What should I do about all those little green frogs that get on my outdoor houseplants each summer?
Welcome them! These lively little leapers are American green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea). They’re harmless and their voracious appetite helps cut down on annoying insects like mosquitoes, biting flies and pests that attack your plants. These handsome amphibians are also considered one of the most beautiful tree frogs on North America.
Rich in color, American green tree frogs are common in urban backyards and often gather near porch lights at night to feast on insects attracted to the light. You might also see them on windows and sliding glass doors, thanks to their sticky “fingers” and unwebbed toe pads.
On warm, summer days, they rest motionless and well camouflaged on plant leaves, tree trunks, limbs and stems of plants in or near ponds or water sources.
Seldom reaching more than 2 inches in size, the frogs have velvet-smooth skin, ranging from bright, leaf-green to olive. Often a white or yellow stripe runs along their side from jaw to thigh. In cool weather or when hiding, their bright green color can change to dull green or slate gray. Their abdomen is pale yellow to white, and long legs enable them to leap distances of 8 to 10 feet.
Mating takes place mid-April to mid-August, when nocturnal choruses of males resound in hopes of attracting females. Females lay up to 400 eggs in shallow water, which attach to roots of aquatic plants. Eggs hatch within two to three days, and the young are little more than a head and muscular tail. It takes a year for the frogs to reach sexual maturity. By autumn, they move into grass and woodlands surrounding the breeding area to overwinter and wait for your lovely houseplants to show up outside.
Found primarily in the South, American green tree frogs live as far north as eastern Maryland and Delaware and as far west as Texas. Their preferred habitat is humid climates, or near lakes, ponds, flood plains, wetlands and swamps. They particularly favor cattail marshes.