Attracting Toads to Your Garden: The Benefits of Toads in the Yard
article copyright Toadily Toads, 2004 - 2007, do not reprint without permission
There are times when ignorance is bliss but when it comes to being an innocent toad mistaken for a dangerous pest, human ignorance is anything but bliss. Not counting the Cane toad situation, I am shocked by the amount of misconceptions about toads. Thats sad enough, but I hadnt realized that there are people out there who believe that toads are pests who will damage their garden! Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, its just the opposite.
If you are thinking of Cane toads, (bufo marinus), understand that they were introduced into environments where they do not belong, just like the common bullfrog has been. These invasive species have caused many problems for native species. Of course, I'm sure a Cane toad in your garden would probably sock away a whole lot of pesty, crop eating bugs, however, this article is focusing on native species. And please keep in mind, Cane toads and bullfrogs were introduced to places where they did not belong by HUMANS. Its so sad that the hostility is always directed at the poor toads. They didn't ask to be brought to those other lands and now, ignorant humans misdirect anger and aggression at them, taking absolute glee in stoning them to death or running them over with their cars! Please click here to read our official position on the Cane toad situation.
Toads can eat thousands of insects from your vegetable garden or flower bed. The majority of the nasty pest insects that people use chemical insecticide sprays to get rid of are insects that are eaten by toads. A toad or two in your vegetable garden is a blessing. Contrary to wanting to get rid of them, you should want to encourage them to come and hang out in your garden.
I do get letters asking me how to attract a toad to the garden. I thought I should probably just put an article up on this site which addresses that question. I encourage people to create clean, healthy environments in their gardens and encourage toads to come stay. Its good for you and them.
The first thing to do is be sure there are no dangers lurking in your garden and lawn area. The most obvious problem is with toxic chemicals like pesticides and hericides. Use safe, organic fertilizers and insect control methods. The toads, once in your garden, will help to control vast amounts of crop damaging insects, but you must provide a proper living environment first. Toxins are deadly to all life, but especially to a delicate little animal who is so susceptible to them. Remember that frogs and toads breath through their skin and drink through their skin and are in need of clean air and water. In areas where air pollution is high and chemical use on lawns and in gardens is common place, such as in New York City, you are hard pressed to find a toad. Amphibians in general are dwindling in population all over the world as air, water and soil pollution increase.
Now, I know a woman who told me that when her husband was alive, he would flick cigarette butts onto the lawn and let them burn out, leaving the filters on the ground. She would try to keep up with cleaning it, but it didnt always happen and he refused to consider this to be a problem. Theyd still be there even after she mowed the lawn. She told me that two years after his death to emphysema, she discovered that there were several toads coming around. She said in the 12 years theyd lived in that house, she never once had toads in her garden. She firmly believes that once he was no longer tossing butts onto the lawn, she saw an increase in birds coming into the yard as well. She herself had stopped smoking a few years before her husband died, but when she was still smoking, she said she had a butt bucket outside which her husband would never use. She always feared that he'd set the grass on fire, but that was only one problem.
We here at toadilytoads.com would like to ask you, on behalf of all toads, please use an outdoor ashtray. Please see the article about pollution effects on toads in our toad care section for more information on the subject and to learn why this is so dangerous to the soil. Even Marlboro manufacturer Phillip-Morris have a section on their website urging smokers to be environmentally conscious and they state that cigarette butts are the number one litter in America.
Please read this eye opening article by smoking cessation councelor John Polito, "Mother Earth is Not An Ashtray". If you understand what is really happening, you will undoubtedly rethink the whole issue, be you a smoker or not. The article can be found here: http://whyquit.com/whyquit/A_Butts.html
Once you have provided a safe, clean, pesticide and chemical free environment (including decomposing cigarette butts), you then need some accommodations. There are many options. One is to make a simple hiding spot by using half of a terre cotta flower pot. The toads can go in it like a cave. It can have its own charm and be landscaped into the design of your garden.
Another possibility, and one I like much better, is to get a toad house, but before I discuss toad houses, there is another way you can attract toads and that is to create a well formed rock garden. Rock gardens attract toads because they provide cool, moist and sheltered environments which happen to attract insects. Of course, they also attract snakes, so you want to be sure the toad always has an escape hatch. They won't always make it out of there, no, but it gives them a chance to. A closed wall behind them means no way out for sure.
Do some research on rock gardens and you will see they can be very attractive. Using a solar fountain in the center can make that rock garden the star of your property! If there are toads on your property, they will very likely find their way to your rock garden!
Toad houses are not very hard to find on the internet and they can be incorporated into a rock garden or used in a vegetable garden or dirt strip. Online auction sites are a great place to look. You can try alternative sites to ebay to find better prices. When sellers pay no listing fees and much smaller final value fees, they tend to list things cheaper or at least seem much more open to lowering the price of an item if you ask. Try Plunder Here or Auction Quests. There's also ecrater.com which is a store environment with no fees for sellers or buyers and its all "buy now" listings!
