Back to Back Issues Page
Frogs and Toads, Hibernation
November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day for America, Remembrance Day for Canada.

A Big Salute to our Veterans and Active members of our Military.

Thank You for your service.

A big 'Gardening for Wildlife' hug, and a large dose of appreciation goes out to you.

For you, and your families that keep the home fires burning.

Because of you, I get to sit here and write this letter.

God Bless You.

Still no killing frost or freeze around here.

A few of the Red Salvia, Nasturtiums, and Agastache are all that remain.

I have indeed been putting thing to sleep.

Cold weather is in the forecast this week, I will finally lose the last of the bloomers.

Still, this late into November is a rare treat for me.

The brilliant trees I've shared the last couple of weeks (from starting to change, and close to peak) have now lost most of their foliage.

Heavy rains and wind will do that.

I'm on my yearly quest, in search of bagged leaves.

I don't have enough of my own, so I go on the hunt and ask others for theirs.

I use bagged leaves as an insulator (winter cover) for many of my plants.

Especially the ones that are not zone tolerant.

A big bag of packed maple leaves (could be any leaves) placed on top of my Black and Blue salvia or any other perennial in question works as a wonderful insulator.

Other bags of leaves are mulched up with my "Worx TriVac" (great machine to have).

Then, I will either spread around as a layer of mulch/compost, or I save a couple of bags for 'Leaf Mold'.

Nothing like using some of Nature's own.

Last week I teased you a bit on turtles and turtle hibernation.

This week we will continue hibernation.

Frog and toads hibernate too, and Creation has given each its own special gifts to survive harsh weather.

Today we explore how weather and length of day play rolls in amphibians.


Stores are filled with Christmas (not holiday) decorations.

Yep, blow right by Fall and Thanksgiving.

Shoot, by mid summer you are hard pressed to find a new summer outfit.

Now its winter clothing.

Down filled coats.

Flannel jammies.

Sweaters, and boots.

Stocking caps, and mittens.

Warm up to a cup of hot chocolate and sit next to a fireplace.

And winter is still another month plus in the future.

Such are things in Southwest Michigan and many other locations in North America and the rest of the Northern hemisphere.

Last week I gave you a short look into the fall and winter of most turtles.

This week is a peek into hibernation for frogs and toads.

Credit for the toad and frog pictures go to 'Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission' photographer 'Tom Diez'.

Frogs are ectothermic.

This means that they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature.

Birds and mammals, including humans, are endotherms.

We generate heat chemically and internally by breaking down food.

Feathers, fur and clothing don't hurt either.

The bodies of ectotherms reflect the air, ground, and water temperatures around them.

(With a warm September and early October, we had toads and tree frogs still active the second week of October.)

One advantage these critters have over mammals is that they can survive for long periods without eating.

In the fall, frogs first need to find a place to make their winter home, a living space called a hibernaculum that will protect them from weather extremes and from predators.

The frog then “sleeps” away the winter by slowing down its metabolism. When spring arrives, it wakes up and leaves the hibernaculum, immediately ready to eat and then mate.


Aquatic frogs such as the Leopard frog, Green frog, and American bullfrog usually hibernate underwater in streambeds or on pond bottoms.

A common misconception is that they spend the winter the way aquatic turtles do, dug into the mud at the bottom of a pond or stream.

In fact, hibernating frogs would suffocate if they dug into the mud for an extended period of time.

A hibernating turtle's metabolism slows down so drastically that it can get by on the mud's meager oxygen supply.

Hibernating aquatic frogs, however, must be near oxygen-rich water and spend a good portion of the winter just lying on top of the mud or only partially buried.

They may even slowly swim around from time to time.

Remember, water is Oxygen rich at 39 degrees F. (close to 4 C.) and turns over if the bottom gets colder than this.

Insuring a good supply of oxygen filled water.

(American Toad)

Terrestrial frogs and toads typically hibernate on land.

The frogs and toads that are good diggers like the American toads burrow deep into the soil, trying to get below the frost line.

Other frogs, such as the Tree frog and the Spring peeper, aren’t good diggers (suction cups instead of claws) and so must scout and hunt out their winter homes in deep cracks and crevices in logs or rocks, or they might dig down into the leaf litter.

These guys are not as well protected from frigid weather and may freeze, along with their inhabitants.

These frozen toads, peepers and tree frogs might look dead.

And yet the frogs and toads do not die.


Their hearts have actually stopped beating.

But the partially frozen frogs aren’t dead.

Instead, they have a kind of natural anti-freeze in their bodies.

Ice crystals form in their organs and body cavity, but a high concentration of glucose in the toads/frogs’ vital organs prevents freezing.

When spring approaches and its hibernaculum warms up above freezing, a frog’s/toad's frozen body will thaw, and it will come back to life.

I have dug up toads in my compost pile and other lose areas of dirt the spring.

They are as cold, and as hard, as a hockey puck.

Place the toad back in its hole, and it will awaken naturally.

Leave it out to thaw on a sunny day, and you get to watch a miracle of nature.

Ice crystals melt, blood begins to flow, a heart beats, a first breath.

Eventually eyes will open.

Let it sleep, nature will awaken its own, when the time is right.

As you go about preparing for winter, think of the frogs and toads with their amazing adaptations for survival.

Safe in their winter homes, waiting for spring.

It may be too late to prepare a toad hibernation spot this year, but there is always next year:-)

(Fowler's Frog)

Earlier, I mentioned Estivation.

Estivation is similar to hibernation.

It is a dormant state an animal assumes in response to adverse environmental conditions, in this case, the prolonged dry season of certain tropical regions and deseerts.

Several species of frog are known to estivate.

The Sonoran Desert Toad (Colorado River Toad) is one.

This large and very toxic toad (keep your pets away from them), seems to be in estivation most of its life.

Active during the summer rains, where it gorges itself, breeds and buries itself for months to come.

As Humans continue to populate the deserts of the southwest (and other regions around the globe), irrigation comes into play.

The Sonoran toad will find a way into yards, pools and such to search out food and breeding spots.

A moist area also gives the toads a reason to stay awake.

When the dry season starts, these frogs burrow into the soil and become dormant.

During the extended dry season, which can last several months.

These frogs perform an interesting move.

They shed several intact layers of skin, forming a virtually waterproof cocoon that envelopes the entire body.

Leaving only the nostrils exposed, which allows them to breathe.

These living mummies remain in their cocoons for the duration of the dry season.

When the rains return, the frogs free themselves of their shrouds and make their way up through the moist soil to the surface.

(Northern Leopard Frog)

We are truly blessed to share this planet with so many different species

Creation is full of life and survival techniques.

The more we can learn, the more we can finally help to save these gifts given to us by the Creator of all.

If time allows, next week I will touch on a few of the furry creatures that spend some time in hibernation.

Well,, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thoughts for the week.

God bless.

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Henry David Thoreau

Have you resigned to "living in Quiet desperation?"

You don't have to.

The Bible teaches us about our transformation as follows of Jesus.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:

The old has gone;

The new is here."

2 Corinthians 5:17

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

Back to Back Issues Page