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I am trying to sustainably get a grip on the flies, mosquitoes and other such insects' population. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We have a decent sized backyard (about 3000 sq ft of garden/landscape space). We have a bird feeder and a recirculating water fountain/bird bath. This brings us so any birds and the flowers are mostly from succulents/natives like Sages, Canary Aeonium, Roses, Bird of Paradise, Cactus, Lemon tree, Hibiscus etc that bees and humming birds are always busy in our yard/house.

When we bought the house 6 months ago we hired a pest control provider who, at our request, used less toxic/green products. But on an ongoing basis, I was wondering why not do things that would naturally bring more beetles, ladybugs to keep flies, fleas and ticks in check. And then I thought, if I buy/introduce a pair of frogs that should help a great deal too.

What should I keep in mind? Is this a reasonable approach? Should I worry that the frogs will multiply out of control? Help!

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    For insects, how about a bat house? – Cecilia Mar 2 at 17:38
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    That would make a good opportunity to educate your neighbors that there is currently no evidence of bats in the US carrying COVID-19. Building a bat house on your property is akin to building a bird house, i.e. you put it up and leave it alone, so social distancing is in effect! Bats do carry other dangerous diseases such as rabies, so you never want to touch a bat anyway, but the risk from a bat house is low. – Cecilia Mar 3 at 0:59
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    Frogs might want a pond to feel ok. A pond is a great place for some insects to multiply so I don't know if this idea pays. I'd suspect frogs to upset neighbors rather than eat a noticeable amount of insects ;-) But apart from how frogs would help you out, you are doing a good job for nature. – puck Mar 3 at 6:44
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    +1 Bats. I've spent many hours entertained by their acrobatics above my head on summer nights. They have no interesting in touching you. They are important to the ecosystem as well and are under duress in many areas. – JimmyJames Mar 3 at 18:46
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    Just how "recirculating" is that bird-bath? If there's any parts of the water that are relatively still for long periods of time, you've got the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. And if there's any other kind of standing water on the property besides that, definitely do something about that. A pond may be okay if it's large enough to have fish in it, but even then it might be good to install a fountain in the pond. Where I live (central Florida), this is almost a requirement for any pond near residential areas for that reason. – Darrel Hoffman Mar 3 at 19:04
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We caught a bunch of toads on the roads when I was a kid for a frog jumping contest, and put them in our yard when it was over. We've had toads in the neighborhood ever since.

They poop around the yard (mostly on the sidewalks), and by examining it, I can tell they eat a lot of pill bugs (which we also have in abundance). I believe they'll eat ladybugs, too, if they're on the ground (fortunately, they're usually higher up).

Our toads (which make a call that sounds like that of Woodhouse's toads, or Anaxyrus woodhousii, and look similar to those, but may be a hybrid species) somehow like to make burrows in our very compact soil. They live in holes under concrete blocks, under the ground by the holes in our black plastic (where we plant vegetables), under the ground generally (I've dug them up on accident), and stuff like that. They love to be warm, and when we had insulation out on the patio, we would find toads sleeping under it every morning.

Back in the 1980's when we used a Bug Zapper, they would sit under the Bug Zapper and eat the critters it attracted.

They somehow breed, although I don't know quite how, since the closest body of water is a ways away and down a steep cliff, and we still see tiny toads appear in our yard with regularity (and I live in a semi-arid climate; my guess is they somehow have tadpoles under ground that mature into toads there).

I can't say whether the toads make a big difference in the insect population, but they're fun to have around. Kids love them (but make sure they're nice to them). They look like rocks at night, though, and they blend in with the cement/concrete and dirt paths; so, be careful not to step on them. If we're watching them, they usually stay still (seeming to pretend to be rocks) until we go away (so they're easy to catch, and they may not jump to get out of your way if you're walking; so, don't assume they will).

Our toads are active and feed at night. They sleep during the day.

We've had a bullfrog before, too, in an artificial black plastic pond (from a tadpole we caught). Bullfrogs require a lot of water, and wouldn't be practical for removing pests from your garden. They would probably die from drought in most gardens. Toads seem to be much more accustomed to living near humans.

Unlike our toads, bullfrogs are easily startled and will do their best to get away from you at the slightest provocation. They're fast.

As much as we've had a lot of toads, I wouldn't say they were ever out of control.

