Breeder Interview - Mike Wilbanks


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About Mike Wilbanks

Mike Wilbanks

Mike Wilbanks. Have been keeping reptiles for most of his life, His childhood was spent with cages piled up to the ceiling in his room filled with many of the different herps that he had collected from the fields around his house.

Read more about Mike Wilbanks on his website:

See the long list of morph Mike Wilbanks did first on his WOB profile: Mike Wilbanks




Questions from our Facebook users

We got many questions from our Facebook users when we asked what they would like to ask Mike Wilbanks about. And here is what Mike, him self, had to say.


1. When did you see the difference between the Pumpkin and the Normal Champagne & what was your first Ball Python morph and when did you get it? (Eric Wachtel)

The first Champagne that I ever worked with was the pumpkin line. When I received my first animals, I called the breeder and asked if there was a mistake and if he sent me Mimosa or something instead. They were these really insane Orange and Purple animals. Then in 2012, I bred a Champagne Lesser that is from the original line and was getting these tan/brown animals. It was clearly much different. The skeptics came up to me and Daytona and I told them to go get the most orange Champagne that they have produced and bring it to compare. It was not even close. Hence, the birth of the Pumpkin Line Champagne.

There are still skeptical people, but I have never been one to talk about my own line of this or that.
Hell, I have my own line of Fire that I never even told anyone about. These Fires came from Africa, I figured it was the same gene, quietly proved it was compatible and never told anyone. You didn’t see the “Wilbanks line Fire or ember or flame” or whatever for a reason. Because if it is the same gene, then what is the point, to stroke my ego? This may very well have been part of the original line and somewhere along the way got bred to something that changed it, but it is different. I just can’t sell these beautiful orange and purple animals as the same thing as the tan stripy ones. The decision to separate this into a different line was done with a lot of consulting with people that had them. I was very hesitant, but the truth is the truth. They are different. Anyone that doesn’t believe me is free to keep making tan Champagnes. But remember, Champagne has a color, it is sort of a tan color. That is where it got it’s name. These animals would have been named orange Julius, haha.

2. Do you have morphs you wanna work with in the future? (Eric Wachtel)

I am working with almost everything. Fortunately or unfortunately most of my money goes to buy more ball pythons. That’s what I like so there are not really any genes that I want and don’t have. I still think we ALL have a lot to do with the genes we have. There is always a more beautiful ball python waiting for us in future breedings.

3. How many ball pythons do you keep? (Melanie Blausucht Richter)

We have a base collection of about 1200 females. Then I have a few hundred males. I am always upgrading the males, either more genes or better genes to refine the animals we produce.

4. What's one of the main pieces of advice you give to novice BP breeders? (Pied Piper Reptiles)

Learn everything from everybody and never stop trying new things. Perseverance is the key to success in this business. Also, careful who you deal with. Lots of snakes in this industry and only a handful of really passionate breeders. Don’t listen to anyone that tells you that you cannot do this. There are lots of failures in life that want you to be a failure too. Don’t take advice from failures. Take your advice from people who have been successful. That is sort of cliche, but it’s true.

5. How many clutches do you have per year? (Eric Wachtel)

I produce as many clutches as possible. We produce a lot on insignificant clutches just trying to produce mass numbers of base morphs to help meet the demand that has been left as the bigger breeders progress to packing more and more genes into a single animal. We produce a couple hundred clutches that I am really excited about, the rest just help pay the bills.

6. When trying to breed Vanilla creams, what are some sure ways to tell apart fires from vanillas? since they both have similar characteristics, are there any that separate the 2 apart? (Christopher Alcontin)

I am not breeding any Vanilla Creams specifically for this reason. There would be too much that I could not identify 100% in the clutch and I am not going to sell something unless I can guarantee 100% that the customer is getting what I am selling. We are only working with Super Vanillas to produce our cream stuff so that we can easily identify every animal. There is so much cool stuff to do with the Vanilla Cream stuff that eventually we will have to take the gamble, but we don’t have to now so we aren’t. And forget about the combos. I would never want to guarantee something is a Firefly when a Pastel Vanilla is also possible.

7. If you were to upgrade your collection, which morph would add that you do not already have in your collection? (Allan Riis)

OK, if I’m dreaming, then I will take a scaleless ball python. There was one several years ago called the Derma Ball and the guy that had it let it die. It is such a great responsibility when you have the only gene in existence and it is a shame that he didn’t send it to someone who would not let that happen. Scaleless Ball Python would be a complete game changer and whoever gets one first just hit the lottery. We know it is genetic. It is only a matter of time before one pops up. Then the bidding war will begin. I already have most of the other genes that I want. In fact, I really can’t think of a single one that I still want and don’t have. This will be a big year for us Banana/Coral Glow wise so I think a lot of people reading this will have an opportunity to add that mutation to their collection. A purple and orange co-dom ball python, it doesn’t get much better. Except for maybe the Atomic.

