A bumble bee ball python is a unique coloration of python, known as a designer, morph, or combo morph, directly descended from the Python regius species known to inhabit Africa. Specifically, the bumble bee ball python is produced through a cross between a pastel ball python and a spider ball python, two of the more common designer ball python morphs available in the exotic pets trade. The name bumble bee stems from the snake's characteristic coloring, including a bright yellow body with highly contrasted dark brown to black striping, similar to a bumble bee. Coloration is the only difference between this type of python and any other member of the Python regius species.
As a species, ball pythons represent the smallest of African pythons. Like other members of the Python regius species, the ball python is a nonvenomous, docile snake known as a constrictor for the way it squeezes its prey, rather than biting it. Due to the docile nature of the species as a whole, ball pythons are favored as exotic pets because they pose less risk to novice owners compared to other constrictor snakes. Inherently docile temperaments allow the pet trade to experiment with breeding for visual or aesthetic traits, rather than behavioral traits of the species. The unique coloration of ball pythons grew in popularity during the late 1980s and into the 1990s, resulting in numerous designer pythons, such as the bumble bee variety.
In the wild, ball pythons typically have a normal color pattern with varying shades of brown or tan contrasted with dark brown to black spots, bands, or stripes. Genetic mutations in coloring occur naturally, but not with the frequency required to satisfy the demands of the pet snake industry. Breeders within the exotic pets industry therefore cross different subspecies of pythons in an attempt to hatch clutches with new or rare color combinations, special markings, or other unique traits far more frequently that what typically occurs in nature. Bumble bee ball pythons are one such unique coloration desired by breeders and owners alike.
Pythons bred for specific color combinations outside of what appears in the wild are known as morphs. Combo morphs, such as the bumble bee ball python, display more than one genetically unique trait, usually the result of breeding two morphs with dominant genes. Typically, any creature will inherit a dominant gene, such as eye, skin, or hair color, from one parent and a recessive gene from the other parent. Dominant genetics are so named because these traits will dominate over any other trait, and thus show in visual characteristics. For example, dominant traits for normal brown-black coloring in a ball python will show in offspring before recessive traits such as albino.
Even in natural habitats, a select few species and subspecies are able to inherit and express two dominant traits simultaneously. Such is the case with this ball python subspecies. Both pastel and the spider ball pythons pass down a dominant coloration gene. Expression of both genes produces the tell-tale yellow and black striping coloration of a bumble bee ball python. To be specific, a bumble bee ball python expresses the lemon yellow coloring of a Pastel morph, while simultaneously expressing the thin black striping of a Spider morph.