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Frogs and Frogspawn

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 19 Jul 2014 | comments*Discuss
 
Common Frog Wetland Decline Frogspawn

Frogs have a special place in the hearts of most wildlife pond-keepers if only because they seem so very willing to reward our efforts by using our ponds so readily. Secretive outside the breeding season, frogs make a welcome addition to the garden – not least because they provide a highly effective slug control service, offering protection to the hostas and other tender plants in their adopted patch.

The Common Frog (Rana temporaria) is the most widespread kind throughout Europe – a remarkable survivor, which has increasingly made use of garden ponds as more and more of its natural wetland habitats disappear.

Froggy Goes A-Courting

Frogs usually emerge from hibernation at the beginning of March – though in some years they may put in an appearance even earlier – and spawning takes place from March through into April. At this time of year, these normally silent creatures become quite vocal, their underwater croaking frequently audible from some distance away and this can often be the first sign of their arrival in the pond. If large numbers of frogs are present, this sound has sometimes been likened to the rumble of a distant railway train.

Breeding involves the male grasping the female from behind, locking his forelegs around her body just beneath her armpits – an embrace known as “amplexus” – and he develops a special pad along his thumb to help him get a good grip on his girlfriend’s slippery skin. As she lays her eggs, he will fertilise them.

This instinctive need to find and grab a female sometimes leads to a few misunderstandings, as anything of about the right size may be grasped by a hopeful male – including goldfish and other males! While a female who is not ready to lay – or has already spawned – will bend away and kick at him and another male lets out a very distinct sound to tell our suitor the error of his ways, fish – unable to communicate with the amorous frog – may be grasped for some time before realisation dawns.

Female frogs lay their eggs quite quickly, producing perhaps 1,000 in an hour and laying around 3 – 4,000 in total. When newly laid, the eggs sink to the bottom but as the jelly covering them gradually swells with pond water, they float to the surface, where they remain often for two or three weeks until they hatch into tadpoles. Over the next three months, they develop from quarter-inch long “commas” hiding in weeds, then becoming carnivorous as first hind-legs and then fore-legs grow, before finally going through metamorphosis – changing into tail-less and perfectly formed miniature frogs. These small replicas of their parents then make their way onto land – a rainstorm often triggering large numbers to make the journey, which may well be the origin of the expression “raining frogs.”

Attracting Frogs to the Pond

The good news about frogs is that they are not particularly fussy and will happily use a wide variety of ponds, which makes them very easy to accommodate. The only real absolute necessity is that they will need a way to get out of the water – they can jump in, but an exit route is essential, particularly for the baby frogs. However, to provide them with the ultimate in desirable residences both inside and outside of the breeding season, the pond and its surroundings need to offer them somewhere to hide.

A well planted wildlife pond, especially with a bog garden attached will provide good refuge and building a rockery with lots of nooks and crannies, piling up some old logs or half-sinking old terracotta plant pots or pies beside the pond will meet their needs on dry land. It is also a good idea not to be too diligent when it comes to pruning. The plants growing around the pond’s edge often provide valuable cover to adults and young alike.

Although frogs tend to arrive all on their own, if you simply cannot wait, the quickest way to get the ball rolling is to introduce some frogspawn. Many wildlife ponds attract large numbers of breeding frogs – resulting in far more frogspawn than they can cope with, leaving their owners only to glad to find some of it a new home. If you do not know anyone with excess spawn, the local wildlife trust can often help suggest sources.

The last hundred years have seen the loss of something in the region of 70 per cent of Britain’s natural lakes and wetlands, but fortunately frogs in particular have been very quick to adapt to using garden ponds instead. While amphibian numbers around the world have been suffering significant decline in recent times, the frog seems to be a bit more of a success story – and long may that continue.