If you somehow upset the toads by accidentally fertilizing them (when their hole is under your plants), they may run away and not come back for a year or two.

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    Toads also eat slugs - I think they're one of the few things that do - so for that reason alone, you need some toads in your garden! – Jurp Mar 2 at 3:24
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    Ducks also do! Please enjoy this video the mystical youtube algorithm shared a while ago youtube.com/watch?v=baXSrl5Vmb0 – Adam Barnes Mar 2 at 16:31
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Perhaps the first question to ask is "Is this property suitable for frogs?" and following on from that "If it is, why are there not frogs here already?"

I have many, many frogs on my property since I am close to a wetland, so their noise in Spring is quite loud. There are also many snakes here which like to have frogs for lunch, but there are so many frogs it is not possible for the snakes to eat them all, even if I add to the death toll by decapitating, unintentionally, a few during grass mowing.

If your land is suitable for frogs then maybe the snakes keep them down, and adding a couple would be just offering them a few more snacks. So I would suggest that even while it is a good idea, assess the frog predator situation first.

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  • That's a good question. I think there aren't frogs here because it is an urban setup and too many houses? The neighborhood has many cats and some raccoons too. Haven't seen snakes as well. – perennial_noob Mar 2 at 6:21
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    Adding to this, amphibians are especially sensitive to environmental pollution (their skin absorbs most things pretty readily), so it’s almost certainly worth looking into that as well as the predator situation. – Austin Hemmelgarn Mar 2 at 12:44
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Be careful to only pick native species.

If you want to introduce toads into your garden for pest control, I have one word of warning for you: make sure to only use a species of toad native to the area you live in.

In Australia, in the 1930s, someone had a very similar idea to you, and they decided to import some South American toads, in the hopes that they would eat some beetles that had been damaging their sugar cane.

The toads at the beetles, all right. They also ate everything else they could fit into their mouths, and they had no natural predators in the Australian ecosystem that knew how to avoid getting killed by their poison glands.

As a result, cane toads became an invasive species that did serious damage to the Australian environment and are recognized as a significant pest by the Australian populace, to the point where some Australians have made it a game to kill them with things like "toad golf".

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  • Indeed. I am familiar with the Cane toads problem :) Also Hawaii introduced a mongoose and coqui frog from India and Madasgcar resp. By Hawaii I think I mean Captain Cook and/or his successors. – perennial_noob Mar 6 at 16:44
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Everyone should have some frogs and toads ; unfortunately you will probably not notice a difference in bothersome insects . I have a 10' X 5' pond , then added an 8' diameter one and accidently have a 55 gal aquarium full of rainwater. I have large numbers of frogs and toads ; I cannot list them but everything from bull frogs to at least 2 kinds of tree frogs. the nearest natural water is about a mile away. My wife will tell you we have a lot of insects in the yard. The frogs started singing 4 days ago. The neighborhood is very quiet until you get about 100 yards/meters from our house and you start to hear the noise. When talking on the phone in the house , people have asked what the noise is in the background - frogs. My son uses frog noise for his phone ring-tone. I have tropical fish in all the water so mosquitos are controlled and the fish and tadpoles co-exist . I discourage snakes ,other than copperheads, because they eat my fish. We have fat toads that sit under outside lights eating something , but I can't say we notice any fewer bugs.

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There's a natural control for mosquito larva in the form of BT bacteria. This is the same bacteria who's genome was used to source the genes added to corn and other crops to reduce pest damage.

The bacteria can be bought as a small jar/cannister of granules that float in water and are coated with bacterial spore. I found about about them when I was looking for a way to control gnats coming from potting soil. They are available where outdoor water feature equipment is sold.

The larva of the gnats hatch from the soil when it's wet enough and mature into the flies. Keeping a jug of water with the granules floating in it as the water source for the pot killed them off within a few weeks.

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  • Interesting! Do they regenerate or do I have to keep buying them from a shop like you mentioned? – perennial_noob Mar 2 at 23:35
  • They do regenerate in the water so long as it's recycled. I would assume you'd need to replenish them if the temperature gets too high or low for them to survive though. In my case, I simply added a few new granules every refill of the water jug. – Not Entirely Serious Mar 3 at 16:59
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My belief is that frogs (and toads) try to return to wherever they were spawned. That should mean if you provide a suitable pond and seed it with frog-spawn, the little guys will be jumping for joy next season.

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