Seen Spider Ball Pythons and their hypopigmentation? Wondered about the Wobble? Here’s all about this morph and their neurological disease.
Spider Ball Pythons are a morph that displays stringy, web-like stripes and causes a reduction in pigmentation. They have the same captive care requirements as a Ball Python. Every Spider will be born with a neurological disease called the “Spider Wobble”. The severity of the disease depends on the snake.
In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about Spider Ball Pythons, a morph of the popular Ball Python. I’ll start by explaining where they originated and why they’re popular. Then, I’ll talk about the Spider Wobble, a neurological disease that all Spider Ball Pythons have to some degree. Next, I’ll discuss if Spider Ball Pythons are found in the wild. After that, you’ll learn how to safely manage the Wobble by maintaining a safe, low stimulus environment. Then, you’ll learn about other Ball Python morphs that have the Wobble and morphs that are considered healthy. We will wrap up this article with some final thoughts on Spider Ball Pythons so you can make an informed decision on if this is the type of pet that would fit your lifestyle.
Introduction to Spider Ball Pythons
The Spider Ball Python was introduced to the pet trade in 1999. These pythons are known for having thin black markings that look similar to spider webs. Overall, they have a reduced pattern. Their heads will have prominent, detailed markings that are more complex than other morphs. The Spider Ball Python trait is an incomplete dominant gene, so breeders have had excellent results-producing dazzling colors. They only need to breed one Spider Ball Python and one other Ball Python to get a clutch with some Spiders. That’s why there are some remarkable colors with these pythons. They are easy to breed and sell due to their trait dominance. The Bumblebee Spider morph is popular for its yellow hues, while the Albino Spider morph boasts bold pink eyes.
Spider Ball Pythons are a controversial morph; they all are born with a neurological disease called the “Spider Wobble”. This neurological condition varies in severity but can decrease the quality of life in the python.
It is important to note that the Spider Ball Python is not found in large numbers in the wild. The first Spider Ball Python was discovered and imported by New England Reptiles Distribution, NERD, in 1999. The original person to have found the snake confirmed that the subadult had a noticeable wobble when they bred it, raising ethical concerns. Hobbyists continued to breed them, creating stunning patterns with the dominant trait. The appealing colors that are seen on the market today are from decades of breeding from that single descendent.
Without human intervention, the original snake may not have survived for much longer with its current condition. When two Spiders breed, their offspring are stillborn. This indicates that their condition is not supportive of natural life without human intervention. It’s important to keep these ethical considerations in mind when we talk about the captive life of the Spider Ball Python.
The Spider Wobble is a neurological condition that is present in all Spider Ball Pythons. The gene that produces thin banding also causes this central nervous system condition. Every snake that has the Spider Ball Python gene will also have the Spider Wobble. Geneticists theorize that the gene that causes the spider pattern also creates a defect in the formation of the neurons while the snake is in the embryo. There is no way to separate the Spider Ball Python pattern from the neurological condition; it can’t be bred out.
Some owners will not notice the Wobble displayed in their snakes; it’s imperceptible in some, but it’s still present. Many Spider Ball Pythons will lead a normal life while in captivity. This neurological condition can vary in severity but affects the snake’s ability to move with accuracy.
The snake may have trouble balancing, poor coordination and may wobble its head back and forth. It may look like it’s repeatedly shaking its head no, which can be disorienting for the snake. They may have a hard time focusing their vision.
These pythons may be unable to distinguish up from down due to their balance problem. In extreme cases, they will flip their head upside down in a corkscrew motion, unable to straighten their neck. They may lay on their backs, unable to flip themselves the right way. This can cause poor feeding reflexes, where the snake is unable to hunt its prey with accuracy.
They may also have low muscle tone, and a loose grip in their tail. This means that climbing, anchoring, and exploring may be limited. The Wobble does not simply affect the head, but the entire body.
In extreme cases, they may be unable to fulfill their basic living tasks, such as eating and climbing. In cases where the snake is unable to function, it will need to be euthanized. Some Spider Ball Pythons will not make it to adulthood, while others will live a normal life in captivity.
It’s impossible to tell if this condition causes discomfort or any other unseen side effects. This morph has only been around twenty years, so the Wobble hasn’t been studied for the entire duration of the snake’s life. The python’s quality of life may be reduced as it lives with a neurological condition that causes imbalance, incoordination, and loss of muscle tone.
There is no way to predict how pronounced the Spider Wobble will be in a python. Sometimes, a snake can display a prominent wobble immediately after hatching, or it can take years to develop. There is no defined link between pattern prominence and the Wobble. A python can have a prominent spider pattern and a very slight wobble.
