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What should I do about all those little green frogs that get on my outdoor houseplants each summer?

March 21, 2007

 

Those brilliant-green little frogs are American green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea). They’re small, harmless, and have voracious appetites for insects – which is a good thing, especially when you live at the coast with mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats. They also cut down on pests that attack your plants.

 

Found primarily in the South, these small amphibians also live as far north as eastern Maryland and Delaware, and as far west as Texas. Their preferred habitat is humid climates near lakes, farm ponds, floodplains, wetlands and swamps. They particularly favor cattail marshes.

 

Common in urban backyards, the frogs often gather near porch lights at night to feast on insects attracted to the light. You can 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 or stems of plants in or near ponds – hence your houseplant population.

Long legs of the American green tree frog enable it to leap 8 to 10 feet. (Photo by Sherry White)

 

The little frogs seldom reach more than two inches in size, and are considered one of the most beautiful tree frogs in North America. They have very 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 their long legs enable them to leap distances of 8 to 10 feet.

 

Mating takes place from mid-April to mid-August, when nocturnal choruses of males resound in hopes of attracting a female. 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 larvae are little more than a head and muscular tail. It takes a year for the frogs to reach sexual maturity. By autumn, the frogs move into grass and woodlands surrounding the breeding area to overwinter and wait for your lovely houseplants to show up outside.