by Barbara Walvoord
(Originally printed in Lathrop Lamp Post May 27 – Jun 2, 2017)
If you walk along the edges of one of our Lathrop streams or ponds these days, frogs may plop into the water at your approach. You may hear the “jug-a-rum” of the American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianos) or the “gunk” of the green frog (Lithobates clamatans), like this one found by several residents who were pulling invasive plants near the east campus Teaberry pond.
You can tell our frog is a green frog by its greenish color and by the ridges that run down each side of its back. You can tell our Teaberry frog is a male because its tympanum or eardrum, located just behind the eye, is larger than the eye. At this time of the year, our male is probably defending the pond as his territory. He mates between April and August, clasping his lady love from behind, and fertilizing her thousands of eggs as she lays them in the pond water.
He’s a lazy eater, not at all picky, just lying in wait and snatching whatever passes by that can fit into his mouth–snakes, bugs, worms, birds, and even his own kids. In turn, he’ll be eaten by the green herons who are nesting near our Teaberry pond, and by other predatory birds, as well as snakes and mammals.
For a little green critter that lives in ponds, eats snakes and bugs, looks ugly (to us), and sounds like your 5 year-old grandchild making gross noises at the table, the frog is amazingly beloved in cultures around the world. If you walk along our lanes, you may see a ceramic frog in someone’s garden. You can buy one at Walmart, along with a plush, cuddly frog a kid can take to bed, or a frog bank whose gaping mouth holds your loose change. You can buy your grandkids a story about a princess who kisses a frog, which then turns into a prince, or you can listen to the wise observations of Sesame Street’s Kermit the Frog, who opines, “It’s not easy being green.”
Indeed it’s not. Frog numbers are declining worldwide Their habitats are being destroyed by development, and their bodies are quick to show the effects of pollution and pesticides. Whatever we can do at Lathrop to reduce our use of chemicals and to protect the purity of our streams and ponds will help to make it easy for our frogs to be green at Lathrop.