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I am finding scores of tiny frogs in my garden but have no pond! The nearest pond is across a field. I am mystified as to where they are coming from as it seems impossible forsuch tiny creatures to traverse a field. Any ideas?
mog - 19-Jul-14 @ 10:40 AM
I went into the garden this morning to find a lot of partially formed froglets with tales and four legs laying dead around the edge of the pond. It appears they got out of the pond and then dried out and died. I've never seen this before. I understand frogs will dry out in the sun but why would partially formed froglets try to leave the pond and go to their deaths? There are still other tadpoles living in the pond quite happily. Any ideas?
Bucko - 28-Jun-14 @ 11:52 PM
My pond is a frog nursery as usual, but, why have the frogs laid their spawn in one huge lump, almost on top of the rocks around the edge of the pond. Surely a warm sun will dry it up? I'm new to frogs as I've always been scared to death of them, but having moved to a house with a large pond in situ, I've realised I'd better get used to them. I'm sure they're more scared of me anyway. I'm still a bit scared of them, but wouldn't Iike them to lose their babies because the spawn is above water.
Newtofrogs - 5-Apr-14 @ 2:41 PM
Hi I live in Sheffield and have two ponds, one for wildlife which is very large.I have just picked up 11 dead adult frogs and 1 dead toad.I have never seen anything like this before can anyone explain why this could have happened?
cinders - 28-Mar-14 @ 4:35 PM
my frogs are dying in my pond,This has never happened before and have used nothing differant in my pond.Have been told there is a disease going around called dead leg but only in London,Im in Yorkshire so cant see it being that,Any idea what i can do to save my frogs from dying,
Jill. - 1-Sep-13 @ 2:22 PM
Hi i work with children i was going to catch a frog and take it into work for tge childtren to see then rslease it back after is this a good idea if so what would i need to do to ensure they are ok ?
abi - 25-Apr-13 @ 8:00 PM
i once digged a hole in my front lawn inbetween 2 trees, about half a year later there was thousands of tadpoles but most died from eating eachother and the others turned into frogs and jumped away since then i have had no tadpoles in their, my question is, why?
britt - 24-Dec-12 @ 12:24 AM
I have been keeping frogs for about the last 12 years. Four years ago I bought two big eye'd tree frogs at a reptile show. They were both asleep in little plastic containers when I bought them. When I got home and set up a tank and placed them in it I discovered that one of the frogs appeared to have some kind of neurological problem. When he sat up he leaned to one side. When he hopped he fell over on his back. I put him in a plastic critter keeper with a small water dish and several small crickets so it wouldn't be hard for him to find crickets. I also offered him crickets by hand and since he was thin, probably because he had a hard time catching crickets, he eagerly grabbed the crickets from my fingers. I've been offering him a cricket or two everyday since I got him and he's plumb and if I pick him up he's very relaxed, I'm sure because he knows I'm his meal ticket. I became very attached to my big eyed tree frogs, not only because of the extra time I spent with them but because they're so cute and have great personalities. In November of 2010 my husband bought me a couple more big eye'd tree frogs and all four were doing fine until a few days ago when one of the more recent ones suddenly developed all the same symptoms of my little crippled one. Until the other day he'd been perfectly normal, hopping all over the tank and enjoying running around the tank on the glass at night. Now he falls over when he tries to hop and leans to one side when he sits up. So far he won't take food from my fingers. I did isolate him for the time being until he gets used to his new situation. I want to know what happened to him. And if it's something common, why just the big eye tree frogs? I've had Whites treefrogs, poison dart frogs, red eye tree frogs, tomato frogs, Malasian leaf frogs, oriental firebelly toads, an American toad, woodhouse toads and several others and this has never happened to any other frogs. My frogs do get vitamins and calcium weekly on their crickets. I would like very much to know what is causing these stroke like symptoms. It's so sad watching them struggle. The one that has been this way for the entire four years I've had him does much better now. He's learned to hop short distances without falling over and can hop up on a rock as long as it isn't too high. He's learned to live with his disabilities. I'm just hoping the other one does as well. Karen
Karen - 29-May-12 @ 2:00 PM
It sounds like I am having a similar problem and I am not sure if I should interfere. I reinstalled the pond pump and filter about 5 weeks ago and all was going well. Soon after frogs were mating and before long we had a decent amount of spawn in clumps - some on the bottom of the pond and some attached to / near to the oxygen plant. I then added the following one day at a time: some filter start product, some barley straw, some plant nutrients, and some tetra medifin to keep parasites at bay, some ceramic tubes (roughly 500) into the filter for bacteria colonisation. The spawn floated to the top and didn't stay in clumps - It spread into a single layer and took a greeny colored hue. I now have greeny foam scum everywhere which the fish seem to be just gobbling at and eating all the spawn of which I believe most is now dead or eaten. Should I interfere or let nature take its course? Many Thanks
