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Barbara Hughes
Seminole County Extension Services Manager
250 West County Home Road
Sanford, FL  32773
(407) 665-5560

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Frogs and Toads in Florida

Frogs and toads are "amphibious" which mean "double life". Most frogs and toads have two stages in their life cycle, larvae (tadpole) and adult. From the approximately 80 species known in the United States, 22 frog and 5 toad species are native to Florida.

Description: Frogs look different than toads in several ways. Most toads have dry, warty skin, whereas frogs have moist, smooth skin. Most toads also have a pair of glands bulging out from behind their eyes. These glands produce a toxin that protects them from being eaten by most animals. All toads have these glands, but most are too small to severely affect people and our pets. Frogs do not possess these glands, and there are no poisonous frogs native to Florida.

Life stages: Frogs and toads have two life stages, the larvae or tadpole stage and the adult stage. When tadpoles metamorphose into adults their body structure and breathing organs change. The tail disappears, legs form, the mouth enlarges, lungs replace gills, and other organs transform to adapt to a life that includes breathing air, eating different food items, and living on land and water.

Feeding: All adult frogs and toads are predators and feed on a wide variety of insects. They have a large mouth and a long, sticky tongue that they use to capture prey. Their hunting style is to sit and wait for their food to come to them. When an insect moves within range, they turn their body, lunge forward, and shoot their tongue through the air. They also will pursue slower prey on the ground. Tadpoles, immature frogs and toads, are plant-eaters and feed mostly on algae, which they filter from the water.

Reproduction: Frogs and toads move to ponds, lakes, streams, and ditches to breed. Males move to the pond first and begin calling. Usually, this activity takes place on rainy nights. Once a female arrives, she selects her mate and breeding begins. Eggs are released into the water and the male releases sperm, fertilizing the eggs. The eggs remain inside a gelatinous mass until hatching. Eggs must remain in a moist environment, because they have no protective shell. Toads lay their eggs in single strands, and most other frogs lay their eggs in large clumps.

Importance: Frogs and toads are an important source of food for fish and other aquatic organisms as well as terrestrial species such as wading birds, red-shouldered hawks, and a variety of snakes. At times, it seems as though there is an overabundance of frogs and toads in Florida, but they play an important ecological role in the food chain. They sustain animals at the higher levels. One way that people directly benefit from frogs and toads is that many of their insect prey are considered to be pests, such as mosquitoes.

Nuisance problems: Frogs and toads will be attracted to any body of water for breeding, including bird baths and swimming pools. If this bothers you, there is very little you can do other than to make the water inaccessible with materials like screening and netting. Frog calls may be so loud as to interrupt your sleep, you may want to consider closing the windows or turning on a fan or some other noise-making device that is less disturbing but will drown out the frog calls.

Legal aspects: Permits are required to sell or possess for sale any live amphibian or carcass, skin, or any body parts of amphibians native to the state of Florida. Frogs may be taken throughout the year by gigs, clubs, blow gun, hook and line, hand, or by shooting during daylight hours. A commercial freshwater fish dealer's license is required to take for sale or to sell frogs. The gopher frog, pine barrens treefrog, and Florida bog frog are listed as species of special concern and are thus protected from taking, possessing, and selling of whole animals, body parts, and eggs.

Extracted from the University of Florida publication "Florida's Frogs and Toads" by J. Schaefer and J Liebertz.

Al Ferrer
Seminole County Residential Horticulturist

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