Congratulations President-Elect Obama

We'd like to congratulate Mr. Obama as President-Elect of the United States of America and Mr. Biden as Vice President-Elect of the United States of America for their victory. I must also commend and congratulate Mr. McCain as well for fighting to the very end and for his dediction and service to our country.

Respectfully yours,
Ron Crawford, RCReptiles.com

President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden
President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden

Frozen Thawed is a Success! (So far)

I sort of feel like the time is 1:59 AM and I’ve just arrived to the hottest party of the year all decked out in my finest wardrobe only to find out that the party is just about over - it ends at 2:00 AM. What I mean by this is that many people are already feeding their ball pythons frozen thawed (f/t) and I’m the late one to the party. I must confess though - the feedings have gone much better than I anticipated. In fact, they have been nothing short of spectacular!

Camera-phone photo of an albino ball python feeding on a f/t rat
Camera-phone photo of an albino ball python feeding on a f/t rat

As mentioned in a previous blog, I made the decision to scale back breeding our own rodents and purchase them frozen in mass-bulk from other rodent breeders. We invested in several deep freezers to house the rodents and pretty much packed them all with a variety of sizes ranging from mouse hoppers all the way up to medium rats. Several large-scale ball python breeders whom I associate and speak with frequently told me I was completely “nuts” for trying to go from live to frozen, especially with our rodent bill estimated to increase drastically per month just on frozen feeder rodents. Truth be told, I was reluctant to make the transition from live to frozen based on the horror stories I was told but I’m very happy to note that the transition thus far has been very rewarding! You can read a previous blog entry about how to feed f/t but I’ll discuss briefly what we’ve been doing to get our adult and smaller size ball pythons to feed on f/t.

In a nutshell, we tally the number of ball pythons that we plan to feed for the day and take out the appropriate number of rodents. We then remove the rodents from the zip-loc bags they came packed in to new zip-loc bags. The reason why we do this is because they will ultimately be submerged in hot water for a period of time to thaw out and the bags that the rodents were originally packed in usually have small puncture holes from claws. After they’ve been thawing for several hours we remove them from the bags, place them on a sterile table lined with paper and then pull out the blow dryer!

Blow dryer used to warm f/t rodents
Blow dryer used to warm f/t rodents

I hope my wife isn’t reading this blog because for some strange reason she has been unable to find her blow dryer for the past few days. Where in heaven's name could it possibly be? (wink, wink) ball-python-joke

We use the blow dryer to get the surface temperatures of the rodents above room temperature and closer to 90 degrees or so Fahrenheit. This simulates the actual body temperature of a living rodent. I’ve noticed that some of our ball pythons that did not accept f/t when offered readily accepted when we hit the rodent with the blow dryer for a few seconds and then offered it to them again. BAM!

I think heating the rodents also causes scent molecules to move about rapidly (along with the pungent odor) causing the ball pythons to feed more quickly when the f/t prey item is offered to them. Interestingly enough, I am in awe of how f/t feeding has transformed a dedicated female adult pastel mouse feeder of eight years to switch over to rats. She refused rats ever since she was a hatchling and only had a desire to feed on mice. We offered her a f/t rat for the heck of it and BAM! I thought it was just “pure luck” but she has taken f/t each time we’ve offered them to her. Believe me when I tell you that she turned her nose up to live rats but has since started feeding regularly on f/t rats.

A useful tool that comes in handy is our laser sighted “temperature gun” from Raytek. This handy tool will display the surface temperature of any object. Just aim the laser at an object, squeeze the trigger and the surface temperature is shown on its screen. Very handy when you need to know what the surface temperature is of a f/t rodent before offering it to a ball python. You really should know what the f/t rodents’ surface temperature is, especially if you’re warming it up with a hair dryer because it can get extremely hot!

Raytek temp gun
Raytek temp gun

I’m not sure if I mentioned this in a previous blog or as a post in our ball python forum but I actually tried f/t almost fifteen years ago when I had one or two pet ball pythons. I purchased a small microwave oven back then to defrost the rats because I figured they would get defrosted quickly. Long story short, I accidentally pressed the wrong buttons on the microwave and instead of thawing the rodents, I cooked them. That’s one smell I wish I could forget and the thought of it is making my stomach turn sour (yuck!). ball-python-joke

Nevertheless, feeding our ball python’s f/t has turned out to be a success and I’m very happy to report our positive results with you.

