Frogs and toads can’t get enough of bugs
Fogs and toads are carnivorous and have a taste for arthropods — especially insects. Close examination will reveal a population of hungry hopping creatures that use home landscapes and vegetable gardens as a hunting ground. The frogs eat the bugs that would normally eat the plants, keeping the garden and landscape healthier.
Florida’s 27 native frog species all inhabit North Florida. Many have adapted to human habitation and can be found around houses and buildings.
Frogs are generally classified as arboreal, aquatic or terrestrial — some of the terrestrial frogs are also identified as toads.
Arboreal frog species live in trees or bushes and have noticeably enlarged toe pads. Their suction-cupped toes make them excellent climbers with the ability to successfully leap impressive distances.
Aquatic frog species spend the majority of their lives in water. Most have well-developed toe webbing for efficient swimming, but they are still capable of remarkable jumps.
Terrestrial frogs live on dry ground under plants, logs or other cover with most species burrowing in loose soil. These frogs and toads often have dry, lumpy skin.
Native frogs will be found around water where they lay eggs during breeding season, which begins in March and tapers off in September. Once hatched, the small fish-like offspring rely on water sources as a safe haven for development. They have a tail for propulsion, no legs for hopping and only gills to breathe in the water.
They live on plant material until metamorphosis changes everything.
During the tadpole stage, the body shape changes — lungs replace gills, and legs grow as the tail disappears. They also convert from an herbivore to a carnivore.
While a persistent myth, there is no need to worry about physical contact as nobody has ever contracted warts from touching frogs or toads.
Late Summer Ornamentals
In the dog days of August, only the most heat-tolerant annual bedding plants can survive.
Vinca, gaillardia and coleus transplants will thrive under the intense heat of this last full month of summer.
Add cool-season annuals and bedding plants in late September to complement the colors of the autumn season. In some cases, these plants may be started as seeds during August, but there are many species and cultivars readily available in retail establishments and nurseries.
Ageratum, celosia, zinnia and wax begonia are all good candidates. The key to success in establishing these plants is to meet their needs for sun, water and soil.
Sun exposure can be manipulated by planting in locations near objects which may shade the ever-changing position of the sun’s natural light source.
August is a great month to solarize garden spots. Solarization is a soil sanitizing technique that can be accomplished with a heat-trapping cover which will kill some, if not most, of the weed seeds and insect eggs lodging in the garden patch.
For small plots, a large trash bag held down with bricks, boards or rocks will do. For larger areas, a roll of plastic sheeting will be necessary. The August heat trapped under the plastic will slow bake the potentially harmful organisms and render them inert.
Luckily, earthworms — which are good for garden soil — will leave the area when it heats up but will return when the soil cools to normal.
Les Harrison is a retired University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Wakulla County extension director.