Toads in the garden

If you have a natural garden with a shallow pond and plenty of wild places, you may be lucky enough to share your garden with a toad or two. The common toad has a lovely scientific name; it’s called Bufo bufo.

Can I have a lift? Image: Martin Mulchinock

These gentle creatures cause no harm to humans or pets unless you accidentally eat one. Even then they are more likely to make you sick than cause you any serious damage. They excrete an irritant substance from their skin, which stops most things from eating them and they can puff themselves up to appear larger and scarier when a predator approaches.

Unlike frogs that hop and jump, toads are more likely to walk or crawl slowly, though they can shuffle jump. Toads are squat and broad, with bumpy or warty skins.

Pest munching

For most of the year toads will live in your garden eating bugs, grubs, spiders and worms. Large toads have been known to eat small mice and even slow worms. Toads don’t have teeth so they swallow their prey whole. Mr Toad is a fairly secretive beast, nestling in dark, damp crevices, deep leaf litter, log piles, shallow soil burrows and walls during the day and then emerging at night to feed.

Toad chorus

But it is spring when you are most likely to see and hear these incredible creatures, especially around pools, ponds and damp areas. The adult toads leave their terrestrial home and like a magnet are drawn back to breeding sites. The males outnumber the females, sometimes five to one, so competition is fierce and while most battles seem to be fought by the pitch of their call, hence the fantastic electronic sound that shatters the air, fights and death can occur. Survival of the fittest ensures that the strongest males are able to mate and allow the females to lay their conspicuous strands of toad spawn into the water. One string can contain thousands of eggs that hatch into tadpoles in a few weeks.

baby toads
Baby toads. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Tadpoles quickly mature in one of natures most amazing processes, metamorphosing from little water dwelling fish like creatures into four legged ground dwellers in a matter of weeks. It’s when these tiny, tiny toads emerge from the watery depths twelve weeks later that they are at their most vulnerable. They transition from water to soil is complete and now they must feast on flies and bugs and fatten themselves up before their winter hibernation.

Looking after toads in the garden

Like all creatures toads are in decline. They need our help and support.

  • You might find strings of toad spawn in your garden pond. Don’t move it or take any from other ponds, these amphibians choose their breeding ponds with care.
  • Toads are fabulous garden buddies and a great creature to adopt as a ‘garden pet’, don’t constrain them, just learn where they live and keep their environment safe.
  • Garden with nature and avoid the use of garden chemicals. Let the natural balance return and wildlife will be drawn to your garden. A few frogs and toads will make short work of your garden pests and add a whole new warty dimension to the garden.
  • Give them a treat and create wildlife pond and a bog garden to give them somewhere to drink and next spring they may choose your garden pond to breed.

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