farewell, my princes: the big frogboy exodus

newboys-4M Y FIVE BIGGEST HUNKS O’ BURNING BULLFROG have up and gone, the oldest boys out back who I was certain were Prime Prince Material. Sigh. Left me flat, during or just after a dramatic 2.75-inch rainfall recently, without so much as a farewell ribbit. And look at the mere pipsqueaks who have got hold of the larger pool since, which they’d never dare have gone near if the omnivore Big Boys were still around (and that’s a froggirl up top; not big and not even a boy!). What’s up with my frogs? Was it something I said?

newboys2I think I know what’s up, sort of: A frog expert I emailed with last week after my tragic loss confirms that she has seen large movements after rains like I described, perhaps a hunting expedition (meaning they will be back, to breed, shortly) or maybe the move was to find new breeding grounds (a sayonara of the more permanent type).

Bullfrogs (about 3 1/2 to 6 inches in body length) are true aquatic animals, meaning they need a watery environment, period, unlike the Green Frogs (2 to 3 1/2 inches) I am left with (including the sexed-up adult male, above, whose intentions and gender I discern from his yellow throat coloration and the raucous behavior he’s been exhibiting lately). I think he has (bug) eyes for the lady up top. Green Frogs can deal with a terrestrial environment, at least part of the time; bulls cannot…except in big rains, when the opportunity to move presents itself. So off they went, in search of greener pastures, I suppose, perhaps singin’ in the rain.

When it’s wet out, the normally aquatic Bullfrogs can move much longer distances: “They have been anecdotally recorded to move about 1.5 km or more, astonishing as that may sound,” says Megan Gahl, an environmental scientist and co-author of a recent study at the University of Maine on Bullfrogs’ use of seasonal pools, published in the journal “Wetlands.”

new-boys-3Once breeding gets under way, they are less likely to move this way, she says. Hurry back, boys, or it’s over between us. Eek; unimaginable. But seriously, how can you leave me with little guys like that young green, above? He’s cute, I guess, but really! Not my type.

More amazing details to share in the wake of this separation-anxiety event: You can also tell boys from girls in bulls and even greens by the size of their, er, tympanum. No, that’s not something dirty: It’s their eardrum. Girls have tympanum equal to or smaller than their eye size, the boys’ are bigger. And then there’s this magic story:

A few days after the bulls left, the medium-sized frogs (greens and leopards), who as I say would never have dared go near the biggest of my three water features just 30 feet away for fear of being eaten, all hopped across the lawn together in an amphibian moving-up ceremony, as if on cue. The biggest pool is now theirs. The medium-sized pool they used to use: Now my smallest frogs, one-year greens and the occasional Leopard Frog and so forth, have all shacked up there.

In the smallest water gardens, nobody now lives. Since the Big Guys are gone, we only have two castes in the system here now, small and medium. Amazing, huh? Talk about adaptation to changes in environment. Talk about opportunism.

So I ask you: What odds do you give me for getting my beloved biggest frogboys back, some of them individuals I have known for three or four or maybe five years each, and could actually tell apart? Don’t believe me? Bullfrogs live an average of seven to nine years in the wild (up to 16 in captivity, says Animal Diversity Web, my favorite reading matter on such topics), and don’t even reach sexual maturity until age 3 to 5 years. And you know my guys were sexy beasts, don’t you recall? I mean, look at them:


Categoriesfrogboys woo woo
  1. Mars says:

    First: Nooooooo!

    Next: He’ll be back Margaret. He just went out for some adventure. Or maybe a visionquest. Keep us abreast.

  2. Country Gardener says:

    Hi Margaret: Thanks for the fascinating info on the frogs. We have bullfrogs in our pond, but I haven’t studied them the way you have. We also have a few tree frogs. I’m more of a toad gal – I’m always rescuing them when they end up in the barn, and I’ve taught my Toby-dog to “be nice” to toads. (This works because I take him out on a lead at night when there are lots of toads around.) Your frog photos are outstanding. I hope the little ones you have now will grow big and grow on you the way the original frog-boys did. Cheers/Yvonne

  3. Jill-O says:

    Thank you so much for all the interesting info. I’m a frog-lover, I’ve been one for years. I used to hike over to a nearby pond to sit quietly and watch the bullfrogs and turtles as they basked in the sun or sat in the mud and sang. The first sign of spring is not seeing a robin but hearing the spring peepers. Long ago, I adopted the frog as my “totem”. Still, I know so little about the actual creatures.

  4. Balsamfir says:

    Isn’t that just like a guy? Just when its time for… Couldn’t resist the joke, but they are handsome in their handsome copper verdigris skins, and I hope they come home safe and sound when the rain stops.

