Toads are amphibians. Amphibians are animals that have mucous glands in their skin. (Mucous glands are body parts that dispense mucous like the slimy stuff in your nose.)  Their skin has no feathers, scales or hairs. Some have glands that make poison. (Only toads that make very mild poisons are naturally found in the Unites States.  Frogs and lizards are also amphibians. 

It is not true that touching a toad can give you a wart. (Warts are caused by viruses, not toads.) But you should always handle them with great care to avoid injuring them. And it is ALWAYS a great idea to wash your hands. There are some mild poisons in the skin of some toads. 

Toads are one of the most helpful creatures to live to your garden. They eat three times their weight in garden pests and insects. Toads love a feast of ants, bugs, beetles, grasshoppers, centipedes, and slugs.

PestFreeZoneAvoid toxic chemicals that are occasionally sprayed on lawns. Toads, like all other amphibians, have very porous skin, and such chemicals can cause harm. If you are fortunate, and a local “insect eater” decides to make your abode its own, you will be able to enjoy your outdoor time with fewer insects, and relax with the amusing sounds of your amphibian friend!

What is the Difference Between Frogs and Toads?

Actually, All Toads Are Frogs

Frogs and toads look pretty much alike because they are alike! All toads are actually frogs. The physical differences can easily get blurred because sometimes the features look the same or not too different. Certain species even fall into both categories. It is not uncommon, for example, to find a warty skinned frog that isn’t a toad, or even a slimy toad! Generally, when we think of frogs, we generally are thinking of what are called “True Frogs”….members of the family Ranidae which has more than 400 species. Frogs usually have a smooth, moist skin and spend most of their lives in or near water. They have longer hind legs than toads and usually move by leaping…. like in “leap frog.” Frogs from this family can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They are referred to as the “true frogs” because of their generalized body form and life history: the so-called generic frog.

Toads are members of the family Bufonidae, containing more than 300 species. True Toads can be found worldwide except in Australia, the South Pacific islands, polar regions, and Madagascar. Toads usually have a dry, bumpy, warty-looking skin. They spend most of their time living on land. Their hind legs are shorter than frogs and they crawl rather than jump. The California toad is not just interesting looking – warty, blotchy skin that can be greenish, brown, gray or tan, eyes with horizontal pupils – but interesting to watch as well. Instead of hopping, California toads often will creep through the underbrush by walking in a style reminiscient of more typical four-legged creatures. Toads only need standing water to breed. They often must use temporary water sources that soon disappear. Toad tadpoles are very dark and gather together in warm shallow water at the edge of their ponds. This helps them mature quickly. Because they have adapted dry conditions, toad tadpoles have evolved to hatch very quickly, within a few days or a week.

 

Frogs have a three-stage life cycle…

They transform from egg to larva to adult Frogs and toads are Amphibians. Amphibians are cold-blooded vertebrates (vertebrates are animals that have skeletons made of bones) that don’ t have scales. Amphibians live part of their lives in water and part on land. Just like butterflies and ladybugs, toads pass through several stages of development on their way to becoming adults. This process is called metamorphosis. Their lives start as eggs. Most amphibians live on land but must return to water to ay their eggs. Amphibians are not like reptiles and birds which make eggs with shells, that protects the developing baby and allows them to lay their eggs on dry land. The mother frog or toad deposits her eggs in a pond or other wet environment because the eggs have no shell and therefore no protection against dryness. They lay large masses of eggs called spawn.  

Left, frog eggs are laid in masses called spawn. Toad eggs generally are laid in long strings.

  When the eggs hatch,  they emerge as larvae called tadpoles. Tadpoles live in water and have gills for breathing in water. They have long, flat tails for swimming around like fish and small mouths to eat algae, plant matter, and tiny aquatic animals. But toward the end of the tadpole phase, changes happen: Legs and lungs begin to form, the tadpole’s tail shrinks, and its mouth widens.

The metamorphosis of a frog from egg to adult.

When metamorphosis is complete, the adult frog is so changed that it hops out of the water and lives on land from then on. Adult frogs have muscular legs and mouths that are as wide as their heads. As adults, they dine almost exclusively on insects.

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Picture from the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Picture from the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

A moist, shady area is a great spot to make a toad abode.  A clay flower pot is easy to use. Prop it up to allow the toad to crawl underneath. Add some mulch around it for moisture and food.

After you have placed the toad abode in your yard, with a little extra care, you can transform your abode into a castle fit for a king. The first step is adding leaf litter to the inside of the abode. This will give the toad something to hide under when temperatures become too hot during the day.

Don't forget to add water. Picture from the National Wildlife Federation.

Picture from the National Wildlife Federation.

Next, take a shallow saucer (at least 6 inches across and 2 inches deep) with gently sloping sides, push it firmly into the dirt until the sides of the saucer are covered, and fill it with water. Now your toad abode has its very own wading pool! This will be a fine place for your abode’s future resident to soak. Just be sure to keep the bowl clean, and filled with water during the spring, summer, and fall.

A few toad facts:

  • Toads burrow under shrubs (or adopt existing gopher or ground squirrel holes) during the hot part of the day.
  • Summer fog drip is a regular source of moisture when they need it most.
  • Toads hibernate in winter and aestivate (a form of inactivity like hibernation) for extended periods during the dry summer. They may only be active for a few months of the year.
  • Toads live long lives, as much as 20 years. There are records of California droughts that long. If toads didn’t live that long, they wouldn’t still be here!