Get to know the cute and cutely named Pewter Bee Ball Python.
Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim
Animal Scene Note: In our January 2016 issue, Cliff Sawit (who also interviewed Pitlair) writes that “…the ball python or Python regius…is the most commonly kept snake in the world.” He adds that their relatively compact size, ready availability, fairly easy care requirement makes them popular. “For a ball python to be considered a morph, it must look significantly and distinctly different from the wild type, otherwise known as a ‘Normal’ within the community.
Next, that distinctly different appearance must be an inheritable trait, meaning that it should be capable of being passed down from one generation to another.” Pythons such as the Pewter Bee come into being through breeding for recessive genes, meaning, “…they must have a matched gene pair from both parents in order to produce a visual difference in its appearance. Piebalds [featured in a recent Animal Scene issue], albinos, and axanthics are good examples of recessive morphs.”
Q: How did it get its name “Pewter Bee”?
A: Let’s first understand that in this hobby, if you are the first to come up with new morph or a “first in the world,” you get to name it whatever you want. Pewter is a combination of cinnamon and pastel; when they first produced this, the babies had a grayish metal look to them, hence the guy that first produced this decided to name it pewter.
The “Bee” is a combination of the spider and pastel gene. The guy who first produced this named it “bumblebee,” because as babies are very yellow with black strips of lines, making them resemble bumblebees, hence the name. Since I was the first to come up with this combination, I could have named it as I wished, but because these are already combinations people are familiar with, I simply combined these familiar names to make it easier to identify. As for “Mystic Pewter Bee ball python,” ‘mystic” is a reference to another morph or gene added.
Q: How big can you expect it to grow? How long is its lifespan? What other basics should those interested in it know?
A: About 3-4 feet; it lives from 15 to 20 years. As for the other basics, this will depend what the interest is. Meaning, is it going to be a pet, a show animal, or for breeding? In this case let’s focus on the breeding aspect as most keepers or hobbyists would like to this: use a 4 gene specimen to come up with a different desirable combination. With so many other morphs becoming affordably available, ball python keepers have so many options to combine. The key is doing some research and asking knowledgeable people. This will guide you as to what look you want to achieve and how to do it.
For example, by being able to add another pastel gene to this combination, you can expect the outcome of this ball python to be lighter in color and to have further reduced patterns. The combinations are endless, which is one of the aspects that make this hobby interesting.
Q: Is it native to the Philippines or is it imported?
A: It’s native to Africa.
Q: What for you are the defining characteristics of the Pewter Bee ball python?
A: Their color and pattern, plus they are also a foundation combination for many cool designer morphs.
Q: Are they a recent mutation? Can you trace its origins?
A: No, they are not a recent mutation, but yes, they were first produced by Greg Graziani in 2002.
Q: Was it difficult for you to raise a Pewter Bee ball python? What are the best things you’ve learned about keeping it, in your experience? What challenges did you face in its care, and how did you overcome these? Do their care requirements vary from other, similar pythons or are they the same as those of other pythons?
A: No, it wasn’t difficult to raise them. Pythons are so diverse and varied that we cannot generalize when it comes to care requirements; it is only prudent that we should know the care requirements for a particular python. Do they need a lot of attention? No. Do they need a special diet? They are carnivores, and in captivity, for ease of accessible prey that provides all their nutritional needs, they are fed mainly rodents.
Q: Do they require exercise? Will they need a special habitat?
A: Given housing of a sufficient size, this will be adequate, but allowing them out to search out every so often would be a plus, but not necessary. The basic housing requirements for them are for it to be clean, to have a water dish, correct humidity, temperature, and quite less activity area. A hide gives them an added feeling of security. No UV light is required.
Q: What are the characteristics of a healthy Pewter Bee ball python?
A: Alert, feeds regularly.
Q: Conversely, what signs should keepers look out for that indicate when it is sick?
A: Lethargic, dull scale texture, thin. Slow or indifferent response to touch or stimulus.
Q: What are its health problems that keepers should watch out for? Does it have species-specific problems or illnesses?
A: External parasites, viral or bacterial infections. They fall prey to illness like any living animal, but they remain relatively healthy with proper care. They are known not to eat for long periods of time and this sometimes causes anxiety for the keeper, specially for newbies. This could last for a month to few months and in extreme cases, over a year, and it’s not really that uncommon. Some ball pythons do this, and once they start feeding again, it doesn’t seem to affect their overall health. I had one that didn’t eat for 6 months.
Q: For someone who is interested in keeping a Pewter Bee ball python for a pet, can you give them things to consider before taking the plunge? Who would they make ideal pets for?
A: Get as much information as you can by reading about it and asking around before you get one. Start slow to build up your experience in keeping ball pythons. They are ideal pets for any person who understands the commitment in raising and keeping animals, likes snakes, or is looking for an unusual pet. Naturally, he or she must not have a fear of snakes. The ball python is a relatively easy type of snake to keep. It is one of the top beginner snakes, in my opinion.
Q: Are there any risks involved in keeping a Pewter Bee ball python? What should first-time keepers know about having one?
A: They are non-venomous, and ideally, they should be housed separately. They are cared for like any other ball python Q: How does the Pewter Bee ball python interact with humans? Can they show affection the way traditional pets do, or do they express themselves another way?A: They would not be comparable to other pets, like dogs, cats, birds, or fish. They can be held; they do not respond to verbal or non-verbal commands. They do not show affection (in the way we expect ‘traditional’ pets to do). They do achieve different levels of being handled. You can look at and admire them, though I would suggest they be touched in moderation.
This appeared without a byline as “Pretty in Pewter” in Animal Scene’s April 2016 issue.