Furthermore, the wobble can come and go in cycles for these pythons. Illness, unstable cage conditions, or other stressors can bring out the Wobble in a Spider Ball Python who was not prominently displaying it before.
Feeding or handling can make the Wobble worse, as your snake becomes excited. Any moments of stress or excitement can produce a more defined wobble. It’s important to note that the Wobble is disorienting, so it is best to keep your python’s conditions stable to prevent this from happening.
There is no cure for the Spider Wobble. It’s a chronic, untreatable condition. Breeders don’t have to disclose which snakes are prominently affected by this disease, and you may not be aware that the snake you are receiving has a severe wobble until you have brought it home. Many buyers purchase these snakes with no information on the possibility of this condition. Currently, there are no widely enforced regulations for breeders who sell snakes with the Wobble.
While the Spider Wobble may decrease your Spider Ball Python’s quality of life, it will not decrease its lifespan unless it’s severe. Taking care of a special needs snake means that you may have to make certain adaptations to their care to keep them safe. You may not be able to handle them frequently and you may need to provide more time for feeding sessions. While the Wobble may not be present in your python, there is a risk that it may become pronounced at any point. These are some special considerations to keep in mind when contemplating the Spider Ball Python as a long-term pet.
There have been calls amongst the reptile community to ban this morph for the Spider Wobble condition. In 2018, the International Herpetological Society prohibited the sale of Spider Ball Pythons in their shows, but the morph remains popular and can still be found through online vendors. The International Herpetological Society argues that the breeding of a known neurological disease is cruel and that breeders are putting their financial endeavors over the health of the animal.
How Can We Manage the Spider Wobble?
The Spider Wobble can be exacerbated by periods of stress. Studies have shown that the Wobble also feeds into itself. The more the snake wobbles due to an outside stimulus, the more pronounced the Wobble is. This is probably because the snake finds wobbling to be stressful. In other words, once the Wobble starts, it’s hard to slow down. It’s important to minimize the stress your Spider Ball Python experiences. This means that their tank should be in a quiet area of the house with low foot traffic. It shouldn’t be in the TV room or by the garage. This will reduce the likelihood of outside stimulus startling your python.
As a reptile owner, proper husbandry is essential to maintaining the health of your python. There are some specific interventions that you can apply to your Spider Ball Python vivarium to help minimize the Wobble. Your python should be housed in a 40-gallon enclosure or larger. You should ensure that your vivarium has covered sides. Your snake shouldn’t be able to see out of its glass enclosure. The vastness of the room may stress your snake out, and the increase in stimulus may cause the Wobble to worsen. A wooden vivarium is recommended. If you have a glass enclosure, hang newspaper or blankets on the side to obscure the view.
Because your snake may not be able to focus its vision during feeding sessions, you should never be using live prey. The Wobble causes your python balance issues that hinder their ability to hunt with precision. They may not be able to accurately track, constrict, or strike correctly. This means that your snake may become injured in their struggle with live prey. It’s always advised to use captive-bred, thawed rodents during feeding time.
Depending on how bad the Wobble is in your snake, you may have to hold the prey directly in front of your constrictor. There have been cases of a snake missing the rodent and biting itself, causing injury and stress. Set aside more time than usual for feedings, and understand that extra care may be needed to make sure your snake can eat adequately. Feedings can exacerbate the Wobble due to excitement so expect feeding sessions to be a challenging endeavor.
Make sure to never handle your snake after a feeding session. This can cause regurgitation, when a snake expels its recently eaten food without digesting it. This is an exceptionally stressful situation and can cause the Wobble to become more defined. If your snake regurgitates, refrain from handling it until the next feeding session to minimize stress.
Providing multiple hides and extra clutter around the tank will make your Spider Ball Python feel more secure. Your enclosure should have a minimum of three hides, more if you can fit them. In addition, you should have branches, leaves, vines, and fake plants from the top of the cage to the bottom.
Make sure that decorations are sturdy enough for your python to explore safely. Ensure that the branches and ledges are wide and that they build off of each other. If your snake loses grip from low muscle tone, they won’t fall to the floor. Providing this extra clutter will make your snake feel less exposed and they will feel more relaxed exploring their captive environment.
Handling your Spider Ball Python can be a stressful time and this can cause an increase in the Wobble. If your snake presents with the Wobble after handling, it’s recommended to limit the time you spend with your python. If you do hold your snake and handling doesn’t seem to make the Wobble worse, there are a few ways you can modify your sessions to keep your snake safe.