8. How do you keep humidity high without having the eggs rot? (Chris Bouguyon)

I don’t know how to answer that. Our incubator is perfect and we really don’t have many problems. I use Vermiculite mixed with water. This year I plan to switch to a substratless system with the light grid. A lot of breeders are switching to this system and it takes all the guess work out of mixing substrate. I am good at mixing it perfect, but I don’t want to mix every clutch anymore. The whole operation has gotten so big and it takes too much time to mix vermiculite. We had days last year when we were mixing and setting up almost 50 clutches. We just need a more efficient way. Throughout my career I have always looked for efficiency and automation to help give the animals better care.

9. How expensive was his first morph breeding snake? ()

My first breeding snakes were het. Albino retics.($15,000/pair).

10. Do you have a method to switch from feeding ball pythons living rats to frozen? If yes, what is this method? (Łukasz Koszczyc)

We were pretty successful converting this summer. We had a big shortage and had to switch our babies to thawed. We just heat them in hot water and drag the bucket down the isle. Then we tease the snake and try to make the rat look alive. With practice you can get almost any snake to grab it right away. My guys are way better than me. They can get them to take it so fast. It just takes so much more time. I prefer to feed live.

11. How do you keep humidity high in winter? (Steffa Forest)

We don’t. Ball Pythons breed better when they go through a dry cycle. People fighting the natural flow of the environment too much are costing themselves clutches. You start getting bad sheds and more ovulations. We make it very humid in the summer though by cooling with evaporative coolers. We do no use air conditioning at all. The Heat and Air guys said it wouldn’t work, but they are thinking to make me comfortable. Sometimes with gets really hot hear, like 105+F. We can keep it in the upper 80s with the swamp coolers. It also keeps a nice breeze of fresh air blowing through for the animals. When you walk into my facility, it smells good like being outside. I am sure the animals do better in an environment like this as opposed to one that is artificial feeling like air conditioning.

12. What was your very first reptile? What was your first ball python morph and when did you decide to make this your profession? ()

My first ball python morph was a het. Albino male and 6 normal females. I decided to make this a profession when I was 6 years old and caught my first snake. That snake was a garter snake and it changed everything for me. I didn’t know that I could do this as a profession until Bob Clark started the morph craze. Once I knew I could work with snakes and provide well for my family, I was all over it.

13. What is still his fav basic morph that he breeds the most and in this day and age is it still worth a person that does this for fun to breed snakes that are basic morphs like lesser and fire and mojave and combos of them? (Shane Bruno)

Fire is still my favorite base morph because it is really where I started making a name for myself. I love everything the fire does when combined with other genes. Enchi is starting to push the Fire out a little and might move into first in my mind soon. There is just so much that can be done with Enchi.

Of course, there is a larger demand than ever for the base morphs because of people chasing higher combo animals. Try to find any numbers of base morph girls today. They are in short supply.

14. Why do you make a lot of black eyed Lucy's? (Hunter Krajewski)

Because there is market demand for them. We produce about 200 Super Fires every year and I am still selling out around 3-4 monthes before we start hatching more. I need to close that gap and produce more, but there are so many Fire combos that I need to use my Fire girls for. As we produce males with the Fire gene combinations that we want, it will free up some girls in the future. Then we should be able to up production of the Super Fire. That project is solid. We have not seen a price drop on Super Fires in 4 years.

15. What was your first ever Ballpython breeding pair? (Lenny Lacreptiles)

Het. Albino X Normal. I produced some possible hets and later proved a couple of them. I still have those first 2 girls in my collection.

16. What problems did you run into when he started breeding, and advice for new breeders. (Clint Bundy)

Everything. In the beginning I was trying a lot of stuff that had not been tried before. A lot of it did not work. Over the years we have honed our system for maximum efficiency for husbandry and production, but it took hard work and a ton of failure along the way. You know, kind of like life.

17. What was your first "worlds first" clutch or hatchling? (Morgan Weiss)

World of Ball Pythons has a pretty accurate list of my accomplishments along with most other breeders.

18. What species did you start with? (Michael Matton)

Burmese Python was my first python over 30 years ago, but my first snake was a Garter snake.

19. Many moons ago I believe you was involved in the striated boa project with Bob Clark. What was the back ground on that Boa? (Michael Matton)

Bob tried to breed the male. Unfortunately that boa was lost his first year of breeding. Young male boas can be tricky to keep them from over exerting themselves. Shame that gene was lost. It would have been interesting to see what it would have produced.

