Hundreds of Thousands of Frogs Descend on Florida Town After Hurricane Ian: ‘Frogmageddon’

by Craig Garrett
Common brown frogs gathered for mating season - stock photo

A Florida neighborhood in Edgewater is currently being overrun by hundreds of thousands of frogs following Hurricane Ian. Some residents are calling it a “frogmageddon,” and they’re wondering where these amphibians have come from, Fox Weather reports.

Over the past few nights, local Kelly White has increasingly spotted frogs near her residence. “You walk down the grass line, they just start jumping out at you.” Over a month after relentless rainfalls from Hurricane Ian beat down on Central Florida, stories of an abundance of frogs surfaced on a local Edgewater Facebook page.

To an amphibian expert like Dr. Steve Johnson at the University of Florida, hearing about a population boom of what is likely the eastern spadefoot toad isn’t surprising. “When you get these big rain events, those areas hold water long enough for the toads to be successful.” According to Dr. Johnson, the species “explosively breeds” more than any other amphibian world after large rain events have occurred. “Their strategy is to get in, get big enough to undergo metamorphosis into a little toad, and then leave.”

Kelly has an interesting theory about why there were so many frogs. “A few days after Ian, we went to the canal, feeding these tadpoles,” she explained. “Then all of a sudden out of nowhere they’re just coming from a ditch and invading us.” Dr. Johnson believes the tropical rain event is more likely to be the cause. For the time being, Kelly and other local people will have to live with the hopping guests. Dr. Johnson predicts that this frog invasion will cease in a matter of weeks, as the overall population begins to dwindle.

More on the frogs at the center of the invasion

The Eastern spadefoot is a frog endemic to the eastern United States, with the vast majority located in Florida. They can be found in many different ecosystems, such as people’s yards in suburban areas. When compared to other habitats, they prefer arid climates with sandy soil; this terrain is optimal for digging since they use the hard spades on their hind legs. These animals dig back into the ground using said feet while burying themselves alive.

Spadefoots spend the majority of their lives underground and can stay buried for long stretches. They’re able to tunnel up to a foot below the surface. Even though they mostly reside near their burrow, on humid evenings they come out to look for bugs.

Habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, climate change, and impacts from invasive species have led to severe population declines and extinctions in amphibian populations across the world. Although eastern spadefoot populations appear healthy, we should all take steps to reduce or eliminate the chances of future threats. If you have a breeding site on or near your property: use fewer herbicides and pesticides, and don’t introduce fish into breeding ponds because they may exclude frogs from using the site or reduce the survival of their tadpoles.