I can’t help it. It is the scientist in me. I have to sort each creature in its proper classification. It started in the high school biology class and continued through college and into my job.
How is a toad different from a frog? Well, if you are brave enough to touch a toad’s skin you will feel a dry bumpy skin. This is because toads tend to live in drier areas, in woodlands, in gardens. Frogs have smooth, often slippery skins. Frogs live in and around the water or where there is a lot of moisture. Both have similar life cycles. They hatch from eggs into tadpoles that grow into adults, but toads develop quicker than frogs and emerge from the lakes as tiny toadlets. Frogs will take months or even a couple of years, depending on the species, to develop into adults. Frogs do most of their growth as tadpoles.
After the heavy early summer rains, we are seeing an invasion of toads of all sizes in the evening chilling on our lawns, sitting in our gardens and hopping across our roads. The rains drew the adults to the lake where they laid eggs in gelatinous strings. The tiny tadpoles that hatched rapidly developed into baby toads no bigger than a thumbnail. These toadlets wandered from the lake into our neighborhood and found refuge in our yards. And that is a good thing since they eat mosquitoes and other insects. Over the next few months they will grow eating more and more insects until they are about the size of a small adult fist.
Don’t worry, although their skin is covered in warts, you will not get warts on your hands as a result of touching them. The warts are glands that secrete a distasteful substance so if a raccoon or other animal decide to eat them, they will be spat out. And that is their best defense against predators. But be forewarned, toads perceive you as a predator too and they will shower you with urine if you pick them up! So if you handle a toad, be sure to wash your hands.
O.K. so now I have to classify them even further. They are Southern Toads, a species that is common and native to our area here in central Florida.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: I just saw a story about how a dog was poisoned and died when it grabbed a toad. It has two large glands that secrete poisons when the toad is squeezed, probably for protection. The species of toad the dog was poisoned by was not the toad discussed in this story, but by an invasive toad called the Marine Toad, Bufo marinus. This large species ( 6 – 10 inches) is native to South and Central America but is now found in southern Florida and in the Tampa area after an accidental release in 1955 at the Miami airport. I added this for your information per chance that you encounter this toad and especially if you live in these areas. My heart goes out to the owner who’s dog died after encountering this toad.