Frogs are fascinating animals and, like bats, they are beneficial neighbors.
Before I talk about attracting frogs to your garden, I want to dispel a myth about the difference between frogs and toads that is probably keeping you up at night.
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You can think of frogs and toads as rectangles and squares, or as I related to a friend of mine recently, cakes and croissants. All croissants are cakes, but not all cakes are croissants. All toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads.
Frogs, or anurans if you want to be a scientist, are one of the three orders of amphibians. Anuro means tailless (never mind that frog larvae, also known as tadpoles, have tails… not everything has to make sense!). The other two orders of the class Amphibia are distinguished by having tails, the salamanders (order Caudata) and the caecilians (order Gymnophiona).
If you’ve never heard of caecilians, that’s fine, they’re a tropical species and we don’t have them in North America. Inner order Anura, you have many families. There are Bufonidae (the toads), Hylidae (the tree frogs), 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, such as the Ornate Chorus Frog and Gopher Frog, have very specific habitat requirements and may not appear in an urban or suburban setting. But there are plenty of other, more generalist species that could happily call your neighborhood home.
Depending on how close you are to a large water source, you may have green tree frogs, spring peepers (which, by the way, are active in the winter here in Florida), southern leopard frogs, or even young hogs or bullfrogs in his garden.
Five other common species include Cope’s gray and squirrel tree frogs, southern toads, eastern narrowmouths, and eastern spadefoots. In addition, you may come across the greenhouse frog, an exotic species that tinkles day and night.
As amphibians, frogs are tied to water. They don’t all live in water as adults, but they do like moist, humid places. There are several places where you could find frogs in your garden. I found eastern narrowmouths buried near my rain barrel and under my garden hose. Some species, such as the eastern spadefoot, are specially adapted for digging burrows.
Frogs eat garden pests.
Southern toads also burrow under rocks and debris. We have one that hunts around our carport at night and leaves some pretty large droppings as evidence. We call it Dumper. Squirrel and green tree frogs can be found hiding in door frames, under pillows on porch furniture, or in flower pots. If you want to create a habitat for frogs in your yard or garden, you need to address three things: food, water, and shelter.
Frogs will eat just about anything that will 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’s about the food web. Another important aspect of providing food for frogs is to eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides.
Pesticides are indiscriminate, so by using them, you are also killing the frogs’ food. Additionally, research has shown that common herbicides like Roundup are toxic to amphibians.
If you don’t have a body of water 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 breeding frogs, then swimming tadpoles, then metamorphic frogs.
Tadpoles are herbivores and eat algae, so it’s a good idea to place plants around the inner edge of the pond and let the algae grow. You don’t need to worry about ‘planting’ frogs, they will quickly find their way to your pond.
There are a couple of ways to provide frogs with shelter in your garden. A fun and easy way to attract tree frogs is by placing a PVC pipe vertically in the ground. PVC pipes are favorite hangouts for squirrels and green tree frogs. Simply get a PVC pipe one to two inches in diameter and about three feet long and insert it about two inches deep into the ground near a tree or other plants.
Check it periodically and you might see little faces looking at you. For detailed instructions, see the UF/IFAS publication, How to Make a Tree Frog House.
You can also create other types of shelters that provide cool, moist conditions. Some materials to use are old overturned pots, large pieces of bark, and large rocks. Decorating frog houses is a fun activity for the whole family.
Attracting frogs to your garden is a rewarding and fun way to bond with local species and provides natural predators for pests in your garden. Do it and keep me updated on your efforts!
Rebecca Means is a conservation biologist, director of the Coastal Plains Institute, and volunteer writer for UF/IFAS Extension Leon County, an equal opportunity institution. If she has questions about gardening, email the extension office at AskAMasterGardener@ifas.ufl.edu.
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