from the wild side
IDENTIFICATION — Toads are nocturnal — they sleep during the day and feed at night. One toad can eat as many as 50 to 100 insects at a time. That’s as many as 3,000 bugs per month! A toad’s diet includes mosquitoes and their larvae, flies, slugs and cutworms, to name just a few.
How do you know if the little amphibian in your garden is a toad or a frog? It’s easy to get confused because all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads. Toads are known by their dry, warty skin and swollen bumps on their heads. These bumps are called paratoid glands and they contain an irritating substance used to ward off predators — it isn’t harmful to humans.
LIFE CYCLE — Although they live on land, female toads return to the water in the spring and lay thousands of eggs in gelatin-like strings up to four feet long. Tadpoles hatch from the eggs and live in the water until they develop legs and move onto land. Toads can live four to 15 years and sometimes longer.
To encourage toads to take up residence in your garden, all you need to do is provide them with a little shelter and water and avoid using chemical pesticides whenever possible. The pesticides reduce their food supply and can be toxic to the toads themselves.
You can create a toad haven using things you have around your house. Broken clay pots make great homes for toads. You should also put a clay saucer or other shallow container filled with water on the ground nearby. Toads drink through their skin, so be sure that the container is low enough for the toad to hop into. In the fall, toads hibernate underground, but if you continue to provide them with a happy home and a shallow swimming pool, they’ll return to your garden each spring to help you keep it pest free.