Thousands of toads and frogs appearing on roadways or in backyards at this time of year may conjure other worldly scenes, but there’s no need to panic.
Frogs and toads produce thousands of offspring at a time, yet only a few ever reach adulthood. A mass appearance of baby frogs or toads is completely natural.
While the terms “frog” and “toad” have no scientific distinction, biologists usually refer to toads as the bumpy-skinned frogs that hop and are commonly encountered around homes and gardens.
Frogs are generally viewed favorably and the few complaints heard at district wildlife offices include unwanted appearance of frogs clinging to windows and walls at night outside of front doors or on back porches.
The most likely culprits found clinging to walls at eye level are the green treefrog or squirrel treefrog. These two small amphibians, 2 inches or less, make nightly appearances around front and back porches to dine on insects attracted to outdoor lights.
Using their toe pads to cling to vertical surfaces, including glass, the treefrogs scamper about eating insects at night and retreating to shaded hiding places during the day.
Toads lack toe pads and cannot cling to vertical surfaces like treefrogs. They are also often seen outside doors waiting for the insects attracted to light streaming from the house.
On rare occasions, you could encounter dozens, hundreds or even thousands of tiny toads hopping in your yard. This scene is caused by a simultaneous mass emergence of young toads from the water where they hatched and transformed from tadpole to juvenile frog. While the numbers can be amazing, keep in mind that only a few ever reach adulthood.
Frogs on walls or tiny toads hopping about should be of little concern. It’s impractical to keep a house dark all of the time or eliminate all the water near your property.
Another kind frog invasion is the man-made variety.
This is what happens when a nuisance frog species is introduced and becomes established.
More often than not, the introduction of a new non-native species to an area, either plant or animal, has unwanted consequences. In the Southeast, think of kudzu and fire ants.
Introduced frogs are no exception. A classic example is the cane toad.
Introduced to Australia in the 1930s to control cane beetles, the 4 to 5-inch cane toad faces no natural predators and has greatly expanded its range in the eastern portions of the United States.
Populations of small animals that are eaten by the large toad have been decimated, and predators are killed by the toxins in the toad’s skin glands.
The cane toad, along with the Cuban treefrog, Puerto Rican coqui, and greenhouse frog are now exotic species established in Florida. In Alabama, the greenhouse frog is found in the warm, moist environments of coastal counties.
The long-term consequences of these invaders may be negligible, but the best and safest policy is to never allow any foreign species into the environment.
Contributed by Roger Clay, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries