Toads are common in the United States and can make their way into your yard depending on the conditions. But why do they come into yards, instead of staying around bodies of water and forests? In this article we’ll go over how to reduce their food sources, shelter, and water sources from your yard.
There are several reasons why a toad might find their way into your yard. If you have a water source, even temporary such as a shallow depression, toads will use this as a breeding ground. Gardens or outdoor lights that attract insects will, in turn, attract toads. They may also be seeking shelter from predators or have built a burrow in your yard that they will continually return to.
Rest assured, there are ways to keep toads out of your yard and garden and we will certainly go over those topics. We’ll also talk about the benefits of having toads around.
How To Tell If It’s A Toad Or A Frog
The first thing you’ll want to tackle in your quest to rid your yard of toads is to figure out if you are actually seeing a toad, or if it’s a frog.
What’s the difference between these two amphibians?
According to Penn State University, all toads are frogs. But, just to confuse you, not all frogs are toads. Uh…what?
To break it down, frogs and toads all belong to the same order, Anura. From there, toads differentiate into different families and species. True toads are part of the family Bufonidae.
While the name doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that despite being from the same order, frogs and toads have many distinguishing features that can give you a hint as to what just hopped their way onto your property.
Toad vs. Frog Skin
Frogs and toads can both be a wide range of colors from browns and greens to reds and oranges. However, the texture of the skin is what really differentiates these creatures. A toad’s skin will be dry and bumpy, while a frog’s skin is smooth and wet.
Toad vs. Frog Teeth
Believe it or not, frogs have teeny tiny teeth in their mouth! Toads have none, but we don’t blame you if you don’t want to get close enough to investigate.
Toad vs. Frog Leap
Frogs tend to have longer hind legs than toads, giving them an edge in the jumping category. Toads mainly just hop or crawl around instead of their more acrobatic cousins.
Toad vs. Frog Eggs
Both toads and frogs will lay their eggs in water, but toads lay their eggs in parallel lines, whereas frog eggs are single eggs clumped together in a more circular pattern.
The easiest way to tell the difference between a frog and a toad is their skin. Unless you happen to see them moving or spot a clump of eggs, the skin is the easiest identifier.
Why Are Toads In Your Yard?
If you live in the western part of the U.S. you might not have to deal with toads as much as those in the eastern half. This is mainly because toads need water to survive and reproduce.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any toads in the desert! The Sonoran Toad, for example, hibernates most of the year and comes out during rainy days to hop around and find mates.
All in all, toads can be found just about everywhere, and they’re not afraid to get up close and personal with people. As long as there’s food, water, and shelter, a toad can find a way to survive.
So, what the heck are they doing in your yard? What is it about your property that attracts these rough-skinned amphibians?
Let’s be honest, food is a pretty good motivator for all of us. Whether you’re into sweets and chocolate, or kale and smoothies, everyone loves food.
Toads are no different, though we wouldn’t find their diet very palatable. According to the University of Georgia, toads are fond of beetles, snails, ants, earthworms, slugs, and moths. Some toads are big enough to eat small rodents and other toads, too.
If you have a wide variety of plants in your yard or cultivate a garden, you may be attracting toads to your yard by providing a safe haven for their favorite foods. Ants, beetles, moths, and earthworms all love gardens and flowerbeds.
Outdoor lights are another possible culprit for having toads in your yard. These lights attract moths and other nighttime flyers at night, which in turn attract toads.
You may be surprised to hear that toads are straight-up carnivores! They only eat plants when they are in their tadpole stage. That being said, toads can also become prey to other carnivores.
Snakes are the main predator of toads according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Birds, turtles, and mammals will also prey on them. Skunks, raccoons, and minks especially since they are mammals that also like the water.
Toads find shelter from predators in rocks, fallen leaf litter, and fallen logs. If you have these in your yard, you may be inviting toads on your property. They’ll also hide under large plants from the watchful eye of birds.
The beginning of the breeding season starts at the end of January and the beginning of February. This season will last all the way into July in some areas.
During the breeding season, males gather together in groups to create an orchestra of sounds as they try to serenade the lady toads.
If you’re awake on warm summer nights you’re sure to have heard their calls.
Toads will make their calls while in wetlands, shallow ponds, or other wet environments. This is because the females deposit their eggs on aquatic vegetation, which the newborn tadpoles will then use for food.
If you have a water source on your property that does not have fish, such as a fountain, shallow pond, or even a depression in the ground that gets wet during rainy days, toads will use this as a breeding ground.
Even a roadside ditch with standing water can serve as a breeding ground. So, be aware of the possible water sources on your property, even the impermanent ones.
Despite what many people think, toads do not live in ponds or swamps. Instead, they live in burrows that they dig beneath cover, or hang out beneath logs and rocks.
If the soil in your yard is favorable to a toad burrow, they might decide to move in and make your home their home. Sandy and loamy (sand + silt + clay) soils are the best types of soil for burrow-making.
Again, if there’s a water source on or near your property, toads are more likely to hop to your yard and make themselves at home. Toads will always live close to a water source, even if it is not actually on your property.
If you’re hearing the toad orchestra at night and it’s the peak of the breeding season, you may notice more toads than usual in your yard. This does not necessarily constitute a problem, as the toads might just be traveling through while looking for mates.
According to the University of Georgia, toads will travel up to, and sometimes more than, half a mile during the breeding season. Either the males are looking for a suitable pond or ditch, or the females are traveling on their way to the calling male.
Either way, an increase in toad sightings accompanied by their calls at night may not be an actual problem that needs addressing. It may solve itself when the breeding season is over and the toads go back to their burrows.
If you’re going through this list of five reasons toads are in your yard and realize one or more of them applies to your situation, we have solutions for you! Now that we’ve discussed why toads are in your yard, let’s check out how to keep them out.
How To Keep Toads Out Of Your Yard
Having toads in your yard can be unsettling and unpleasant, not to mention the noises they make can be loud enough to keep you up at night! If you want them out of your yard, there are a few things you can do to make your property less attractive to toads.
Note: Using pesticides and insecticides in areas where toads frequent is not recommended. Toads do not drink water, instead, they absorb liquids from their environment through their skin. This can be devastating to them and other wildlife if they absorb these chemicals.
Eliminate Food Sources
We mentioned that toads love to eat all the creepy crawlers out there…moths, ants, beetles, earthworms. Yum.
If toads can’t find food in your yard, they’re unlikely to come into your yard, and even less likely to make a burrow in your yard.
While it can be difficult, near impossible, to eliminate bugs completely from your yard, you can make your yard less attractive to bugs. Using amber-colored outdoor lights like BlueX A19 Amber Yellow LED Bug Light will attract fewer bugs to your home at night, which is when toads are most active.
According to UCLA-Smithsonian research, yellow and amber colors are the best lights to use outdoors to have a minimum impact on insects. It does not attract insects as much as blue or ultraviolet light.
Another way you can repel bugs (and therefore toads) is by cleaning up your garden and flower bed once the season is over. Leaving vegetables and fruits to rot on the ground will attract bugs, which will attract toads.
Toads avoid predators by using cover to avoid their watchful eyes. This can take the form of a fallen log, leaf litter, a bushy plant, or a pile of rocks.
If you have fallen debris or tons of leaves littering your yard, you are providing toads and other critters with shelter. Be sure to rake leaves, clean up fallen branches, and trim bushes a few inches from the ground to ensure you’re not giving toads a reason to stick around.
Another way to avoid providing shelter is to keep your lawn cut short. Mowing regularly will keep toads from using your tall grass to move about your property.
Eliminate Temporary Water Sources
You’ve been meaning to fill in that ditch and just haven’t gotten around to it. We get it, maintaining a house, yard, and family can be a lot of work!
But, if you really want to keep toads away, you’ll need to take care of those temporary water sources.
You can use sawdust to fill in depressions in your yard that collect water on rainy days. Use rocks to fill in ditches that are used for drainage. Try to keep buckets over-turned so they do not collect water.
Ponds and lakes are going to be more difficult to keep toad-free. But, if there’s fish in the pond or lake, you shouldn’t need to worry about it. Toads will target fish-free waters to hang out and lay their eggs.
If you have a pool or a fish-free pond, you can use something like Kuptone Pond Netting to keep your water sources safe from toads. The net holes are only ⅜” and can keep toads, frogs, and other critters out.
Toads aren’t the fastest or cleverest of animals. They fall prey to a wide variety of animals like snakes, birds, and small- to medium-sized mammals.
Hognose snakes are the main predator of toads and feed almost exclusively on them. They are immune to a toad’s toxins, so they have an advantage over other predators.
These interesting snakes can be easily identified by their upturned nose. They are nonvenomous and rarely bite.
You can also identify these snakes if you happen to startle one by accident. They will spread the skin around their head and puff up like a cobra. If this show doesn’t scare you off, they’ll flop over and play possum, complete with open mouth and tongue hanging out.
If you see hognose snakes hanging around your property, your toad problem might go away on its own.
Is It Good To Have Toads In Your Yard?
So, we know why toads are in our yard and how to keep them out. Now the question is: should you keep toads out of your yard?
Toads can be pretty beneficial to the environment around them. The main benefit of having toads around is that they keep the insect population in check. This can eliminate the need for pesticides and insecticides, both of which can be expensive and harsh for your garden and flowers.
Additionally, since toads are carnivores, you don’t need to worry about them eating your plants or garden vegetables. Instead, they’ll snack on other stuff that does eat your veggies and flowers.
The main downside to toads is the toxins they produce through their skin. They use this as a defense mechanism to avoid predators.
It’s not recommended to handle a toad yourself, but if you do come in contact with one, the toxins will not harm your skin. A problem only arises if you get the toxins in your eyes or mouth.
It can be as uncomfortable as pepper spray and will be an experience you won’t soon forget. Rest assured, there is no permanent damage from toad toxins to you if you come in contact with them.
Pets are not in any particular danger from toads, as they are smart enough not to eat them. However, some dogs have been known to pick toads up in their mouths and then immediately spit them out. A few hours of drooling teaches the dog never to pick a toad up again.
Toad-ally Worth The Read!
That’s all we have for now on why toads are in your yard and how to keep them out. Hopefully, this article was totally worth the read and you can keep those warty amphibians out for good!
To recap, here are the five reasons toads are in your yard:
- Breeding Season
- Traveling During Breeding Season
If you want toads to stay away, you’ll want to make your yard as unappealing as possible by eliminating their food sources, shelter, and water sources, no matter how temporary.
If you’re unsure about your toad problem or need assistance, use our nationwide pest control finder to get in contact with a professional near you!
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Meng, Q., Yau, L.-F., Lu, J.-G., Wu, Z.-Z., Zhang, B.-X., Wang, J.-R., & Jiang, Z.-H. (2016, July 01). Chemical profiling and cytotoxicity assay of bufadienolides in toad venom and toad skin. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 187, 74-82. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874116301763
Smith, J. G., & Phillips, B. L. (2006). Toxic tucker: the potential impact of Cane Toads on Australian reptiles. Pacific Conservation Biology, 12(1), 40-49. https://www.publish.csiro.au/pc/pc060040
Willumsen, N. J., Viborg, A. L., & Hillyard, S. D. (2007, September). Vascular aspects of water uptake mechanisms in the toad skin: Perfusion, diffusion, confusion. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 148(1), 55-63. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1095643307000062
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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