Who’d be a tadpole?

Larva of a great diving beetle feeding on a frog tadpole.

A common question we get at this time of the year is: “Where have my tadpoles gone?”

A common answer is probably provided by this picture from Pond Conservation member Carole Woodall who managed to capture what must be a common fate for many a tadpole. Indeed, it’s probably one of the main fates that nature intended!

And this is not the only way that our precious tadpoles get gobbled up: fish of course are regular frog tadpole eaters and so, to the surprise of many, are our innocent looking newts.

Now of course, almost every normal person loves newts – but not your average tadpole because a tadpole is basically a tasty newt snack.

A common course of events is:

– Pond lover makes pond, frogs arrive in year 1 or 2, pond lover very happy.

– Newts arrive in year 4 or 5, pond lover even happier.

– Tadpoles disappear, pond lover puzzled, calls Pond Conservation.

– Frog and newt lover discovers newts eat tadpoles and realises newts not quite so cuddly as previously thought.

– Pond lover becomes older and slightly wiser!

But it’s not all one-way traffic: our clever little frogs have learnt (excuse the anthropomorphism) to steer clear of the nasty newts, and other predators.

Tadpoles can sense the presence of backswimmers and dragonfly larvae, and take avoiding action.

They can also sense fish too.

Although many may still perish, if you are one of the few that gets through, that’s all that matters.


11 Responses to “Who’d be a tadpole?”

  1. neil Says:

    Ah good old diving beetle larvae. When they are found in a pond dip tray they are placed in a separate container ASAP! Other wise you end up with tray empty other than a fat DB larvae and the shrivelled husks of other pond creatures!

    They are rather photogenic though!

  2. Alison Says:

    All my tadpoles seemed to dissapear a couple of weeks ago at the same time and there was loads. It’s never happened before though and the pond’s about ten years old now. I’ll have to have a look at a sample of water and see what larvae I can spot. There are newts in the garden, so it may just be them.

  3. Beryl Says:

    The newts in our pond seem to have simply munched through the (very late) frogspawn – never made it to be tadpoles!

  4. Great Diving Beetle in a small garden pond? « Andy Roberts Says:

    […] Who’d be a tadpole? http://thegardenpondblog.org.uk/2011/05/01/whod-be-a-tadpole/ […]

  5. jon cranfield Says:

    Hi Jeremy

    I have a simple way to help tadpoles turn to frogs. Effectively what you need is warm shallow water and also to manage shading by removing vegetation in the winter to allow more light and heat into the water.

    The goal should be to get the tadpoles to shoal and to grow quickly so that they have protection from newts and I suspect beetle larvae and other predators.

    I tried this out on a former garden pond after a season of no frogs emerging one year. The next year hundreds of frogs emerged. It is all about simulating natural cycles in typical frog breeding sites. I fancy an experiment next spring.

  6. Giles Says:

    I have seen one of these grab and kill a virtually full grown Great Crested Newt larva out of the water in a pond net. Of all the various pond creatures these are probably the only ones I wouldn’t be prepared to handle with bare hands (perhaps also Saucer Bugs as well, having once been bitten by the river species). The adults are fine, but the larvae are just too fearsome.

    In reply to the Jon Cranfield’s comment, in addition to the advantages from greater warmth in shallow water, I wonder if the tadpoles are safer in the extreme shallows because it’s too dangerous for newts to follow them there (i.e. because of the high risk of bird predation).

  7. stevewaite Says:

    Newts eat all the tadpoles in my pond just as they start to develop – I take some spawn out every year and keep until they develop survival instincts and replace. Works well (except the year the newts managed to climb into the bucket) and gives them at least a sporting chance!

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Surprising how good newts are at climbing into buckets: we had a small population for years in a bucket in the garden of a previous house.

  8. Tristan Hatton-Ellis Says:

    Hmm… in my case the chronology is build pond, newts colonise, then frogs and toads. Newts suck eggs out of frogspawn leaving a nasty jelly-like mess. Toad taddies taste nasty though and quite a few make it.

    Frogs seem to breed most enthusiastically in very shallow water bodies that can dry out later in the season, making them unsuitable as newt breeding sites. I’ve only ever experienced palmate newts and my general impression is that they are expert colonisers of almost any water body they can access.

  9. Alison Says:

    I have looked at a water sample from my pond but couldn’t see anything too interesting. A few bloodworms and loads of tiny pin head sized circular creatures that were very active and also a tiny, tadpole shaped creature that was dull brownish colour. More interesting to me were some empty, translucent tubes attached to the sides of the pond. Their dimensions were similar to an average sized earthworm but only about 2 centimetres long. Any names for the above pondlife would be welcome. Frogs came to my pond first. I didn’t see any newts for about seven years.

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