Are Calicos as sweet as Sugars?

Pastel sugar hatching

Many people, mostly people with calicos to sell, say that the two are the same gene.  After all they do very similar things and there has yet to be a visually different homozygous form of either.  I used to be in this camp, mostly because I had Flora and Fauna line Calicos for sale.  Now I believe that the two genes are like Cinnamon and Black Pastel.  You would be hard pressed to find anyone these days who believes that those two genes are the same.  However for the first few years, many people, perhaps even most people believed that they were the same gene just with different wild origins that expressed themselves a little differently.  After several years of working with Black Pastel and Cinnamon, the consensus among most of the ball python community is that Black Pastel and Cinnamon are different, separate genes.  I can tell you from producing many of both lines and many combinations of both that there is no doubt in my mind that they are absolutely different.  There is a different color and pattern unique to each gene.  Although they are very similar and the homozygous is also very similar all the way down to the flaws in the genes.

So, let me back up and tell you how I have arrived at the conclusion that Sugar and Calico are different genes.  I have been producing with the Calico gene since almost the beginning.  I would have told anyone who asked that, without a doubt, calico and sugar are the same.  That all changed for me while walking through a reptile show several years ago.  I saw a Pastel Sugar on another vendor’s table that blew me away.  I certainly had never produced anything  like this animal using the calico gene.  I inquired only to find that the animal was not for sale.  This started my quest to find a true line of Sugars to work with.  I saw a classified advertisement and called the seller to ask about some “sugars” he had for sale.  I asked him where his line came from.  He seemed a little unsure.  After a few minutes of hemming and hawing, he admitted that the person who had sold him his breeding stock had told him they were sugars but that he did not know for sure if they were.  This is unfortunately a common practice in the reptile industry, telling people what they want to hear.  If a customer calls asking for a calico, they get a calico, if they call asking for a sugar, they get a sugar.  After all, they are the same thing anyway, right?  Well, this practice has caused many problems in trying to sort this mess out.  I think early on some people were sold true sugars as calicos and vice versa.  This has deepened the resolve of the “same gene” crowd because the genes have become somewhat convoluted.  After several months of searching, I finally tracked down a true Sugar from a reliable source.  I was most convinced not only because of the source being trustworthy, but because of the actual breeding stock that I acquired.  It was breath taking, simply stunning.   In my opinion, a ball python does not get much better looking than a true Pastel Sugar.  I immediately started refining this new line by breeding to certain females that would bring out the most desirable characteristics of the sugar gene.  These are really reduced, really clean girls.  Now I had heard about this technique a few years earlier.  I had tried to breed my calico line to these females thinking that I could produce something similar to the sugars I had seen but with less than stellar results.  So, now I finally had my own true Sugars.

Now let me explain how I think they are different and why you should care.  In 2011, I purchased a Pastel Calico Fire from Dan Wolfe.  This was a pretty animal and I really wanted to skip some time and take a little different direction.  I also like to have variety so if people ask me for calico combos I will have those as well.  I bred the male I received from Dan to several normal female that have the reduced, clean look that has helped me make some really stunning Sugars and Pastel Sugars the year before.  I also worked that year to produce my own Pastel Sugar Fires or as I like to call them Sugar Flies.  So, I had some real side by side comparisons that first year.

Here is the the original male Pastel Calico Fire that was produced by Dan using the Calico gene.

FFCM2

This is the first Sugar Fly I ever produced, aka Pastel Sugar Fire

SugarFly2011Poster

After working with both genes here are a few observations.  I can never get the really extreme white coming up the sides with the Calico.  While Fire helps clean things up, the calico still has a lot of noise in the yellow/white parts.   I have replicated these results over and over.  So I have both genes, I can sell you anything you want.  What do I have to gain by going on this crusade to convince you that the two genes are different?  Here’s what.  Better looking ball pythons.  I have proven, to myself at least, that the calico is inferior to the sugar.  Many other people agree and this has been reflected in the price that people are willing to give for both genes.  This belief that calico and sugar is the same has become so ingrained in the reptile community that it is making people overlook a really great tool in our breeding arsenal because they think they already have it.

I am not only relying on my own breeding results.  I look at what breeders like Karl Buckler have accomplished using this gene in just the last couple of years.  These are stunning animals and I believe this gene should be promoted so we can see more of what it is capable of.  If you have the calico gene in your collection and you have overlooked the sugar, I think you should reconsider.  I am asking you to consider adding this line of Sugar to your collection and giving it a try.   I am not saying that you should not get a Calico or that Calico is bad.  People have produced some really cool combos using the Calico gene.  I am sure that someone can post a really cool example of a Calico or Calico combo that they have produced.  I am just advocating for people to work with both lines.  I am aiming for consistency here.  I don’t want to produce a cool animal here and there.  I want to produce mostly cool ones with only the average one here and there.  I think the Sugar will help you achieve this goal.  Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.  I think you will discover, as I did, that there is a big difference in the animals that you will produce using the Sugar line.  Before you go shopping for a Sugar you should be aware of a couple of things.  There are people out there selling calicos as sugars.  Be careful, ask a lot of questions, but mostly just let your eyes tell you if it is legit.  The Sugar line does not produce those really dirty, ugly looking pastel calicos.  If someone is trying to sell you a sugar and it does not look like one then it probably isn’t.  I have not sold this gene to anyone who has regretted breeding with them.  Most genes have become so inexpensive that there is not really much to risk.  I think if you try one I am betting you will agree that Sugars are much sweeter than Calicos.

