DP: (Your Thing) for Dummies, Toads

Take a complicated subject you know more about than most people, and explain it to a friend who knows nothing about it at all. Daily Post

I love toads. American toads to be specific, Anaxyrus americanus. I spent the last two years doing research on these guys at a local farm, and I strangely miss them. I miss their singing at night and the gold flecks in their eyes.


Male toad with gold flecks in eyes.


Amplectant pair surrounded by eggs.

American toads are important because they act as a natural pesticide. As a part of integrated pest management (IPM), a lot of organic and chemical-free farms will utilize animals to get rid of pests. Ladybugs are a common example, eating aphids that are very active crop destroyers. American toads, it is thought, do the same thing. And that’s my research.

I go out nightly in the spring, during the toads’ mating season, to do a catch and release survey of the toads. That means I catch every single toad that is out that night, tag them with a PIT tag (like what you might put in a cat or dog with an identification number), take some measurements, and return the toad to where it was found. If the toad already has a tag, that means it’s a recap, and that we have already seen this toad, maybe multiple times.

I take notes on every detail in our yellow Rite in the Rain notebook. All of this information can point towards the population of toads at the farm, how many toads frequent each pond, and, eventually, how effective they are at ridding the crops of pests.

This is only the first phase of the research. What we haven’t done is check what the toads are actually eating, if they are indeed targeting pest insects or if they’re a more generalist species, eating anything that they find.


Male toad calling to females. Only males sing.

I wrote once about the toads, when they failed to show up at all on the farm, when my advisor accompanied me expecting a plethora of toads. I wrote about their singing, the high pitched ringing that rebounds throughout the night. I miss those calls. It’s such a distinct noise, something so unique and characteristic of these animals. Sometimes I dream about them at night, especially when it rains.


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