The Washington Times-Herald


February 18, 2014

Toads cause more than warts

Frogs and toads are usually some of the most unoffensive creatures in the world of nature. There are, however, some exceptions. One of these is a toad that has proved to be one of the most troublesome animals in the world. The cane toad is a native of Central and South America, but it is not in its home territory that it has caused the trouble.

Man, as usual, is the cause of the problem. If he had left the cane toad in its home range it would not have caused the trouble it has and still is causing. Cane toads are large, nearly two pounds in weight, with a dry, ugly, warty skin. That, however, is not the problem. It loves to eat and will consume a wide variety of things.

It will eat not only insects but birds and small mammals when it can catch them. Its voracious appetite was what made man take it to places where it should never have gone. These include Hawaii and Australia. Both of these locations had an insect problem, so why not bring in the cane toad to consume a lot of the bad bugs was the rationale behind the plan to introduce the toad to both Hawaii and Australia.

Both grow lots of sugar cane and both the French’s and greyback cane beetle are major pests to sugar cane. So bring in the toads. Let them eat the beetles and everything would be alright. Wrong.

The toads were taken to Hawaii first in the early 1900s and then in 1930 100 were shipped to Australia. While the cane toads did eat some of the beetles they soon grew tired of this menu and other kinds of insects, much of which were native and not harmful, and then snails, birds and other animal life were soon being consumed.

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