  5. Jayne says:

    We’ve all experience those watershed moments in our lives, when we know that in our professions or in our personal lives it may be (thunder roars) …… time to move on. Even frog boys feel it!

  6. Rosella says:

    A frog he would a’wooing go, whether his mother would let him or no …..

    I think they’ve just gone a’wooing in all the lovely puddles from that big rain, and they’ll come home when things dry up.

  7. salix says:

    Your frog stories are sweet. We have lots of frogs in the ponds – but I haven’t yet taken the time to take a closer look like you. Some day I will – your photos and info. make me want to.

  8. margaret says:

    Out for a smoke…on a visionquest…or to the Burning Man festival…or a’wooing…hmmm? You all have some *very* interesting ideas, none I had considered before. :)

    Welcome, Melissa. I can barely watch your video, and that’s the first thing I thought about, of course, bullfrog sushi, though my garden pools are like 10 feet across and we have no cranes (the occasional blue heron nearby, but again my pools are so small). I am praying for “gone hunting/fishing” and that they will return (probably with a heap of dirty laundry and some fish needing cleaning and frying). Crossing my fingers.

  9. Betsy says:

    Why this post reminded me of the time my daughter came running up the basement stairs screaming because of the ginormous toad down there, I don’t know. Your photograph second from bottom is fabulous. I’m going to get Pete to look at it. I think your guys are off on a hunting trip – right now they’re probably sitting around in their underwear drinking beer and playing cards.

  10. Janet says:

    OMG!!! They’ll be back — they’re just going through some of that “grass is greener” stuff. Sometimes you have to wander to know how good you have it at home!!!!!

  11. It’s amazing how much personality an amphibian can exhibit, Margaret – your story is so poignant and your photos so cute that one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Like Dolly Parton’s character in Steel Magnolias can we say laughter through tears is our favorite emotion?

    Although it makes you sad to lose the Frogboys, maybe looking for mates outside the immediate circle is a way to keep the genetic material mixed up and fresh for the species?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  12. Susan says:

    I am so upset, I never got to meet any of them. I will pray that they do return. Glad to have pictures of them on my bulletin board.
    I will have to fall in love your your new boys!!

  13. How ungrateful, just when they get a website of their very own. Would they need another deluge to make it back home? Was there a deluge when they showed up the first time? You probably don’t remember.

    Hope everything goes smoothly on your Open Day coming up. Last year there was a big storm, no?

  14. chigal says:

    Yah! Set yourself up a toad house near the smallest water feature.

    You didn’t import the bullfrogs, right? If they chose your pond on their own, they (or their descendants) will make their way back again.

  15. I love your frog love. I always try to make my garden hospitable to any amphibious visitors. Sadly, they leave my neighbour’s pond for greener pastures, giving my often dry garden the cold (clammy) shoulder. Likely, they do eat a few slugs as they pass through.

  16. margaret says:

    Welcome, Helen at Toronto Gardens. Nice to meet another lover of things amphibian. :)

    @Kathy: Yes, last year’s Open Days tours (well, the reception afterward for the Garden Conservancy) were accompanied by terrifying electrical storms of an unusual nature. Scary. Forecast for this Sunday is good!

    @Chigal: No, bullfrogs are native to this region (as are the green frogs). They showed up in the back yard 15 or more years ago, when I dug my first water garden.

  17. Margaret,

    Our biggest boys have left, too. Not only that, but the turtles, especially the big snapping turtles have been on the move lately. We’ve seen them crossing our big, open meadow on their way from one neighbor’s pond to another 1/2 mile away. Seen them all around the roadsides, too (some in not very good condition as they didn’t make the crossing).

    If that’s not enough, snakes are also on the move in this rain. Sadly, there has been an increase in snake bites from 100 this time last year to 175 poisonous so far this year. Fortunately for us, only one of the snakes (copperhead) around my neighborhood is poisonous and all the others are good vole predators. In other parts of the state, rattlers and water moccasins are a problem.

    Nature does interesting things in rain. Our pet cockatiel thinks it is the monsoon season and he has no mate to answer his calls (what a ruckus).


  18. teaorwine says:

    I am wondering if the frog boys have fallen victim to the food chain? The flourishing environment which exists in your gardens will be replenished with more frog boys before long; I feel sure of it!

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Countess of Nassau County. You know, I should have realized that…there are so many cows right down the road. I will go check at the dairy farms on the other end of the road immediately. By the way, I went to visit your blog just now and saw a couple of familiar faces…Eddie and Jaithan…but I can’t leave a comment because the option for “name-url” isn’t turned on. :( But I tried. Blogger is a little oddball for non-Blogger bloggers. (Now THAT was a sentence.) See you soon again I hope.

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