20. What projects is he most excited about to work on in the future? (Andy Grossman)

Answered on the Video portion.

21. Are you ever going to work on more banana combos in the future or do you keep the gene for rare pairings? (Bengal San)

Of course. The Banana/Coral Glow is the most important ball python gene ever! Having said that, I am going to take it nice and slow. I want to make myself more to work with and I am not that interested in going big with the combinations this year. We will be combining it with some of our exclusive genes to see what new we can make, but probably not until next year. This gene is so good by itself, every combo seems to become something less. I am always looking to produce a better ball python. I have to give this gene more thought to see where we should go.

22. Has he ever passed on a new morph only to regret it later and if so what was it? Also...going forward what would he consider the must have high end and low end morphs. ()

Everything and I mean ever single gene that I have passed up I have regretted it later. In 1999, I was at the Daytona expo right next to Greg Graziani. He had some of the first pastels on his table for $7500. I pulled my credit card out several times. I wanted those beautiful, yellow ball pythons so bad! If I would have pulled the trigger, I would be light years ahead of where I am now. That is just one example. My biggest regrets are animals that I passed on **cough** Orange Dream **cough. I have never regretted any ball python that I have bought. When I get that box with my new ball python in it, I’m still like a kid on Christmas.

23. What does he feel in his opion that the reptile nation/community as a whole is lacking? Where does he see this industry overall in 10yrs? (Ssscales)

We are lacking cohesiveness. It seems that every time we start to get some momentum at being organized and fighting some of the new legislation, we shoot ourselves in the foot and sabotage our success. The thing Kevin organized, GRAIN is a big step in the right direction. Education will win this fight for us because the TRUTH is on our side. We just need to make our voice loud enough to be heard over the media’s hype. We have the truth, they have sensationalism. Unfortunately sensationalism usually wins.

I cannot tell anything about 10 years down the road. 10 years ago, I would have never predicted that it would have been possible for people in the scientific community to get away with lying about something like they have this issue.

24. What Clown projects is he working on and most excited about? (Matt Mattera)

Answered in the video.

25. Since when do you come to Europe (Hamm Show) and what was the reason for it? (Eric Wachtel)

I think my first Hamm show was in December 2005. I just came to check it out. I loved it and have been coming ever since. I just get to talk to so many of my friends in Europe on a regular basis. I guess as long as I am having fun going, I will keep doing it. Eric is one of the people that I like to see there. He is young and enthusiastic and will be a super star in this business someday if he sticks with it. Unfortunately the young, enthusiastic guys, get their dreams squashed when they listen to life’s losers. I never have understood why people want to listen to negative people and believe them. I lean more to the delusional side sometimes. People will tell me something won’t work and I just don’t believe them until I find out for myself. Most of the time I discover that they were doing something wrong. Primarily not believing that they could succeed. I know I sound big on the “positive thinking” deal, but it really works. I fight everyday to keep out the negative influences in my life.

26. When is the dvd coming out? (Andrew Thompson)

Here is the problem with the DVD. I have started doing my own video editing. I want this DVD to be perfect. We are explaining everything that we do here and we do things differently than a lot of people in the industry. These are techniques that will definitely help you to get more clutches from your colony. We have innovated so much that when you are finished watching it, you will come away with some new, more efficient ways to do things. I want this video to be 2 hours of perfection. If I don’t get what I think is, by far, the best product that I can release, then I won’t release it. I could slap something together and make some money, but that is not what this is about. I want to pass on much of what I have learned to the next generation. I want this DVD to be something that helps everyone, from the most advanced to the beginner. This is a big task. If I do not get what I want on film, then I will wait until next breeding season to capture the footage I need. If it never reaches perfection, then it will never be released. If I give up on creating the perfect video, we will just start dumping the footage to Youtube. Stay tuned.

Also what morphs should starting out breeders focus on?

I would pick about 5 base morphs that have demonstrated the best combination making potential. Start with some females of those. You might get a couple of males too to breed to some normal females to help generate some cash flow while you are waiting for the girls to grow up. This will help you justify the whole thing and give you a little practice with breeding, incubating eggs, etc.

27. When are you going to tell the truth about breeding and stop luring newbies in to expensive breeding projects that do not work? (Doug Craig)

Haha, you caught me. My whole life has been a sham......I don’t know what else to say to you except that it must suck to live in your world of negativity. There have been people like you in this business from the beginning. When I acquired my first pair of het albino retics, people were saying on the forums that I would never make any money and I had been tricked, basically the same thing you are saying. I just kept a positive attitude and moved forward. I figured, what did I have to lose?, I like working with snakes anyway and if I never make any money then I am still getting to work with animals that I love. Fast forward almost 20 years and it surpassed my wildest dreams. You really should google “Norman Vincent Peale” and buy one of his books. Sounds like you really need to change your state in life. Good luck if you don’t change your attitude, you are going to have to rely on luck. Unfortuantely lady luck is pretty cruel most of the time. I feel sorry for you.