What “Mite” those White Bugs Be?

What are those little white bugs crawling around on my ball python and its tank you ask? Could they in fact be…MITES!? Yep, you guessed it, they are mites but before you go off on the deep end pulling your hair out and running around frantically in circles, take a deep breath because it’s not actually as bad as it seems. Wait a minute Ron, I’ve read your previous blog entries where you talk about mites and how bad they are and now you’re telling me that I’m freaking out for nothing? What gives???

A mite is a mite is a mite, right? Well, that’s not entirely accurate, which is why I decided to expand a little bit more on the topic of mites. More specifically, the infamous “white” mite that many people will cross paths with at one point or another. Mites are actually a “group” that belongs to the class Arachnida under the subclass Acarina. Spiders actually belong to the class Arachnida as well. Do you recall the 1990 film, “Arachnophobia”? It was an American horror-comedy film about deadly spiders.

There are over a thousand species belonging to the Arachnida family or class having different functions or tasks they partake in. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not all bad. Mites can be detritivores, predators, parasites and herbivores. We don’t like reptile “parasite” mites when it comes to ball pythons because as their name implies, they parasite or feed on reptiles - snakes included of course. I won’t go into detail on reptile mites in this blog because I’ve talked about them and other parasites in greater detail in a previous blog. You can use the search feature on the right-hand side of this page to find it. I’m going to talk about those white bugs or better put, those white mites that you may have seen crawling on your ball python and in its tank.

Meet the “Wood Mite”

Those white colored mites you see on your ball python and crawling around in the tank are wood mites. Unlike reptile mites (black/brown/red mites), your ball python is completely safe from them because they feed on decomposing wood, not reptiles.

Wood mite magnified
Wood mite magnified

You’ll oftentimes bring wood mites home with you when you buy wood based substrate for your ball python (aspen, bark, etc). You can find them moving slowly over the wood in the cage, near the water bowl and on your ball pythons fecal matter as well. Although they pose no harm to your ball python, they should be placed under control or eradicated because they can expand their colonies very quickly. I’m sure you’d rather not see little white bugs crawling all over your ball python, regardless of whether they’re harmless or not.

Some members in our ball python forum have posted methods for sanitizing wood in the oven and microwave. I strongly suggest that you go to our forum and read the threads before attempting any of these methods because they can both be dangerous if done incorrectly. Provent-a-Mite and Black-Knight are two popular products used to eradicate mites, including wood mites and the evil parasite “reptile mite”. There are some non-chemical alternatives posted by members in our ball python forum that you can possibly try as well. And believe it or not, you can actually fight fire with fire! There is a "predator" mite named “Hypoaspis” (Pronounced: hype-o-asp-iss) that will seek and destroy other mites - including wood and reptile mites - and they too pose no harm to your ball python. Once all the mites are found, destroyed and consumed by Hypoaspis, they ultimately die off for lack of food.

Ignoring wood mites or eradicating them is completely up to you. We have many threads in our ball python forum from contributing members discussing this topic so if you’re not a member, go to our forum, sign up and get involved in the discussions.

Until next time…

The Frozen Rodents (rats & mice) have arrived!

My last blog entry was about how we were making the transition from live prey to frozen thawed or f/t. I must admit that it does feel strange ordering rodents after you’ve been breeding them for several years on a large scale. I won’t go into the details in this blog about why I made the decision to move to f/t, you can read the details in the previous blog when you have time.

I decided to purchase our frozen feeder rodents from RodentPro.com because I’ve heard very good things about the quality of their customer service and feeder rodents. Several boxes came in today so I figured I’d bring out the camera and take some photos to share in this issue of the blog for those who are curious to know how feeder rodents are packaged and delivered. We received a lot of boxes today but I’ll just show one box so you won’t be overwhelmed. :-)

Here’s how the box looks when you receive it from your shipping carrier of choice.

