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Frog and Toad Tips

Spring is here and love is in the air…

As the days get warmer, garden wildlife is gearing up for the coming year and frogs and toads in particular are on the move, gathering in large numbers in garden ponds across the country to do what comes naturally; produce a new generation of amphibians. Whilst you might want to take action and re-locate an apparent surplus of spawn or maturing froglets, the best thing to do is leave them alone.

Contrary to advice you may have been given in the past, this spring consider letting nature take its course. In the case of frogs most of the spawn, tadpoles and young froglets will be eaten by predators – everything from gold fish and newts to garden birds – whilst others will perish if there is insufficient food to go around. This is simply nature’s way, part of the fascinating web of life and in this case the old adage of being cruel to be kind rings very true.

Re-locating can be a real problem as it can spread disease. The fatal frog disease known as red-leg could spell disaster for local frog populations – it has already caused wide-spread deaths in the south of England . Therefore it is best not to aid its spread by moving spawn or adult frogs around. It also seems that the disease only breaks out if the frogs are under some stress which can be caused by re-locating.

There is also widespread concern over the spread of invasive ornamental pondweeds into the wider countryside. This occurs when buckets of frogs or spawn are emptied that invariably contain tiny fragments of these plants, including New Zealand swamp stone crop and azolla that are sold in garden centres. Because they are not native to the UK our wild creatures will not eat them and combined with their amazing growth rate the plants quickly spread and overpower others blocking out the sun’s rays which are so vital to water plants and animals. Whilst manageable in a garden pond, which can be raked and cleared out easily, once established in a large water body these plants can wreak havoc.

How you can help

All of our native amphibians have been in decline in recent years, and garden ponds are becoming increasingly important for their survival. There’s plenty you can do to help them.

1. Make a pond.
More than 75% of ponds were lost during the last century.  The ideal pond for amphibians should have a deep section (around 1m) for them to hibernate in, and lots of shallow (less than 20cm deep) water for them to spawn in.  The shallow edges of a pond encourage plants and animals to grow and colonise the pond and help amphibians to get in and out of the pond easily. Taller, tussocky grasses and plants around the edges will help provide shelter from predators.  Try to make sure your pond is not too close to trees and bushes, or the leaves will clog it up in winter.  Finally, if you’re not in a clay area, use a butyl liner.

2. Don’t put fish in your pond.
Goldfish in particular will quickly finish off tadpoles and frogspawn, whilst even tiny sticklebacks are likely to prevent newts from breeding – if you want a healthy population of amphibians, forget about the fish.

3. Only use native wetland plant species.
There are lots of suitable plants that you can buy at garden centres to help stock your pond. Particular favourites for breeding amphibians include Water Crowfoot, Water Starwort, Water Forget-me-not and Water Mint. Avoid non-native species as they are unlikely to be valuable for our wildlife, and in some cases take over ponds completely, leaving them choked up and lifeless.  Particular species to avoid include New Zealand pygmy weed (Crassula helmsii), floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides) and water fern (Azolla filiculoides).

4.  Never move spawn, tadpoles or wetland plants between ponds.
You may be transferring invasive aquatic plant species, or spreading amphibian diseases such as red leg virus, which can wipe out entire frog populations locally. Make a pond, and generally speaking the watery inhabitants will make their own way to it.

5.  Remember that amphibians only spend some of their time in the water.
For most of the year, they are feeding out and about on dry land.  So how about making suitable habitats for them in the rest of the garden? They like dense tussocky vegetation to hunt in, woodpiles and sheltered spots where they can stay cool and damp and old tree roots and rockeries to hibernate in.  Remember not to use slug pellets, as frogs and toads eat them – natural biological pest control!

More information on pond creation and amphibians is available as downloadable PDF documents at the Water for Wildlife web site,

You can also download and print this Frog and Toad Tips fact sheet

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