Beneficial animals Gardening

Tadpole Rescue Mission

Toads and frogs are our friends … and sometimes need our help. Photo: Ano Lobb, flickr

Frogs and toads are the gardener’s friends. They consume copious numbers of insects and small creatures, likes slugs and snails, that can be harmful to plants. This is well understood by most gardeners who leave these amphibians alone to do their job.

But perhaps you can actually help them further!

Wrong Place to Lay Their Eggs

Sometimes tadpoles are threatened by pools that dry out too quickly. Photo: Benny Mazur, flickr

Often frogs and toads lay their eggs in shallow ponds and ditches that can dry out before their babies, called tadpoles or pollywogs, have time to metamorphize into four-legged creatures able to live outside of water. In a dry year, when most pools dry out, an entire generation can be wiped out that way in a very short time. So why not give them a helping hand?

If you have a ready source of well water or rain water, you could simply pour some into their pool to top it up. Do let really cold water warm up a bit first, though: sudden exposure to extremely cold well water can kill tadpoles. 

But don’t use municipal tap water, as it can contain chemicals that can be toxic to tadpoles. And no, you can’t just let the water sit overnight so the chlorine can dissipate: many towns now use chloramine rather than volatile chlorine and it doesn’t evaporate.

Saving tadpoles is great project for children, teaching them about the stewardship of nature! Photo: Bruce Causier

Or catch the tadpoles with a fish net, dropping them into a container of rainwater and moving them to a deeper pool that isn’t likely to dry out. 

Tadpole metamorphizing into a toad. Photo: Kelly Triece,

Most tadpoles mature into frogs and toads very quickly, within weeks of hatching, so will only need your help for a very short time. Possibly they only need a few more hours of aquatic conditions, something you could easily provide.

I’m not suggesting you try to catch each and every one of them, but if you can save half of them, that’s better than nothing and just maybe the survivors will reciprocate by keeping your slug population down!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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