An American Toad (Bufo americanus) surprised me a week ago. I was in my community garden plot, readying a raised bed for planting, when a small toad hopped out of the bed and made its’ way to plant cover about four feet away. This little toad was between 2-3” long. Its’ warty skin was a dullish-gray brown. The toad certainly looked fit, healthy and well-fed. I saw a small toad the other side of the plot a few weeks ago. I guess this was the same one.
I welcome this little toad. As the first photo shows, it has a worm in its’ mouth. In general you can tell what a species of frog or toad eats by the size of its’ mouth. A big mouth equals big prey; a small mouth means small prey. The tongues of frogs and toads are coated with mucus which keeps the prey stuck to the tongue.
Toads and frogs swallow their prey whole. Frogs and toads will eat anything they can shove in their mouths and swallow. This includes worms, snakes, insects, ants, crickets, snails, slugs, beetles, spiders, etc. The eyes of frogs and toads have to move out of the way when the animal swallows. Those big eyes take up space in the mouth area. As a frog or toad swallows the head extends forward, the eye muscles contract, the eyes narrow and shut. The eyes move into to small openings in the skull, out of the way and pushing the food down the throat.
My garden’s toad was hanging out in the raised bed where my bush beans were heavily eaten by Mexican Bean Beetles last year. I could have used a toad to swallow some of the bean beetles. I hope the toad helps with the Colorado Potato Beetles I have already spotted on some of my tomato plants.
Toad Activity During the Day or Night
During the day many toads rest in cool, dark places, like a burrow or under a log. I see a hole in my raised bed edging where the toad walked/hopped out the bed and into the foliage of the nearby fence line. It seems like the toad has a burrow in the loose, moist soil of the raised bed.
Toads and frogs are mostly nocturnal. That’s why that have such large eyes. They hunt mainly by sight and can see very well close-up. They also have excellent hearing. At night they emerge from their shelter and sit-and-wait for prey to pass in front of them. This toad is an American Toad that is often seen during the day.
Attracting Toad to My Garden or What a Toad Wants
Shelter: A Place to Get Out of the Direct Sun
I am going to make a few toad houses. They can serve as shelter from the direct rays of the Sun. I’ll use white plastic pots or broken clay or ceramic pots. I’ll smooth the ends so as not to hurt the toad’s thin skin. A light color will keep the inside of the toad house cooler than a dark color would. North and Central American frogs are active at atmosphere temperatures between 37 degrees and 96 degrees fahrenheit. I don’t want the toad shelter to be so hot the toad won’t use it.
Water to Hydrate Moisture Sensitive Skin
Toads like cool pool of water to rehydrate their skin which can dry out in dry weather. I have a bird bath that I use in my garden. I have filled it with rocks for the birds. I left deeper places for a small toad to immerse its’ self in.
Some toads including the American Toad have a patch of skin on their bellies which absorb water from the ground. But who doesn’t like a pool?
Cover: Escape Routes and Safe Places to Hide from Danger and Predators
I’ll leave the exit hole in the raised bed. Once the Cherokee Purple tomato plants grow tall, they will provide plenty of shade and shelter for the toad.
So, that’s my plan. I think there is plenty to eat in my garden. I just want the toad to make my garden part of its’ hunting grounds.
The National WIldlife Federation’s new book, was very helpful in planning a toad-friendly garden. Buy it on Amazon.com or from other book retailers.