28. I had the same question as scaless. how do you see the bp industry in 10yrs or so. More bans from states ? A to big offer of bp's and cant sell them anymore.. (Kevin Moons)

The world is a big place. There are many countries that have never even caught this obsession yet or even know that it exists. Many of us are working to expand the market and bring to people that love snakes but have not been exposed to the morphs. The US and Europe continues to get crowded, but there are new people coming in all the time. We have grown steadily over all the years we have been in business. I guess if I ever see a year in decline, then I will start to worry. Until then I am just going to have fun, living this dream. I suggest you do the same. If the end ever comes, then we will know. Trying to forcast and be smarter than the market is a fool’s game. If I would have done that, I might have quit when the market got really tough in 2006. I just kept at it and worked to expand the market.

29. If a male doesn't want to breed and it's lazy what would he do to make sure the lazy snake still breeds the sane here? (Darrin Babb)

I have a lot of tricks to make a male start breeding. We will have them on the DVD. Pray for perfection and it will come out. This is one of my secrets that I can’t wait to show you, but I want to do it in the right way. I hope you can be patient. You will not be disappointed.

30. I would like to ask him what are the best tips he could give for a breeding pair to be happy in a vivarium together? (Adam Mcdermott)

I would not keep them together. Ball Pythons will tolerate each other, but they are solitary animals. Anything you can do to more closely mimic their wild environment will make happier snakes. I doubt they would ever live together in the wild. Occasionally, I will have a male fall in love and not want to stop breeding for a few days, but I have never found one that wants to get married. They are usually happy to move on to other girls.

31. What is the most morphs Mike has managed to put into one single snake?? 5,6,7 Banger? (Phil Barclay)

I think I have some 6s. It gets so washed out, it is hard to tell if you have them all in there. I would rather make a stunning 2 gene combo, then try to pack a bunch of genes in there for ego and end up with an ugly snake. I like to make spectacular animals. If I can do that with a couple of genes, then I will be satisfied with that. I’ll leave that ego thing to other guys who care about it.

32. How does he feel about the laws that have been written that ban snakes, even ones he does notbreed? even if the law did not pass.... (Brianne Coffelt)

It is all bad. I’m a Libertarian. In the US, that is a political party that believes in freedom, even freedom to make bad decisions and hurt myself. I would not be surprised if our government passed a law that said that I am required to wear a sweater on cold days so I don’t catch a cold and cost the health care system money. I think I would wear a sheepskin coat just to make my own little statement about their stupid laws. People are sheep. I wish more people would see that, but it is easier to be a sheep, I guess. Snake bans are silly and they are not even to correct a real problem. If you have ever had an annoying neighbor and said, “that should be illegal”, you are part of the problem. The United States started as a place where we believed in a concept of freedom. Then, over time it has become like every place else. A tyrannical government seeking to impose its will on the people. It is really sad what has happened here. I always laugh when I hear someone say that we are fighting for our freedom or that we are even a free country. Have these people traveled at all? Mexico is more free than we are. We are just more organized. Anyway, I could talk all day about this, but, as to your question, I think it is all bad. I am giving money to anyone that will work on fighting it. I am helping with GRAIN. Besides that, it is up to the masses to say NO to all of it, not just the snake bans, but any law that infringes on liberty without a tangible benefit to society. Unfortunately that tangible benefit sales pitch gets packaged by a complicit, lying media.

33. Is the eclipse genetic? (Dean Reptiles)

Yes, I went over this in the video. I have produced 4 animals that I feel fall into the Eclipse category with the complete split head. When the first one hatched, I knew it was genetic because of the genes involved, but I never thought I would see that head split again. That was a nice surprise. The sky is the limit with this gene. It will be a gene that everyone will eventually want in their breeding arsenal. I am just happy it came to me first.

34. What genes are in the Eclipse And how much will he sell one for? lol (Becky Clark)

The main gene in the Eclipse is a new gene that I named Atomic. It is a simple recessive gene. We are calling the perfect head split animals Eclipse and so far we have produced 4 of those. I am not thinking about how much I am going to sell them for yet. They will be expensive. The Atomic is the most important ball python gene that I have ever worked with. It will change everything and start everything all over again, so I want to manage it properly. People will want to combine it with everything and I think people will be amazed when they see its full potential. I can’t wait!!!

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