You can sometimes find toad houses in gardening specialty stores or even in the gardening section at stores like Walmart, however, its hit or miss. Not that there are millions of toad houses to be found online, either, but your odds are definitely good that you will find something. I've seen about 4 or 5 common designs repeated in a recent search on both google's "froogle" search and Yahoo shopping. I've also seen unique houses on Ebay, such as one by a seller that I recommend, paintedgrdns out of Illinois. Kathy is friendly and accomodating and works with you, which in my case meant enlarging the door (see next paragraph).
It is important to keep in mind that most of the toad species you will be attracting to your garden will be larger. All too many toad houses have tiny little doors and a toad the size of an adult female bufo americanus (American toad) or a Fowlers or Woodhouses toad, might not fit into small toad houses.
We have one house, pictured here, that looked big online but when we got it, it was so small, our toads couldnt get into it. Tiny could, but not Kisco or Woodstock. We put the house down over her to take this picture, actually.
In the end, this house came in handy because our little Tomato toad (tomato frog if you prefer, as they are actually frogs), Pumpkin took a liking to it and he lived in there until his death. In fact, he was almost always in there and hardly ever came out. Yes, there are some smaller bufo species, like the Dwarf American toad or tiny little Oak toads or smaller Southern Toads (bufo terrestris), but you should know in advance which toads live in your area and find out the average size of an adult female because the female is always larger. If you know that you are not likely to attract much of anything but American toads, then dont bother with tiny little toad houses. If the dimensions are not stated in the item description, email or call and ask.
A good toad house should be airy and provide shade and cooling to the toad. It shouldnt be a hot box. The house should ideally have no bottom, so the toads can burrow into the soil under the house if they'd like to. If it is a house with a bottom, you can bury the bottom of the house into the dirt a bit, so at least they will sit in dirt and not on resin or clay, but since toads like to burrow, they might find such a house less attractive than an open bottomed one.
The toad house should be placed in a shady place, not in the middle of a garden that gets direct sun for 6 hours straight. It would be wise to set the house in the middle of lots of plants or under a bush, that way, its in the garden where the toad can eat all the insects, but its not out in the middle of nowhere with the sun beating it. Remember, toads are nocturnal and avoid sun to avoid dehydration. Also, the house should be near water of some kind, even if you provide the water dish yourself, which is what we do. Toads just like to soak in the water, not swim, so it doesnt need to be deep but it does need to be refilled often. I strongly recommend filling it yourself everyday with purified water. However, some people do have success in attracting toads with a lawn sprinkler being the daily water source. It will also help if your garden has lots of worms and crickets and other insencts in abundance.
Ive known people who have caught local, native toads and brought them to their gardens. I have no problem with that, so long as you provide them with what they need. I never advocate taking any animal out of its environment unnecessarily. If you relocate a toad, be sure you are giving them a good new home. But NEVER set a non-native species loose outdoors! That's how the Cane toad and bullfrog disasters happened. For instance, don't order some exotic European species and set it loose in North America! Be responsible. Only deal with native species when keeping toads in your garden.
Finally, keep in mind, too that you want the toads to be able to hide quickly and easily in your garden. Predators flying overhead can be a big danger to a toad who is visible. Also, I strongly prefer toad houses that have two doors so the toads can escape if need be. Imagine a snake finding a toad in a toad house with no way for the toad to escape! Or the paw of an animal swiping around in there trying to dig the poor toad out. Most toad houses only have one way in or out, unfortunately and I am not even aware of any house that is commonly available that has an opening in more than one place.
We do give TWO FLIPPERS UP to Kathy of paintedgrdns fame on Ebay as I mentioned above. Her toad house offering is outstanding. Finally, a house that can be made to fit an adult female bufo americanus!!! Here is Woodstock checking out the new abode from the front.
Our official review: Of all the toad houses we've come accross, there is no question that this house from paintedgrdns is the hands down winner! It is by far one of the nicest, most attractive designs out there. Its airy, spacious inside, big enough for most large domestic species, such as a large female bufo americanus, (bufo marinus and bufo paracnemis are not domestic), and it features a "bottomless bottom" so the toad can burrow into dirt. The door can be made larger or smaller, though we recommend the larger size, and the name can even be customized if you want. Definitely worth every penny of its low and reasonable price. It even came wrapped professionally in a safely cushioned box. The seller, Kathy, is friendly and professional. This house is great for outdoors in a garden, indoors in a large tank, or just as a collectible display peice. TOADILY TOADS GIVE THIS HOUSE TWO FLIPPERS UP!
Basically, you'd have to be a Rococo toad or a Cane toad not to fit in this house!
Poor Gardilla! She couldn't fit through that door any which way. But she did find a way to enjoy the house never the less! (I told you toads are smart).
Of course, our little bufo americanus male, Tiny, has no trouble fitting into most toad houses, so he doesn't see the fuss.
Kathy can also customize this house, as she did for us. She made the door bigger and she wrote "Kisco" on the top instead of "Toad". If you would like to email her, please tell her that Toadily Toads sent you. Her email address is: email@example.com and be sure to search for her auctions under seller search on Ebay. She offers many beautiful and unique garden decorations.
(9/2007: please note: I have not heard from Kathy for a couple of years now and people tell me the address is no longer working)
If you have any questions or comments regarding this article or any other issues, please see the contact page. Meanwhile, here's hoping you find a cute little toad in your garden!