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Protecting frog spawn from frost

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: Herpetofauna Native to the UK
Forum Name: Common Frog
Forum Description: Forum for all issues concerning Rana temporaria
Printed Date: 21 Mar 2018 at 1:14am
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 -

Topic: Protecting frog spawn from frost
Posted By: Liz Heard
Subject: Protecting frog spawn from frost
Date Posted: 23 Feb 2018 at 10:34am
Hi all,

Great to hear the reports from your garden ponds - thanks.

I discovered around 15 clumps of spawn in one of mine yesterday. Funny thing, last year the spawning all took place in my other, smaller pond. Unsure why the preference changed..

Anyway, there's freezing conds on the way and I don't want to lose the spawn to frost, so yesterday I took some clumps, put them in a disused plastic kitchen bin and placed it in the spare room. However, when my partner found out, she herself went spare, so the bin now resides in our very darkened garden shed.

I've got a very large (about 180 x 80 x 80 cm) aquarium with glass 1.5 cm thick in the garden. I wondered about putting the spawn in receptacles and inverting the aquarium over them, effectively creating a greenhouse. I suppose it depends just how cold temps get, but do you think this would be effective protection?
Also wondered about temporarily covering the spawn in situ in the pond whenever the temps drop steeply by means of some old carpet,rubber sheeting or similar?
Or how about dropping the spawn into deeper water?

Can anyone offer any advice or thoughts on the above or suggest any other options please?


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 23 Feb 2018 at 5:51pm
Deeper water may not help Ben as it needs to be near the surface for oxygen exchange.  If it gets fully submerged, think it will kill it any way.

Here is a thought though, once when out in the field I found a discarded newspaper at the edge of a pond. Initially just removed it because it did not look nice, then I got a huge surprise, it was full of newts! Dozens of them. Between the wet sheets it felt noticeably much warmer than the pond water.  So perhaps plenty of sheets of old newspaper to cover it or some cardboard laid over it will protect it enough?

Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 23 Feb 2018 at 8:45pm
My solitary clump of spawn has been frozen a few times now. Surely nature allows for this, with spawning months before the end of all frosts? 


Posted By: kevinb
Date Posted: 23 Feb 2018 at 10:42pm
Maybe some bubblewrap would work, it would insulate but still allow light into the pond.

Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 24 Feb 2018 at 10:28am
Nature does indeed allow for it Suzi - some canny frogs breed later, across an area and sometimes in the same pond too. However, most often when i've examined spawn after a frost (both in my garden and elsewhere), i've found it to be no longer viable. You can tell straight away as the nucleii turn whitish - even the eggs at the bottom of the clump.

Thanks for the suggestions Gemma and Kev - newspaper and bubble wrap (which resembles frog spawn!) seem like good ideas.

I considered putting spawn into deeper water because a few years ago, there were some clumps a couple of foot down in a preformed pond lacking shallow areas that was freestanding on the grass. Assuming it had perished, i went away working for 3 weeks and when i returned i was pleasantly surprised to find it teeming with tadpoles. Perhaps with it's sides exposed to the sun during the day though, it was warmer than would otherwise have been the case.

Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 24 Feb 2018 at 12:50pm
Ben I was trying to say, not very well, why would some frogs choose (or be inclined) to breed so early and have little chance of success if a frost was likely to kill the whole batch? It doesn't seem very clever of nature to me. Or is it a case of a kind of spread of laying times in the hopes of some early batches making it through? I wonder if a particular frog lays at more or less the same date each year.
Must say my last years clumps were laid I think in March and I was concerned when I saw this clump recently. There are still frogs in the ponds but the sub zero temps seem to be discouraging further laying (good?!).
In my preform ponds when the frogs lay they lay on top of water weed so the spawn is held up, however when I used to scoop it out for raising elsewhere I found that it quickly slithered off into deep water if I wasn't careful. Interesting what you say that your deep water spawn hatched anyway.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 24 Feb 2018 at 11:43pm
Could it be Ben's pond is very well oxygenated so the spawn can survive being submersed? Seen a few pictures of you pond Ben and it seems well stocked with a variety of oxygenating plants, so perhaps the deep water is better than chancing the frost in a well oxygenated pond?

Last year our frogs spawned over just a few days in early March. So if there had been a heavy frost before it hatched, think we might have lost the lot. The spawning was a good 6-7 weeks before the usual last frost date locally which is late April. 

Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 12:38pm
Well i've decided to keep the spawn in the shed, though with temps forecast as plummeting to as much as -12 (yikes!), i'm not sure how safe it'll be. Seems the best available option though.

