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Sitting toad catches ants one by one

We have a lot of ants around our new construction, perhaps because some of the ground there has been disturbed. My husband Jeff and I were wondering if this would pose a problem, but we learned last Saturday we have nothing to worry about.

An American toad was eating ants, one by one, in the morning sunlight.

The toad didn't even have to move. He just sat there, the color of dirt, and ants came to him. When they got to just the right distance - glump, down they went.

We watched him catch about 11 ants this way. Sometimes we could see a flash of tongue, and if we bent down we could see the toad's throat working the ants down.

The tongue of an American toad is sticky and attached to the front of its mouth. According to Encarta encyclopedia, when a toad swallows, it has to blink, and when it does, the toad's eyes press against the roof of its mouth, helping the toad swallow.

For the record, I did not nab this toad for any photos. I let him (or her) eat ants in peace.

Foamy nest

Earlier this summer, probably sometime in June, I saw a phenomenon that I'd seen before and which had always puzzled me. On the stems and under the leaves of the red osier dogwood I'd find tiny blobs of bubbly foam. It was as if someone had thrown bits of shampoo over the dogwood, and I could never figure out what was going on.

Now I know I was seeing the nests of spittlebugs.

Spittlebugs are in the same order as cicadas and aphids. When they were on the dogwood, they were piercing the stems, facing downward and drinking in the plant's sap. They then create the foamy blobs I saw.

Scientists don't seem to know if the bugs create the foam internally, or if it's produced outside the bug's body. In any case, the foam creates a very handy hiding place for the young bug. Once the spittlebug matures, it doesn't make the foamy nest, though it still feeds on plant sap.

One source I read said there were about 23,000 species of spittlebugs, including one called a dogwood spittlebug. Some feed on pines, others on strawberries.

When I see the telltale foam on my red osier next year, I'm going to blot it away to find the immature bug.


Sunday, Aug. 20 a red squirrel was busily harvesting spruce cones behind our house. He chewed the cones off the high branches and then dropped them to the ground to be gathered at a later time and no doubt carted off to a cache.

This squirrel made quite a bit of noise as he threw cones, but not nearly as much noise as the day he harvested cones above the propane tank.

Frog channel

Frog television has been coming in clear all this week. We saw one to three Cope's gray tree frogs on a kitchen window each night, clinging to the glass or vinyl, or resting on a small ledge. I admit I purposely kept the one kitchen light on to draw bugs to the area, and the frogs followed.

The night we had three frogs, it was interesting to note the differences in coloring and size. The tree frog resting on the ledge at the bottom of the window had dark green mottling and he was the largest of the three. The frog clinging to the middle of the window was almost that big, but his (or her) mottling was lighter in color.

The tiniest frog measured a little over an inch and was almost a uniform pale green color. I saw just the slightest outline pattern of darker coloration on his back. Seeing him made the picture complete, sort of like seeing the three ages of frog all displayed on the window.

Thank you to all who wrote with news. When sending your reports, be sure to give your name and a little information on where you made your sighting. Send to maureeng no later than 8 a.m. Thursdays. If it's easier, feel free to drop a letter by the office, or in the mail.

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