by Irene Skrybailo | December 2014
In spring and summer frogs are found leaping and hopping about in the garden, but what becomes of them in winter? Where do they go? How do they survive?
Frogs and toads are frequent visitors to the garden at Three Rivers Farm. Beatrix Farrand’s signature stone walls are a great hiding place for amphibians escaping from predators, or just looking for a cool shady spot to relax and scope out their next meal. I’m always thrilled to see our amphibian tenants and welcome them, as amphibians are a barometer of a healthy ecosystem.
Frogs, toads and salamanders absorb water through their skin and are the first to get sick when there are toxins in the environment. For this reason, they are ‘bioindicators’: species used to monitor the health of an ecosystem because they reveal the levels of pollution and chemicals around them.
We keep organic at Three Rivers Farm, so I’m always sure to keep a watchful eye on my tenants in spring and summer. It’s critical they have a home that is pesticide-free and safe for them and for us.
Amphibians go to great lengths to make it safely through the cold winter months of the northeast.
Some frogs and toads actually freeze, becoming frogcicles! (Wood frogs, eastern grey frogs and spring peepers are among the CT residents in this group). Others burrow below the frost line and enter a state of hibernation. Their organs shut down and they slowly stop breathing, but do not freeze thanks to a high concentration of glucose in their system that acts as antifreeze. This is one of the benefits of being cold blooded!
Green frogs are aquatic and will hibernate in wet soil or underwater during the winter months. They may become active during warm spells in the winter months. They emerge from hibernation in March or April.
The pickerel frog hibernates in the mud in the bottom of ponds, or in ravines, springs or under rocks, and even in caves to wait out the winter. They are the first frog to emerge in late winter or early spring. They are a barometer of water quality. If you see pickerel frogs near a stream, the water is very clean and free of pollutants.
American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus). They burrow down beneath the frost line to wait out winter and will emerge in April.
For more information and to hear audio of frog calls, check out the Peabody Museum’s Online Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut AND CT DEEP’s ‘Amphibians and Reptiles in Connecticut’
~ Irene Skrybailo, Master Gardener
Promisek at Three Rivers Farm
Note: Thank you to Greg Watkins-Colwel, at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, for identifying the frogs in these photos.