Frogs are fascinating animals and, just like bats, are beneficial neighbors.
Before we talk about attracting frogs to your yard, I want to dispel a myth about the difference between frogs and toads that probably keeps you up at night.
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You can think about frogs and toads like rectangles and squares, or like I related to a friend of mine recently, pastries and croissants. All croissants are pastries but not all pastries are croissants. All toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads.
Frogs, or Anurans if you want to get scientific, are one of three orders of amphibians. Anuran means tailless (never mind that frog larvae, aka tadpoles, have tails… not everything has to make sense!). The other two orders in the class Amphibia are distinguished by having tails, the salamanders (order Caudata) and caecilians (order Gymnophiona).
If you have never heard of caecilians, that is OK, they are a tropical species, and we do not have them in North America. Inside order Anura, you have many families. There is Bufonidae (the toads), Hylidae (the treefrogs), Ranidae (the true frogs), etc. So, toads are just one of many families of frogs.
Now that we’ve got taxonomy out of the way, let’s talk frog farming!
We have 28 native species of frogs in Florida, 23 of which are found in the Big Bend Region. Some, like the ornate chorus frog and gopher frog, have very specific habitat requirements and likely will not show up in an urban or suburban setting. But there are many other, more generalist species, that might happily call your neighborhood home.
Depending on how close you are to a large water source you may have green treefrogs, spring peepers (which are active in the winter here in Florida, by the way), southern leopard frogs, or even young pig or bullfrogs in your yard.
Five other common species include Cope’s gray and squirrel treefrogs, southern toads, eastern narrowmouths, and eastern spadefoots. Additionally, you may come across the greenhouse frog, an exotic species that produces a tinkling sound day and night.
As amphibians, frogs are tied to water. They don’t all live in water as adults but they like damp and humid places. There are various places you might find frogs already in your yard. I’ve found eastern narrowmouths buried near my rain barrel and under my garden hose. Some species, like the eastern spadefoot, are specially adapted to burrow.
Frogs eat garden pests
Southern toads also bury themselves under rocks and debris. We have one that hunts around our carport at night and leaves rather large droppings as evidence. We named her Dumper. Squirrel and green treefrogs can be found tucked in door jams, under pillows on porch furniture, or in pots. If you want to create habitat for frogs in your yard or garden, you need to address three things: food, water, and shelter.
Frogs eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths, and that includes many garden pests, so frogs are good for your garden. Planting native plants will attract native insects which will attract native frogs. It is all about the food web. Another important aspect of providing food for frogs is to eliminate or reduce your use of pesticides.
Pesticides are indiscriminate so by using them, you are also killing frog food. Moreover, research has demonstrated that common herbicides like Roundup are actually toxic to amphibians.
If you don’t have a water body nearby, you can create a small pond to attract frogs. If your pond has no fish and stays hydrated for at least 2 months at a time, you may have frogs breeding, then tadpoles swimming, then metamorphic froglets.
Tadpoles are herbivores and eat algae, so putting plants around the inside edge of your pond, and letting the algae grow, is a good idea. You don’t need to worry about ‘planting’ frogs, they will quickly find their way to your pond.
Shelter for frogs
There are a couple of ways to provide shelter for frogs in your yard. One fun and easy way to attract treefrogs is by placing a PVC pipe, vertically, in the ground. PVC pipes are favorite hangout spots for squirrel and green treefrogs. Just get a one- to two-inch diameter PVC pipe about three feet long and insert it about two inches deep in the ground near a tree or other plants.
Check periodically and you might just see little faces peering out at you. For detailed instructions, see the UF/IFAS publication, How to Make a Treefrog House.
You can also create other types of shelters that provide cool, damp conditions. Some materials to use are old pots turned upside down, large pieces of bark, and large rocks. Decorating frog houses is a fun activity for the whole family.
Attracting frogs to your yard is a rewarding and fun way to engage with local species and provides natural predators for your garden pests. Hop to it and keep me posted on your efforts!
Rebecca Means is a conservation biologist, a Director of Coastal Plains Institute, and is a volunteer writer for UF/IFAS Extension Leon County, an Equal Opportunity Institution. For gardening questions, email the extension office at [email protected]
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