. They need room to stretch out and explore their environment and bodies. They also are more active than you might assume, particularly at night.
To set them up for success, make sure your adult ball pythons are housed in a 60-gallon PVC or plastic tank with transparent sides. Glass tanks are just fine, too, but require more hides and covers to keep the snake stress-free.
You’ll also need to purchase a basking lamp for them and leave it on for at least 12 hours per day to give your snake the effect of having a daytime/night-time cycle.
Humidity and temperature levels are equally important. Don’t exceed 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the tank, or reduce it to lower than 72 degrees. Humidity should stay around 50-60%.
Use cypress mulch for the substrate of your snake’s tank. Since this breed of snake doesn’t burrow, you don’t have to make it too deep. About three inches is plenty to give them the feel of their natural environment and to keep them clean and healthy.
Most spider ball pythons are friendly, calm, and stay active at nighttime. While you can put more than one in a tank if the tank is large enough for them, it can cause stress if you keep them in an enclosure with multiple snakes. They simply prefer to live solo.
Breeding for the spider ball python happens between September to December. Females tend to stay with their eggs until they hatch and then leave to live their lives.
In terms of temperament when feeling threatened, ball pythons tend to open their mouths and hiss if and when they feel threatened. Alternatively, if they feel bothered, they’ll curl up in a ball until they feel comfortable again. This is where their namesake comes from.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t see your snake much during the day, but they will get active once the lights are out. They like to climb, and you’ll find them exploring their tank once it is nighttime.
As a result of their more often than not calm demeanor, many experts recommend ball pythons as great beginner snakes.
Keep in mind, however, that even under mild stress, spiders can show off their wobble. This is common when they’re being handled. Your spider might be different from the next in terms of its wobble and the frequency of the wobble.
Enjoy Your Pet Snake–Regardless of Breed!
Spider morphs are beautiful, but the risk of severe wobble complicates ownership of one. Their uniquely beautiful patterns make anyone want to take one home, but understanding how to care for them and what to look for when you’re thinking about adding one to your collection is important to get the most out of this breed.
Whether you make a spider ball python a part of your collection or simply like to admire them from a distance is completely up to you.
Despite their controversy, they are truly great snakes.
Keep this information in mind as you decide whether or not to take a snake with wobble home and what to do when you do.
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