Call me Red. Red Woodman. I’m the oldest webfoot on the Frog Police Force. Today I was supposed to retire. I wanted to take it easy all day. But then I could hear my cell phone buzz, over the howl of the ambulances on nearby City streets.
“Git over here now, Red,” said Ollie G, my chief homicide detective,” We got a 10-65 on 14 tadpoles.”
“Missing tadpoles?” I scoffed,”We get a thousand calls about missing tadpoles every Spring.”
“Dis is different,” Ollie’s voice rose,”They’re missing from the Frog Mitigation Area’s biosphere project.”
Oh, dear Gawd.
I almost broke an ankle bone, hopping over to the Biosphere as fast as I could. Ollie met me at the rim. “There’s one survivor,” he gestured towards a tadpole curled into a fetal position, “But they ain’t talking. Tadpoles never talk. They’re a hardened bunch.”
“Plus they lack vocal cords,” I riposted.
I looked at the biosphere. It was a seven-gallon rectangular flower pot, full of water and mud. White arrowhead flowers peeked through the water’s surface. Inch-wide lily leaves floated. We’d placed 15 frog eggs, and a few snails into it two months ago. All of the eggs hatched, but every day I saw fewer and fewer tadpoles in the Biosphere.
“Pour it out,” I ordered. We emptied the biosphere of water, pouring it through a net into a bucket. I could see something hideous writhing in the mud! And more! And another!
Well, that explained the 7% tadpole survival rate ( 1 in 15) in the Biosphere. The nymphs were cornering the tadpoles in that small area.
Dragonfly larvae are called nymphs, and are essentially dragonflies without wings, swimming around and attacking other creatures. Some dragonflies may live 4 years as a nymph and only two years as a dragonfly. Nymphs consume everything that they catch in their pincers.
Nymphs consider tadpoles to be the Cheetos of the aquatic world. They just take a mouthful, and munch a few, all day long. You can watch them eat tadpoles on Youtube. They may be racking up a toll on the tadpoles in my own Frog Mitigation Area.
Most know a flitting dragonfly is a hungry hunter. I would never begrudge them a frog or tadpole. I’d seen shells from hatched dragonfly larvae in my ponds, but never suspected the nymphs could take such a toll. And they do eat mosquito larvae.
I’ve watched the tadpoles in my larger ponds diminish in numbers too, between the times when 1000 eggs hatched and only 100 tadpoles actually morphed five months later. Maybe those missing tadpoles weren’t just hiding, all these years.
Still, We released the captured nymph prisoners, but to a different backyard pond.
I love dragonflies almost as much as tadpoles. Dragonflies’ vested rights to live also go back 300 million years, vs. a paltry 265 million years for frogs. We want more dragonflies, too. Dozens. Hundreds.
I venture that the tadpoles became so abundant they now support a secret nymph colony. In time, something will show up to eat the nymphs. With my luck, it will be more bullfrogs.
Thanks for reading The Daily Bucket,
a nature refuge where we amicably discuss life’s patterns.
Phenology is how we take earth’s pulse.
We discuss what we see in each Bucket.
We value all observations, as we ponder the cycle of life. Please comment about your own natural area, and include photos if possible. We love photos!
To have the Daily Bucket in your Activity Stream, visit Backyard Science’s profile page and click on Follow, and join to write a Bucket of your own observations.
SPOTLIGHT ON GREEN NEWS & VIEWS" IS POSTED EVERY SATURDAY AT 3:00 PM PACIFIC TIME ON THE DAILY KOS FRONT PAGE. IT'S A GREAT WAY TO CATCH UP ON DIARIES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED. BE SURE TO RECOMMEND AND COMMENT IN THE DIARY.
Now it’s your turn! What have you noted in your area or travels? Any stealthy critters in your yard? Please post your observations and general location in your comments. I’ll check back later.