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Woma Breeding and Oviposition
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Throughout the breeding season and the rest of the year, the only lighting our womas get is sunlight that filters through the windows of the room during seasonal daylight hours. We give our adult womas their last meals in early October, though they often voluntarily stop or greatly reduce feeding in mid- to late summer. We start cooling them down November 1, progressively decreasing their nighttime and daytime temperatures such that after December 1, nighttime lows are in the low to mid 60s F – we do not let them get below 60 F. All of the temperatures referred to here are body temperatures measured using an infrared non-contact thermometer - they're great for this and for monitoring egg temperatures! We keep daytime highs during this period in the low to mid 80s F.

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We maintain this range of temperatures by putting our woma cages in our "glassed-in" back porch area where air temperatures stay pretty close to outdoors temperatures (southern California). We created a hotspot in each cage using a heating pad or heat tape connected to a Helix DBS1000 thermostat with a night drop control. The thermostat sensor was taped directly to the cage bottom at the hotspot with cloth medical tape or aluminum foil tape (used for heating ducts), with the day temperature set at 96 F, and the night temperature set at 75 F. These conditions resulted in woma body temperatures of 60 to 70 F at night, and 65 to 85 F during the day. We had more variability in the daytime temperatures because the room remained cool (though it varied depending on outdoor temperatures) and it was up to the womas whether they wanted to be on the heat or not. The key is to check temperatures frequently, and experiment until you get the conditions dialed in to produce the desired range of body temperatures.

We generally breed one male to two females. During the cooling period we rotate the male from one female's cage to the other about every two weeks. We keep them cool through February, and progressively warm them up during the first half of March raising nighttime temperatures to 75 to 80 F and daytime temperatures to 85 to 90 F. Though it is often recommended, we have found that misting is not necessary, but you can mist them daily during the warming period and the remainder of March if it pleases you.

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Our womas copulate frequently while cooled and during the warming period. When the females enter their first shed cycle after warming up, all the action is over. The male is moved back into his own cage and offered a meal a couple of days later. We have never observed a mid-body swelling that would be indicative of ovulation in our womas – rather, they just start to look big at some point during the cooling period and remain that way through the warming period and until the eggs are laid.

After a female’s springtime warming shed, she can often be found lying on her side or even completely inverted. Surprisingly, that's a good thing - a sure sign that she is gravid (there has been much speculation about but very little science behind the reason gravid womas exhibit this behavior). The night temperature drop is turned off so that a hotspot sufficient to maintain a body temperature of 88 to 90 F is available 24 hours per day. She is given a nest box containing a layer of vermiculite moistened with just enough water to make the vermiculite start to clump and feel "earthy" when worked in your hands. The nest box should be sized to easily accommodate the woma, but also to fit into your incubator so that if the eggs adhere to the nest box, the whole thing can be placed in the incubator rather than risk tearing the eggs while attempting to get them unstuck. We use a 32-quart Sterilite sweater box (approximately 21"Lx15"Wx6.5"H) with a 3-inch diameter hole cut in the lid. You can find additional information about nest box selection and incubator preparation on our woma Egg Incubation and Hatching Page. We place the nest box so that one end of it is on the hotspot and the other end is off, but our womas push the boxes around quite a bit as they cruise their cages searching for the best spot to lay their eggs. We let them move their furniture around as they please and make all the decisions about whether they want to be in or out of the box, and on or off of the heat.

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Oviposition with our womas has occurred on dates ranging from April 10 to May 5; thirty days plus or minus one day after their springtime warming shed. Our clutches have ranged in size from 6 to 11 eggs. After gently separating her from her eggs and removing the nest box from her cage, the female is left to rest quietly for 24 to 48 hours, after which she is offered a meal. This offering is always accepted with vigor – after all, it is her first meal since the previous October, and she has been busy! The female will usually enter a shed cycle following oviposition, after which she will be back to the usual off-season routine excepting that she may continue to feed more aggressively than usual for two or three months.

Much of our approach to breeding womas is in general agreement with the article written by Ernie Wagner in the September 2000 issue of Reptiles Magazine.  This article is a good source of basic information about breeding and raising womas and black-headed pythons.  However, we do NOT agree with the woma egg incubation methods described in this article.  Please see our woma Egg Incubation and Hatching Page for our very own method of incubating woma eggs that has given us a 100% hatch rate two years in a row!

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