Frogspawn, tadpoles and frogs
(Frequently asked questions)
When do frogs lay frogspawn?
Frogs return to ponds each February or March to lay their frogspawn and then most of them disappear, just as quickly as they arrive! The timing depends on the weather and your actual location. Where we live 'Up North' it will be later than for those who live in warmer climes!
Do frogs live in a pond?
Frogs spend the majority of their time on dry land, under stones or in a damp cool spot in your garden. They use ponds at spawning time to lay their frogspawn, but need to be on land to feed. If the frogs cannot escape because your pond has steep sides and a low water level, or pavings that overhang into the pond then they will die. You must make provision for them to escape. How? See the next question!
How do I make a 'ladder' for my frogs and other wildlife to get out of the pond?
Sometimes there may be natural plants at the pond edge that frogs can use to gain a foothold. Floating a piece of wood on the pond surface and securing the outer end is another option. If this isn't possible, consider making a ‘ladder’, from plastic mesh, such as clematis mesh. Make sure the mesh extends below the water line. The top end can then be easily pinned to the surrounding soil or grass that’s round your pond. If your pond is edged with stone then the mesh could be held in place with a flat stone placed on top of the original. This technique also helps hedgehogs to escape. Hedgehogs are particularly 'accident prone' and often drown in garden ponds.
I have been given some frogspawn. How do
I ensure its development?
Frogs lay frogspawn at an optimum depth, which is always in the
shallow sections of a pond. Try to emulate this, and put stones
in some sections if necessary to reduce the depth of water, thus
enabling the frogspawn to either float on, or just below the surface.
Wildlife ponds should always be built with ledges and varying depths
to allow for this. See the Get Digging
page. If the water is too deep, or the frogspawn is not lowered
carefully into the pond, it may well sink to the bottom of the pond
where it will die.
Try to avoid having large areas of paving round the pond as these are not ‘frog friendly’ and can cause frogs to stick to them in hot weather. The frogs then dehydrate and die. Frogs prefer cool and damp surroundings. If you let grass and plants extend to the edge of the pond this would give tiny froglets a ‘half way’ house when they exit the pond. Tall plants round your pond edges will also discourage herons from wading into your pond to catch your frogs.
Will my goldfish eat my frogspawn and tadpoles?
In a word - Yes! Goldfish are carnivorous and will also eat newts eggs, dragonfly larvae and anything else that moves!
One site visitor reported - 'Several years ago I put all the spawn in a tank and it all hatched.... when I thought they were large enough I put them in the pond and the fish ate the lot!' but another found that ' ... the fish live very well alongside the frogs and we found numerous little frogs under stones we have aside a 'stream'. Last year the tadpoles hid from the fish in the pebbles we have in the pond.'
So ... providing hiding places for the tadpoles might well keep them safe.
Why is my frogspawn a milky colour?
It's most probable that cold weather has caused this effect, and
the frogspawn will probably not develop into tadpoles. Other hatched
tadpoles will eat the jelly though, so nothing is wasted! See also the RAUK e-forum for 'white frogspawn'
What do tadpoles eat?
Tadpoles will live on the jelly that provided protection before
they hatched, and will survive on algae, other microscopic particles
and vegetation in the pond. Once they start to develop legs, tadpoles
change from being vegetarian creatures to a carnivorous stage. Most
established ponds will have enough food for the tadpoles to develop
to maturity, but if the tadpoles or developing froglets are in a tank
they may well start eating each other if food is scarce. Not a pretty
sight! Our mature tadpoles were given a treat of small
quantities of cat food and the small cat biscuits that floated on
the water. They relished both. Remember to keep the quantities small
though to avoid polluting the pond water.
I have found dead frogs in my garden. What
would cause this?
(1) The frogs might have been attacked by neighbouring
cats. (2) Some frogs die at spawning time after becoming entangled
with other enthusiastic frogs. (3) Your frogs could be suffering
from a frog virus. Scientists think that the virus might have been
imported by exotic pets and have investigated 62,000 frog deaths,
but believe the actual toll runs into millions. 'It's worse than
myxomatosis, the plague that devastated rabbit populations,' said
Tom Langton, director of research group Froglife. 'It is a living
death. The frogs take a considerable time to die and there are
some indications that their numbers are permanently depressed in
some areas.' The disease was first reported in southern England
in 1992. Since then, increasing numbers of frogs suffering from
the disease have been found further north, in Cheshire and Scotland.
Anyone who finds dead or dying frogs should visit the Froglife Website and get help in identifying the cause.
Where do the frogs go in winter?
After spawning, most frogs will return to dry land and return to your pond later in the summer, to either bask in
the shade around the pond, or cool off in the water. By late summer
they'll have gone again. Some will hibernate in dry stone
walls, under stones etc. whilst others will stay at the bottom of a pond in an attempt to be the first to attract females the following spring. When I had to make urgent repairs to our pond in January (the liner had been punctured by herons) I discovered 55 frogs hibernating in the mud. These were temporarily transferred to our other pond and came to no harm. Both ponds are very small but support a diverse range of wildlife, so don't be deterred if your garden and the pond you build are only small.
How do I get rid of all the extra frogspawn
in my pond?
Frogs lay so much frogspawn because only a small percentage of
it will ever develop into tiny froglets. Fish will eat frogspawn
and tadpoles, and so will birds and many other pond predators. Once
the frogspawn has developed into tadpoles, it will not look anywhere
near as much, so I would leave it where it is. Frogs are the gardener's
friend and, for many children, watching tadpoles is a fascinating
experience. Many natural ponds have been destroyed to make way for
new housing and businesses, so anything you can do to encourage
frogs to your garden will be beneficial to the development of the
species. Also, see the question below.
How can I stop frogs laying frogspawn in
This is a wildlife preservation web site! Frogs are
to ponds what plants are to gardens or birds are to trees. It's
natural that frogs will lay frogspawn in your garden pond. Frogs are such placid creatures.
In summer they will sit either in or around your pond and will create
a soothing ambience as they nonchalantly watch the world go by!
Frogs cause no harm to anyone or anything, (apart from garden pests).
If you have a real aversion to frogs, either fill in the pond, or
permanently cover it with a fine netting for the entire year. Be
aware that you will also then restrict all other wildlife from visiting
your pond. Also remember that birds and other animals can become
entangled in pond netting, causing them severe injuries, or even
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