With the sun shining and the snow melting away, today is a great day to finish up our series on frogs and toads. Let’s talk about what you should – and shouldn’t – do to bring these amazing creatures to your yard.
Because both frogs and toads must have a clean, reliable water source, adding some sort of water feature to your landscape is a number one priority. A backyard pond doesn’t need to be huge to make frogs happy, but it must have a few other critical characteristics. First of all, frog ponds need to have shallow sides that gradually slope down into deeper water. Frogs may jump into the deeper water, but without the help of graduated sides, they are trapped. They can’t get back out and eventually they die. (For pre-existing ponds with straight sides, build up a rock “stairway” on one side.)
Since frogs prefer still, quiet water with a healthy stand of algae over pristinely clean, rapidly moving streams and rivers, avoid adding giant waterfalls or huge aerators to your water feature. (If you are concerned about mosquitoes, then make sure that any water movement is very slow.) The clumps of algae that we see as unsightly, tadpoles see as a gourmet feast. Later, algae becomes a prime breeding ground for the prey that adult frogs and toads depend upon.
An attractive frog pond – at least to frogs – is a messy pond. It has a muddy bottom and a multitude of plants like water lilies, irises and sedges growing in it. It has fallen leaves, twigs, and even some bird droppings in it. Surrounding it, native plants like swamp milkweed, joe-pye weed and black-eyed susans abound to not only give cover from skin-drying sunlight and hungry predators, but to attract insects and other creatures that are frog favorites. Consider burying a clay pot on its side near the frog pond; it makes another welcome retreat during hot, summer days. Keep the clay pot moist and you have created frog heaven.
As delightful as it is to watch brightly colored fish darting through the water, fish and frogs are not compatible as pond mates. Fish make quick meals of frogspawn and of tadpoles, seriously reducing or even eliminating the frog population in an area. If having both fish and frogs is important, then consider having two water features in your landscape, one designed for fish and the other for frogs.
Ban the use of insecticides and pesticides anywhere for any reason in your yard. Frogs and toads both have extremely thin skin. Coming in contact with toxic chemicals as they move through the landscape will kill them.
Finally, be patient; it can take time for frogs to discover and inhabit a new pond, especially if it is the only frog pond in the neighborhood. Resist the impulse to stock your pond with frogs purchased from a pet store or trapped from the wild. Frogs sold in pet stores are often non-native species, which when released into your pond, can wreak havoc with the environmental balance or can introduce hard to conquer disease. In some states, it is illegal to introduce non-native species to the local environment.
Trapping and releasing native frogs and toads from the nearby wild can also cause problems. Adults have an established home territory. Placing them outside of their familiar habitat can trigger a return response. Unfortunately, most frogs and toads do not survive an attempt to find their homes; they become dinner for a predator or simply roadkill as they attempt to cross streets and highways.
Attracting frogs to your landscape isn’t a difficult task and spring is the perfect time to begin. Over the next few warm pre-spring days, start planning for your own personal frog pond. Find the perfect place in your yard and invite some frogs to come. They are sure to pay you back tenfold for your hospitality.