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Unwanted visitors
How to deter frogs

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no.
With a Rowley, powley, gammon, and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.
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Unwelcome visitors: cats | foxes | frogs | moles   Weeds: clearing a neglected areageneral weeding
 

More frogs, means less snailsI spy a tasty snailFirst of all, it has to be said that under the vast majority of circumstances, you don't want to deter frogs from your garden at all but attract them. Any frogs in your garden will be a lot more nervous of you than you are of them.

As well as being a valuable part of the native wildlife of all countries, they are a great friend to the gardener in that they munch their way through large quantities of slugs - and the conditions that attract slugs also attract frogs.

This page came about because I received a number of emails in fairly rapid succession from people from the UK to the US and Canada, Australia and somewhere where the mailer didn't say, but his problem was with noisy tree-frogs!

It seems that there are circumstances where gardeners are inundated with frogs in quantities akin to a biblical plague. People have described "taking bucket-load after bucket load" back to the wild, or having very messy lawn-mowing and strimming sessions (best not to think about that one!)

So if this applies to you, if the calls of amorous male tree frogs are keeping you awake, or if there are frogs sharing your swimming pool, but not pulling their weight in skimming the leaves, I hope this page will be of use.


There is no easy answer. I didn't know of one, so I posted the question on the home page, hoping some-one might help, all that came about was the question was picked up by Google and I got lots more emails from people asking if I'd found an answer yet!

In the end I sent an email to various amphibian sites on the web and posted the question on relevant bulletin boards. The response wasn't exactly overwhelming, but the answers are either paraphrased or quoted here.

Well, here is something that might surprise you! After many hours on the phone speaking to "reptile professors" in Tallahassee, I found out that if you want to deter frogs without harming them (like I wanted to) all you do is spray a heavy concentrate of "SALT WATER" around the areas you don't want them. What happens is the salt will sting the feet and this makes em move out. Be careful if you have sensitive plants. I just wanted them off my ledges of my house and leaving their droppings. It worked like magic!
 - Lynne, Tampa Florida

I Googled your site because there's a frog (or toad) under my house that wakes me up every couple of hours. I need to make him go away. The suggestion by Lynne in Tampa, Florida to spray with concentrated salt water is extremely helpful, as it never would have occurred to me.
- Chris LaFave, Beaverton, Oregon, USA

Note Paul - webmaster, plants of almost any kind hate salt water and it will kill most greenery especially with repeated sprayings. But this sounds like a fantastic tip if applied sparingly - and the only effective one I've heard of.

There is no simple frog deterrent, no harmless chemical, plastic heron or warning sign that will make them think "oh oh, better not go there". The only ways to stop frogs are to:

  • Remove the conditions that attracts them in the first place.
  • Divert them from the rest of the garden with a froggy corner.
  • Put some kind of physical barrier in place that they can't cross.

Frogs and toads are attracted to your garden for two reasons. The garden provides a source of food in the form of slugs and other potential pests, which they eat in large numbers. Secondly, they are attracted by shady, cool, moist places and water features.

The most effective method of deterring them is to remove the slugs (ha ha) and re-design the damp cool spots out of the garden. Neither method is easy but if you are desperate to get the frogs out, it is the only way.

From; Tim Halliday, Professor in Biology & International Director.
Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force (DAPTF)

People should rejoice when they find frogs in their garden, given that they are vanishing from so many parts of the world. My advice is that they should hold off mowing, etc. until the frogs disperse and find safe hiding places, which they soon do. In my experience, frogs are only in the open when it's damp; surely, you should not mow your grass under such conditions.

With best wishes,
Tim.

 

Replies posted to an enquiry at the Kingsnake Amphibian forum:
  • the question is: why would anyone want to keep toads out of the garden? they eat bugs! if the garden is organic with no pesticide/fertilizer that would be great. people just need to be more vigilant when they are working in the lawn. I suppose a fence would keep them out for a while but the toads aren't going anywhere. tell them to embrace nature, not kick it out.
  • I agree entirely with _____  (above). I think that any reply to these people should thoroughly explain the role of amphibians (or any wild animal for that matter) in their environment. I expect that you already understand that, but I wanted to emphasize that to you.
  • I would say that anytime there are problems with a certain area being over-run with a certain animal, it is usually related directly to the food source. Since it is impossible to get rid of all the insects, it would be impossible to get rid of the frogs. You could erect a barrier, but that would be unsightly.
  • Unfortunately, I don't have any answers for you. But it would be nice to explain to them that a bucket load of toads is far better than a bucket load of plant eating insects.
  • I know what you are talking about too. I know all about the cane toads in Australia. Just fyi- Australia introduced them to eat sugar cane beetles. they are not native. Another brilliant decision made by man.
    There is no way to get rid of the toads. people have to live with them. gardens probably best habitat left for the toads in the area. tell them to put in a small pond and some shrubs between the garden and where the toads come from. they will go there instead but not all of them.

