Home > Pond Life > Newts and Toads

Newts and Toads

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 12 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Breeding Sites Tadpoles Spawn Water

While frogs have almost made the garden pond their own, the other British amphibians have generally fared less well faced with the rapidly dwindling availability of natural wetlands. The situation is particularly difficult for toads and Britain’s endangered Great Crested Newt – both of which tend to rely more heavily on ancestral breeding sites and have found making the transition to alternatives more difficult. Even so, neither newts not toads are strangers to the back garden water feature and their presence offers the pond-keeper an insight into a uniquely interesting group of creatures.

Mr. Toad

The Common Toad (Bufo bufo) can be told from its cousin the frog by its warty skin, though contrary to the Old Wives’ Tale, handling one will not make you catch warts. Their skin is, however, very bad-tasting as many a young puppy has discovered on its first encounter with Mr. Toad, so washing your hands after touching them is always a good idea.

In spring, the toads emerge from hibernation and head to the breeding ponds, spending all of their time in water throughout the breeding season. The males grasp the females around their armpits and cling on tightly – often having to fight off other males anxious to find a partner to breed. A pair of toads will remain permanently united in this way for about a fortnight, during which time she will lay 5,000 or more eggs, which he fertilises as they are produced. Unlike frogspawn, toadspawn is laid not in clumps but in long strings which are often wrapped around aquatic plants. The eggs hatch in a week to ten days and, although the adult toad is the largest tail-less amphibian in Europe, its tadpoles are amongst the smallest, measuring only around a quarter of an inch at hatching.

In June or July the young toads leave the water and will not return until they are mature adults four years later, though this is a long-lived species and they may well keep coming back for the next forty years or more. Since they are one of a gardener’s best friends in the constant battle against slugs and other pests, this long term relationship certainly has its benefits! However, they generally prefer deeper ponds than are commonly constructed in gardens, so not everyone will have the chance to benefit from the free and rather efficient service they can provide.

Newts

There are three kinds of newt in Britain, the Smooth Newt (Triturus vulgaris), the Palmate Newt (Triturus helveticus) and the largest of them, the Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) a heavily protected, rare species. Newts emerge from hibernation in early spring, making their way to ponds at once. Mating usually takes place in April or May and once the breeding season is over, most of them leave for dry land, where they spend the rest of the year, lurking in damp places.

Unlike the rough and tumble approach of frogs and toads, male newts approach the mating game in a far more delicate way, growing crests of patterned skin along their backs and tails to attract the female and indulging in showy courtship dances to finally win her over. Mating itself is a gentle affair too, with the male rubbing and nuzzling the female, sometimes for hours, before producing a spermatophore – a sperm-containing parcel – which she then takes up to fertilise her eggs. She subsequently produces 2–300 eggs, laying them one at a time directly onto aquatic plants, often bending a leaf around each one to protect it. This habit often accounts for the unexpected arrival of newt “tadpoles” in a pond – having come in as unwitting hitch-hikers on newly acquired water plants.

The eggs hatch in around two or three weeks to produce small, almost transparent yellowish larvae with long, thread-like gills, which attach themselves to plants for the first few days of life, becoming free-swimming later. Feeding on algae and other water plants at first, they gradually become carnivorous, eating water-fleas and other small insects and grow their legs in reverse order to frogs and toads, their forelimbs appearing first. The young, now having grown fully developed lungs, leave the water in August or September and search out a suitable place to spend the winter, usually under moss or in holes in the ground.

Larvae which hatched late in the season may not undergo metamorphosis the change to adulthood and instead over-winter in the water to complete their development the following year. Depending on the species, young newts will not return to the water again until they are sexually mature in two or more year’s time if they survive. Life is not easy for newts they have many natural enemies both as adults and as tadpoles, including fish, water-beetles, dragonfly larvae, Grass snakes, ducks and herons.

Wildlife in general and amphibians in particular have been having a rather hard time of it, given the massive losses of ponds and lakes across the whole of Britain. While their inroads into our artificial ponds have been slower and less certain than their uniquely successful froggy relations, for those fortunate enough to have them visit, the garden pond provides them with a valuable lifeline and a rare stamp of appreciation for its owner.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Presentlywerescueabout80/100toadspernight fromthe localroads , howlong , ie;howmanydays ,isthisprogressionlikelytolastanddo theytravelat settimes, iestartingdarkfortwo hoursorwhat ???
Morgan - 12-Apr-13 @ 9:56 PM
How to get rid of gammarus?They are eating up my water lilies...isn't there any kind of fidh that will eat them?My pond is about 4'x8'
Dancingcat - 28-Mar-13 @ 8:34 AM
I wouldn't keep toad spawn and newt spawn n the same pond as the developing mud puppies (newts) will eat the toad spawn or visa versa.
Hen - 24-Mar-12 @ 8:58 AM
recently found 11 dead toads mainly female in our small garden pond which has never been used for breeding. 8 were floating in the water & 3 by the side of the pond We had been away for a week & they were definately not there before we left home Any ideas re the cause of these unexpected deaths?
Reg - 3-Mar-12 @ 5:51 PM
I was wintering my pond today and came across quite a few Toads. I new there were some Toads in my pond, but, seven or eight took me by surprise. My pond isapprox. 16ft x 6ft x 3ft, you can tell that I must be old, measuring in "feet". I presumemy pond must be in reasonable nick, otherwise they would not be there
Malky - 22-Oct-11 @ 5:06 PM
Is it ok to have toad spawn and newt spawn in the same small pond.
d - 22-Mar-11 @ 5:37 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Sads
    Re: What Could be the Reason for all the Fish Dying?
    What's the name of brand of food your feeding the Fish with? 7 off my orange goldfish are now dead!
    22 September 2020
  • AnnieDee
    Re: Pond Snails in Your Pond
    I've got the same problem. Suddenly noticed that all the small species of snail have disappeared, there were literally hundreds. The…
    22 September 2020
  • Dogsbody
    Re: Pond Snails in Your Pond
    My pond snails have not laid any eggs this year ,there are lots of snails but I do find quite a lot of small grey empty shells has…
    21 September 2020
  • Nashjuk
    Re: Pumping Your Pond
    I have a large pond with a small pond above it with a cascade in the middle, what pump would I need to take water from the larger pond upto the…
    17 September 2020
  • Bella
    Re: Solar Powered Water Features
    Which pump and fountain is best for a pond 90 x 150 x45cm?
    16 September 2020
  • Chuck
    Re: Pond Water Quality
    need help with my pond green film all over pond
    15 September 2020
  • Lars
    Re: Controlling Algae
    I purchased 4 packets of your 'Green water Beaters' each with 6 sachets. I dosed according to your instructions but nothing happened the water…
    11 September 2020
  • Sher
    Re: What Could be the Reason for all the Fish Dying?
    I added pond salt to my fish pond approximately a month ago. I calculated the pond gallons, had another…
    10 September 2020
  • MRS L A FRASER
    Re: Pond Snails in Your Pond
    Hoping someone can help, I would like to introduce some snails to my pond, but confused about which to buy, as l keep goldfish and l am…
    5 September 2020
  • matt
    Re: What Could be the Reason for all the Fish Dying?
    I had 4 koi die within about 2 weeks of each other, thought it was down to spawning for the 2 females…
    30 August 2020