Two thumbs up—and “Bon appétit!”

Gardeners should give their ugly toad friends two thumbs up because each toad eats up to 1,000 insects and other invertebrates per day—and wish them “Bon appétit!”

Eastern American toads (Bufo americanus), of course, would tell you right off that the previous statement is inaccurate because toads are mostly nocturnal and thus each eats up to 1,000 crickets, ants, spiders, slugs, centipedes, and other invertebrates per night. During the heat of the day they stay cool in shady places, such as under porches, flat stones and boards, logs, wood piles, and mulch.

Mulch, in fact, is where I usually find toads during the day. I sometimes upend them, especially hibernating toads, when I’m rearranging mulch in early spring. But I find them in other places too, such as under the large leaves of our chard. Last summer a monster toad spent the day just inside the end of a 3” PVC pipe that carries water from one of our downspouts to a spot 15’ or so downhill.

But if I really want to see toads, the best place is under the fluorescent night light above our garage door about an hour after nightfall. I haven’t seen an estimate of toad I.Q., but the toads at Meadow Glenn must be near the top of the scale because they’ve learned that fast and abundant food is available nightly on the asphalt under the light. Insects attracted to the light bounce off the bricks of the garage and onto the asphalt below—where the toads await. Zapppp! Long tongues flick out almost quicker than the speed of light—and insects becomes toad dinners.

The toads leave their droppings near where they have dined—dark brown-black cylinders of digested insects—which sometimes tempt visitors to ask the question I love to answer, “What’s that?” After a day in the summer sun, the droppings disintegrate at the slightest touch, revealing hundreds of insect parts. Because I know what those droppings represent, I’m pleased when I find toad droppings in my garden. The toads may be hiding from the noonday sun, which proves they aren’t proper Englishmen, but I’m pleased to know they’re patrolling my garden while I sleep.

Toads in the wild don’t live long, only a year or two, but some have been observed for up to 10. Toad literature indicates their prime predators are snakes, owls, skunks, and raccoons. Anecdotal evidence here at Meadow Glenn suggests we humans belong on that list. We run over toads accidentally with our cars and pickups when they come out on roads and driveways at night or after showers, we shred them with our power mowers, and we poison them with chlorine when they mistake our swimming pools for mud puddles.

So I’m all for giving toads a brake. I brake for them when I’m driving my pickup. I brake for them when I’m mowing the lawn. And I try to give them a break from our swimming pool by periodically checking to see if I can rescue a weary swimmer from certain death by chlorine.

If you have toads in your neighborhood, give them two thumbs up, and wish them “Bon appétit!”

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