You should be holding your snake with a slightly firmer grip than your other snakes. These snakes may be unable to anchor themselves with their tail and may lose grip during handling sessions. You will need to be ready to catch them to prevent injury. You should also handle them when sitting or while standing over furniture. If they lose grip and you’re unable to catch them, they don’t have a long drop to the floor. This keeps the risk of injury to a minimum.
If your snake is sick, the Wobble may be one of the first signs to present itself. Illness can stress your snake, which can cause the Wobble to appear. If your snake is beginning to show signs of the Wobble and your husbandry is correct, it may be time to visit the vet. Your snake may be developing a respiratory infection, becoming impacted, or some other ailment that you haven’t been able to pick up on yet. The Wobble may be a sign that your snake is not at their baseline of health. When you fix your snake’s ailment, the Wobble should return to its prior level.
Finally, you should be closely monitoring the temperature and humidity gradient of your vivarium. Improper humidity and temperature levels can cause a snake to become stressed, so the tank levels should be stable at all times. There should be multiple thermometers and hygrometers set up throughout the enclosure. In addition, you should have an infrared thermometer to measure surface temperatures under the basking spots.
Spider Ball Pythons have the same captive-care requirements as Ball Pythons. They thrive with a humidity level of around 60%. They will need a UVB light covering ¾ of their tank. Their basking temperature should be between 88 and 92 degrees, and their cool side can be 76 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, the tank can dip to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a Ceramic Heat Emitter to achieve those levels and not put out any light that disrupts their sleep.
Other Morphs and the “Wobble”
The Spider Ball Python is not the only snake to have the neurological condition that causes wobbling, imbalance, and poor muscle tone. Ball Pythons have the most morphs that present with the Wobble. Corn snakes have been known to present with a wobble, but theirs is from excitement and is not a neurological disease.
This Wobble gene has been found in the following morphs in snakes:
- Hidden Gene Woma
- Super Sable
- Powerball Spotnose
Some combinations of these morphs are more lethal than others and will produce a more pronounced disability in their offspring. Some will be born with a duckbill that will make it difficult to eat. Many of these morphs when bred in combination will produce offspring that will die soon after hatching. Overall, these morphs are considered unhealthy and may have a higher probability of being born with some sort of neurological or physical deficit.
There are similar-looking Ball Python morphs that don’t have the disorienting neurological disease that the Spider Ball Pythons are born with. The Pinstripe and Bamboo Ball Python morph produces a very similar-looking hypopigmentation pattern to the Spider Ball Python. Both morphs have minimal spots and instead, have stringy, spider-like patterns.
Pastel Ball Pythons have vibrant colors for those looking at the Bumblebee Spider Python and wanting something with a stunning color palette. Candino and Coral Glow Ball Pythons are more exceptional examples of healthy, beautiful Ball Pythons. There are plenty of remarkable Ball Python Morphs that make great pets without the risk of them developing the Wobble, like the Spider Ball Python.
The Spider Ball Python is a controversial, popular snake that came into the hobby in 1999 when a subadult was found in the wild and bred for its thin banding. Since then, breeders have experimented with different breeding combinations to create stunning colors that can be sold at high price points.
However, every Spider Ball Python will be born with some degree of a neurological disease called the Spider Wobble. This disease is caused by the same gene that causes the hypopigmentation that makes this morph so popular amongst hobbyists. The Wobble can cause disorientation, lack of coordination, corkscrewing, loss of muscle tone, and head shaking. The Wobble is hard to predict. More pattern definition does not necessarily mean more Wobble, and the Wobble can come and go. Periods of stress, such as feeding, handling, and improper husbandry can bring out a more pronounced Wobble. A snake can go years without a Wobble and then develop it later in life. In some snakes, the Wobble is barely perceptible, while in others it causes a severe handicap.
The Wobble can be found in many other unhealthy Ball Python morphs as well. There are stunning, healthy alternative morphs that produce similar-looking patterns. If you do bring home a snake that has an extreme case of this neurological disease, there are interventions to minimize the Wobble. Your husbandry should be impeccable, including humidity and temperature levels. Multiple hides should be provided, and your vivarium should be cluttered. Your vivarium should be in a quiet area of the home. Handling may stress your python; if you do handle your snake, you should do so when sitting. If your snake loses its grip, it will not drop far to the floor. Extra time should be given for feeding sessions and live prey should never be provided. The Spider Wobble is a neurological disease that may cause lower quality of life in certain morphs of Ball Pythons but can be managed with interventions to reduce stress and maintain safety.
Hi! My name is Janelle and I am a reptile keeper from the United States. I’ve been raising reptiles for ten years. I love creating custom vivariums. I currently keep a Jeweled Lacerta, Sprout.