Where Do All These Frogs Come From?

Tallahassee Democrat 09/10

I like my theory. On rainy spring nights, ‘Rana-man’ rides around on his Harley, pitching bullfrogs over the garden fences of all the folks in Tallahassee who’ve created a backyard garden pond (and have been good). I know he rides a Harley, because that’s the sound his frogs make, a deep rolling grumble, albeit a bit softer than the bike. How else do you explain these bullfrogs showing up in isolated garden ponds, behind fences, miles from water? Oh yes, the frog eggs sticking to the heron’s feet theory. Really? Is that all you have?

We have a long time customer who for a while brought us squirming buckets of tadpoles from her pond, but I’m sure Linda is not responsible. However it happens, frogs make water gardening fun and unpredictable. Fun because…frogs are fun! Unpredictable because you never know who will show up to eat them: hawks, owls, herons, water-snakes, raccoons—all good reasons why they shouldn’t be there–not alive.

They’re not easy to catch though—at least not for me. I chased one across open grass once—I dived, I grabbed—came up with clumps of grass again and again. And if you do manage to catch one, there’s that trick they play. You’ve never felt anything go so relaxed as a bullfrog in your hand. It practically melts—until it decides you’re not paying attention—then boing!

I think the secret to their survival is nocturnal activity. They hop about in the grass at night ambushing anything they can fit in their mouth. Then by day, they play it cool in the confines of your pond.

If you’d like to encourage frogs to move into your garden pond, here are some tips. Bog areas along the pond edge are ideal for frogs. Their eyes emerging from mats of algae or lemon bacopa give their owners away. Pickerel weed provides good cover, as does Lizard tail, another native plant with pretty white flowers in the spring. Irises make great frog habitat. Plant them in the ground just outside the liner to visually extend the size of your pond.

If your pond is in a shady part of the yard, wet rocks near the waterfall spray will grow a lovely mat of green moss; irresistible to leopard frogs. We often see them congregate together, ready to jump en masse when you get too close. They have to be careful. In addition to the predators listed above, they’re also on the bullfrog’s menu. A friend once told me a story of finding a leopard frog in his house. He slid open the French doors and innocently tossed it into his small patio pond, only to see it disappear down the gullet of a bullfrog he didn’t know he had. I guess the newcomer was hungry, after a long night on the back of that motorcycle.