Paul - 26-Mar-12 @ 11:29 PM
i have a small pond about 1 meter wide and i dont have any frogs/frogspawn. i had some hibernating and theyhave gone. the only frog i have had in my pond was one i saved from a drain so it wasnt nateral. i live with a big wood behind my fence ( the pond is next to the fence). i have made a nice nateral place with flowers and things to hide in. does anyone know why ive got no frogs/frogspawn????
jon - 18-Mar-12 @ 4:29 PM
There is a field through which I walk in the morning, round ( cylindrical) bales of silage wrapped in black polythene have beenleft lying on their side, overwinter.The top is approximately 1.2 m. from the ground, the sides are curved and the poly covering is very slippery.This morning I noticedseveral small clumps of frog /toad spawn on top of one of these bales.The mystery is how did this amphibian get up there to lay the spawn.There were no dismembered body parts in the vicinity. Photographs are available
curious - 7-Mar-12 @ 3:31 PM
Re finding dead frogs - I also pulled a bunch of dead frogs out of my pond once, and decided it was because they couldn't get back out when the water level drops (it is a smoother sided ond with overhanging edge stones. I immediately put in piles of stones so they can climb out again after leaping in. I haven't found any dead frogs since, so maybe it solved the problem...
Laura - 1-Mar-12 @ 11:14 AM
hi, I've just discovered a frog in my pond after clearing the surface from some tiny green leaves that have been growing on the surface.Should I put some of them back for the frog to eat, or do you think this is not necessary?Thanks
Irish Tom - 3-Jan-12 @ 5:33 PM
We have a pond that we have pretty much left to nature, it's really a fish pond as it's around 3ft deep in the centre and doesnt have much in the way of marginal areas however it has lots of oxygenators in it and water hawthorn and was teaming with water boatman, greater diving beatles, shrimps, pond skators and water fleas etc. This year we decided to take some frogspawn from a friends pond as he has a carp that eats most of the spawn in his pond. The resulting tadpoles have done amazingly well and most have now turned into tiny frogs and are thriving. I have noticed however that i no longer see ANY water boatmen and diving beatles in the pond and in fact the only life i see apart from the tadpoles and frogs is snails, pond skators and the very occasional shrimp. I really don't understand what has happened to the beatles, i keep reading that the greater diving betales in both larva and adult form eat tadpoles and should be thriving in there so what is going on ? Any suggestions as to where all our beatles have gone would be very welcome. Ben
collbe - 17-Jun-11 @ 9:11 PM
For the fourth year running all our tadpoles have died.We do have a sycamore overhanging the pond and wonder if this has anything to do with it.Last year we removed all the pond plants as we thought it may be due to lack of oxygen in the water (it is only a very small pond).There were bits from the tree falling into the pond for the past two months, but they seemed ok.It was only when it rained heavily that a froth appeared and they started to die.The first few years when we created the pond we had baby frogs.Can anyone give me guidance?
KG - 10-May-11 @ 9:38 PM
I had the exact same problem polly, and it worried me, a friend told me that the frogs will have died due to drowning durin mating but wether this is true i am unsure, i would love someone to help me how to get some frogspawn reintrodued into the pond though as i removed about 18 frogs cleaning out the pond so theres only a few remaining.
dawnus - 8-Apr-11 @ 7:33 PM
As yet I have no spawn, this is the latest over the last 15 years. Does this mean that my frogs have deserted me?I know several other people with the same problem.
owl - 28-Mar-11 @ 3:56 PM
Sounds really horrible for you; can't say I've seen all of those things happen together, but I'm wondering if it could be exhaustion (if the breeding season's been going on for a while now, in your part of the world) or otherwise some water quality problem or maybe contamination (the cloudy smelly spawn).Trouble is, that can be down to something as simple as a lot of clay in the water (has it been raining a lot with you?) or the cement leaking from a concrete pond, right the way up to something more serious.Changing the water like you have should fix that though (you did use rainwater/matured tap water, didn't you?). Perhaps the best thing is a chat to your wildlife trust; a bit of local knowledge might solve it, especially if it's been happening in other peoples' ponds too.
Jon Painter - 25-Mar-11 @ 11:01 AM
I cleared out my pond today as there were three swollen dead frogs floating at the surface, cleaning out the pond I pulled out over 14 dead frogs several of which appeared to have burst with large amounts of frogspawn spilling out of their sides. Has anyone seen this before and what might cause it? I have now cleaned the pond and refilled with fresh water because there are still a lot of live frogs, however I had to remove the frogspawn as it had gone cloudy and white and smelled bad.
Polly - 24-Mar-11 @ 3:49 PM
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