 

From: Gary S. Casper
Collections Manager, Herpetology & Ichthyology, Milwaukee Public Museum

Basically, if frogs are on a landscape they have a breeding pond, and during certain times of the year they will be out and about in numbers. Normally there is a spring migration to the pond, a mid-summer exodus of young from the pond, and finally an autumn return to the vicinity of the pond. Most movements occur during rain events.

Most of the problems I have heard of in the past were in regards to frogs becoming trapped in swimming pools, where they hop in and then can't get out. The only effective way to resolve this is with barriers, some sort of low fencing or decorative wall that the frogs can't pass. The same trick would work to keep frogs out of gardens, although given the benefits to be derived from having insectivorous frogs in the garden, I'm not sure why people would want to keep frogs out of the garden.

The occasional diced frog in the lawn mower can be gruesome, but rarely has an effect at the population level. This can be largely avoided by mowing when frogs are in retreats - dry and warm periods.

Back to barriers, to reduce the extent of them they should be placed where they are most effective. One should assess where the frogs are coming from and going to, and then put barriers in place to direct them around the area designated a no-frog zone. Depending on the landscape, this may not require a complete enclosure of the frog-free zone. Often a barrier on one side that forces the frogs into another direction will suffice.

What also goes a long way is learning tolerance and appreciation of wildlife in the garden, and using a bit of common sense to time activities such as mowing to periods when frogs are not on the lawn.

Hope this helps,

Gary

Co-Chair, Midwest Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
Wisconsin Herpetology Homepage

 

Peter Bronski
Staff Ecologist,
Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, Audubon International  NY

I too am unfamiliar with means of deterring frogs from the garden without harming them. Frogs and other amphibians tend to congregate around water sources (ponds, streams, and I suppose in some misdirected cases, swimming pools) during breeding season, which is usually only a brief period of the year.  During this time you might expect something of a biblical plague of them, but at other times I would expect them to distribute throughout the landscape. Amphibians pose no hazard to humans directly, and in fact, species like frogs perform a valuable service in terms of insect control. They also serve as a valuable food source for other larger animals.

So in short, I cannot offer much advice for simple, humane control.  If the frogs can be tolerated during breeding season then hopefully their concentration will decrease afterward and gardeners can have fewer troubling encounters between frogs and lawn mowers.

 

From: Allen Salzberg, Editor/Publisher, HerpDigest.

Sounds like bullfrogs, they get exported in large numbers with fish people buy for their ponds and they without an natural enemies can get very prolific. Look up on websites for frogs and see if it matches. Then look for suggestions how to control them. Once in an area with the numbers you are talking about sounds like you can only control the population if at all.

 

From Bruce Kingsbury

Hmm - Usually the problem is in the other direction.

Frogs disperse away from reproductive sites, and these may well be out of the control of the gardener. In "good" years, a lot of frogs may be hopping around looking for somewhere to live.

Swimming pools won't work for them as reproductive sites, because of the chemicals, but they don't know that, so they try anyway. Often they are then trapped by the coping around the pool.

Frogs don't like open, dry areas, but unless you are desert gardening, this might not be worthwhile information!

Does that help, or at least explain things a little? Good luck!

 

Q. I live right off a sump. I was told that in a few weeks there will be a large number of frogs coming up from the sump and making my yard and garden their home.. this is not a problem for me; however I have a six month old puppy and I'm not to sure what kind of frogs are expected and I don't know if they are poisonous.. I'm sure he won't hesitate to eat one or two. I just want to put his health first. If there is any way you or whoever I'm writing this to, can help me, I would greatly appreciate any ideas you may have for making these next few months as easy as possible.

A. I don't know for sure so you may want to ignore this - but... It's unlikely the frogs will be poisonous, my guess is if they were you'd have heard a long time ago. If they are, your puppy will almost certainly spit them out pretty sharpish!

Are there dogs around where you live? OK so they didn't die last year.


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