Box received from RodentPro.com
Box received from RodentPro.com

Once you open the box, you’re greeted by what appears to be fiberglass insulation to keep the rodents cold and frozen during their trip.

Opening the box from RodentPro.com
Opening the box from RodentPro.com

As you can see, many rodents of various sizes are still frozen with the help of dry ice and the insulation. I must make a note here about a serious problem I had with opening the first box along with all the boxes we received from them. For one, they did not include an invoice but more importantly, they did NOT include any documentation about handling and discarding dry ice. Dry ice is very dangerous and must be handled with extreme care, that’s why I was absolutely in SHOCK when there wasn’t any type of paperwork on how to carefully and properly deal with the dry ice. As you can see in the photo, there were chunks of dry ice exposed directly. Perhaps the information is on their website, I’ll take a look to see after I’ve finished with this blog entry.

Frozen feeder rodents & dry ice
Frozen feeder rodents & dry ice

Here are some photos of the rodents.

Frozen feeder rodents
Frozen feeder rodents

Frozen feeder rodents
Frozen feeder rodents

Frozen feeder rodents
Frozen feeder rodents

And lastly, here are the feeders as we start to fill up the many deep freezers we purchased just for them.

Deep freezers being filled with frozen feeder rodents
Deep freezers being filled with frozen feeder rodents

I’ll make a future blog entry about how the transition from live to f/t is coming along for our ball pythons. Wish us luck. :-)

Alaska, here we come!

I guess the title is a bit deceiving because we’re not heading to Alaska per se but our rodents are. Well, they’re not actually heading to Alaska either but you’d think they were there because moving forward they’ll all be frozen and then thawed later for feeding to our ball pythons. We’ve been feeding our ball pythons live rodents for a very long time simply because that’s how I started feeding them when I acquired my first ball python some years back. As many of you already know, we also feed live because we breed our own rodents so it’s very convenient to feed in this manner.

I’ve been thinking long and hard on the topic of feeding frozen thawed opposed to live and I’ve decided to take the plunge and switch to 100% frozen thawed feeding. We just purchased several deep freezers to store rodents in and we’re going to buy them in bulk instead of breeding them ourselves. Yes, it’s a lot cheaper to breed your own rodents but it’s also a headache as well because we have to maintain a large breeding colony of rodents and maintain our ball pythons. I’ve decided to let someone else enjoy the headache of maintaining rodents, clean their cages, feed them, etc. This will free up more time for us to focus solely on ball pythons instead of both ball pythons and rodents.

Other than the headache factor of maintaining a large breeding colony of rodents, I feel that frozen thawed feeding has many advantages over live. The obvious advantage of course is that a thawed rat or mouse can’t injure a ball python whereas a live unsupervised rat or mouse can inflict serious damage to a ball python. My personal view on feeding live was that they feed this way in the wild so let them continue to do so in captivity. After thinking long and hard on this, I’ve come to change my position and now feel that although they feed on live in the wild, they can and do feed on frozen thawed (I will reference frozen thawed as f/t throughout the rest of this blog) in captivity so it’s best to feed them f/t.

Another factor of feeding f/t that merits a switch from live to f/t has to do with parasites. Live rodents can harbor internal and external parasites, depending on where you buy your rodents. We feed our rodents “zoo quality” food designed for them and they’re kept in pristine living conditions so parasites for us is not really a concern but as far as the “big picture” goes, parasites are still a real possibility in rodents. Parasites are completely destroyed when rodents are frozen so when a ball python consumes frozen prey, they’re not consuming any live parasites. I would think that this should extend the life of a ball python over a ball python that eats live throughout the course of its life, thus giving it a better quality of life.

Although I try to keep my blogs educational and confined to a particular subject or topic, I felt that I should blog about our switch from live to f/t and the reasons behind why I’ve made this decision. We have a lot of adult ball pythons that are accustomed to live prey so we’ll see how they take to being offered f/t instead of hunting a live warm-blooded yummy rodent. :-)

I’ll let you know how things are coming along with feeding f/t in a future blog. Wish us luck!

Frozen thawed (f/t) rodents for ball pythons
Frozen thawed (f/t) rodents for ball pythons