Below is a typical Pastel Calico

PastelCalico

Below is a Pastel Sugar from my website.  This is not a unique production.  We produce animals like this consistently.

PastelSugar1484

 

 

PastelSugars

PastelSugars copy

What do you think and why do you believe the way you do?  I have given my reasons for believing they are different.  If you disagree, tell me why?

16 thoughts on “Are Calicos as sweet as Sugars?”

  1. This article is by far the best one out regarding sugar and calico differences. I completely agree with Mike and I can tell you that if you want a True Sugar Ball, he and I both have them. I made the right decision by purchasing my male sugar from Mike a couple years ago ! !

  2. Mike, I have pure sugar shatter gene in my collection , and in 2013 I produced simply stunning lemon pastel sugar shatter which match those I have seen on your own website, I will email you a photo (iPhone) of the male lemon pastel sugar shatter that I produced for you to post to show the beauty .

  3. Sugars stand out…. Way out compared to some calicos. I was once told that true sugars tend to throw lesser of the odds and slugs/deformed babies. Does this seem true in the eyes of those that have sugars compared to calicos?

    1. We just hatched a clutch of Pastel Sugars from Super Pastel Sugar X Normal. Out of 6 eggs we had 4 Pastel Sugars and 2 Pastels. No deformed babies and no slugs. Odds are odds and sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. However, I have been unlucky with genes in the past and developed superstitions about them. When Mojaves were $15k, I hatched 0 out of 10 and 1 out of 11, so 21 eggs and 1 mojave. I used to think the mojave sperm swum slower or something. After many more years of experience, I realize that the odds always even out in the end.

  4. Mike,
    Are you working with the European line or VPI line Sugars. I still think there is a slight difference between those lines as well. I have VPI stock, and I produce many Sugars like Calicos, but my Pastel Sugars look like what you have portrayed, and that was my goal when I boght my original animal from Tracy. My Coral Glow Sugar is amazing.

    1. Hi Tim,
      I am working with the VPI line, but since that time I have refined it quite a bit by breeding to females that give the most desirable results. I think that Tracy also did quite a bit of selective breeding to get the line where is was when I got it. I am glad to hear that you are seeing similar results. We are still producing some calicos this year and the difference is night and day. I think that some of the people who have seen good results with the calico might be working with the sugar line and it just got mixed up. Many people when they start to believe that the genes are the same with mix them up. We have stopped keeping track of Butter and Lesser because I think I have seen enough breeding results to say without a doubt those are the same. Anyway, good luck and looking forward to seeing some good creations from you this year.

  5. I would agree 100%. I have true Sugar combos and they are far superior to the Calico animals I have seen. Definitely not the same quality.

  6. Mike those are great! Is the Sugar line your working with from the Pastel Sugars you got from me? The male sugar I sold you is the same Animal in Dave and Tracy’s book. Our super pastel sugars that replaced the animals you got from us have a lot of shatter pattern! we should find out next year if it does anything with the pastel shatters from the book as well
    I will keep you posted? Great job on refining the line!

  7. im really confused by this paragraph I think you might have made a typo in there as to what the gene was …..

    “Now let me explain how I think they are different and why you should care. In 2011, I purchased a Pastel Calico Fire from Dan Wolfe. This was a pretty animal and I really wanted to skip some time and take a little different direction. I also like to have variety so if people ask me for calico combos I will have those as well. I bred the male I received from Dan to several normal female that have the reduced, clean look that has helped me make some really stunning Sugars and Pastel Sugars the year before. I also worked that year to produce my own Pastel Sugar Fires or as I like to call them Sugar Flies. So, I had some real side by side comparisons that first year.”

  8. out of all the thousands of morphs I’ve seen pouring over WOB, hands down my favorite morph is enchi lesser sugar. it blew me away and in my opinion while pastel sugars look amazing, I think that morph looks even better. I am currently working towards diving into the breeding hobby, and looking forward to seeing what sugar combinations I can come up with. I have always been an artist weather it be through traditional art or graphic designs, to the plate presentations of the food I cook (currently a professional cook). I just love the living art that breeders come up with and I love the animals them selves.

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