Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to Help the Toads

Toads have been around for a very long time and have survived many threats, including the extinction of the dinosaurs. There are about 21 different species of toads in North America, including the American toad and Fowler’s toad. 
Fowler's toad

Unfortunately, scientists have discovered that toad populations are declining and that toads are even disappearing in some areas. This is an alarming trend because they are the gardener’s friends.  A hungry toad can devour 10,000 insects, such as mosquitoes, gypsy moth caterpillars, and earwigs, in just one summer. They also like to feast on slugs.

There are some simple things that we gardeners can do to attract toads to the garden and to help them survive. We can provide:
            A source of water. Unlike frogs, toads don’t swim in the water; they just like to soak. A toad soaking tub can be very simple. A terra cotta pot saucer is perfect. Make a shallow hole in the ground and place the saucer in it so that the rim is level with the ground. Fill the saucer with water and add several large rocks that the toad can clamber onto when getting out of the water. The best location? A cool, shady spot is perfect.

A toad house. Yes, toads need shelter. A toad abode can be simple – an over turned flower pot with a hole knocked into the side, a sort of mini cave made of large flat rocks, or a more fanciful cottage. All three options work as long as the entrance is large enough (a Fowler’s toad is about 2 to 3-1/2 inches long and very chubby), and the abode has a dirt floor of loose soil with lots of compost.  Make sure that the house is in a shady, cool area, well away from areas where pesticides might be used.

A cold weather abode. Toads hibernate during the winter. They burrow deep down into the soil where the temperature is more moderate. A simple hibernaculum (hibernation area) can be made with a 14 to 16 inch piece of plastic pipe that is about 4 inches in diameter. Just dig a trench for the pipe, place it in the trench at a 30 degree angle and cover all of it except the opening. Half fill the section of pipe with sand and top the sand with composted leaves.
Fanciful toad abode

     Be patient and toads will come. It may take a while. 

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