However, as in other years, i've got a small clump (now at 'hanging' stage) on the window sill.

My son John's taken an interest (that's m'boy! ).
Pic taken 28/2/18

Thanks for the replies/comments.

Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 2:56pm
Wish I hadn't left my spawn to fend for itself! As the weather worsened I kept thinking shall I or shan't I. Then it got too frozen in and so is probably doomed. Here's hoping for more layers after this cold and snow passes by. Good luck with yours Ben. Good to get the little ones interested early. I mean kids not tadpoles!


Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 01 Mar 2018 at 5:34pm
That's a shame, but like you said Suzi - hopefully more frogs will turn up and breed once 'the beast' has cleared off.
It's been snowing here continuously since this morning, although the flakes are very small. I ventured into the garden earlier to find the ice on the ponds was around 4 cm thick! My 'spawn bin' in the shed hasn't fared much better. I can only hope the lower clumps are ok.
The larvae in the kitchen are doing well with some of them starting to wriggle around a little now, but i'll need to be careful when changing the water by first bringing it up to room temp before replacing (i suspect it wouldn't be a good idea to just add freezing cold pond water as that might be a bit of a harmful shock to delicate hatchlings!).

Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 06 Mar 2018 at 11:31am
Big surprise to go out this morning and see lots of fresh spawn in the small pond. Surprise as we did get a slight frost overnight. A few frogs milling about. The original spawn which has been through a lot freeze wise is the clump at the back of the photo.


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 06 Mar 2018 at 5:18pm
Lovely to see Suzi. We got a good freeze and plenty of snow here. Glad to say the frogs popped up again a couple of day ago, there was still a lot of ice on the pond then. Last night counted 8 loan males, two pairs and a lone female, so hoping for spawn soon.

Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 07 Mar 2018 at 9:18pm
Nice to hear the good news Suzi and Gemma.
Here in Glos, i had another clump of spawn laid last night. Elsewhere, the spawn in the shed seems to have survived quite well, and after a much-needed water change (half pond, half bottled spring water), my kitchen tads are doing well.

Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 07 Mar 2018 at 9:48pm
Even better today as there were at least eight frogs in the small pond, some of them paired up, and croaking. A frog or two swirled off in the larger pond too. I opened the back door a few minutes ago and could hear the croaking. It is raining hard so I had a quick look but they had all disappeared. 
Having so many visible frogs and croaking is a first for me. Most years I get spawn but no frogs croaking. In fact I think I've only had that one year and it was only a few frogs. 
Well done Ben with your shed and kitchen taddies. 


Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 07 Mar 2018 at 11:05pm
Though we've had a couple of frogs paired up for a while now, no spawn yet. First day I've heard the frogs calling and the males were getting active during the day too, so guess it won't bee long now. 

Still not sure if I should protect some of the spawn when it does come, only thing I have available is a shallow propagator in the shed, might do the job though.

Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 08 Mar 2018 at 8:55pm
Depending on how much you get, if it's in short supply, you might regret it if you don't. This is life insurance!

I've now got free-swimming, rapidly-growing tadpoles in the kitchen, although around 2 thirds of the spawn did fail. This is probably just as well as there was too much of it for the 'tank' (which is actually the catchment bin of a manual paper shredder i spotted an alternative use for at a car boot sale! )

Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 08 Mar 2018 at 10:23pm
Yep think you are right, have to get some to safety. Did last year and released them just before the farmer sprayed the field and killed off most of the taddies. Guess with experiences like this I know deep down have to get some out of the pond and keep it safe else will  probably regret it later on.

Posted By: lalchitri
Date Posted: 08 Mar 2018 at 11:00pm
Usually at this time of year my pond is more spawn and less water.
Nothing so far, not even a hint.
I’m hoping it’s down to the late cold snap.
Would prefer it that way since an early spawning would have killed most with all that unusual late snow and cold.

Reformed Teetotaller

Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 09 Mar 2018 at 7:01pm
Originally posted by lalchitri lalchitri wrote:

Usually at this time of year my pond is more spawn and less water.
Nothing so far, not even a hint.

I've had that in the past too. Anything happening now? It's a warm, wet night here (perfect!)and it seems that i needn't have worried. There's a proper orgy going on with 60-70 frogs across the two ponds and others at large around the garden. 18 more clumps have been laid.

Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 09 Mar 2018 at 8:34pm
We had first spawn 04 March last year, still no spawn here yet, but same conditions here Ben, been watching the frogs on the wildlife cam in the rain and definitely some new arrivals and a big increase in activity, so things going to be in full swing soon here too!

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