Just a mere one to three centimeters, this native of the Caribbean has found its way to many new locations, including Hawaii. The nursery trade is the most likely culprit, spreading this species through infested plants and landscaping materials, thus its name, the Greenhouse frog. It shares the same genus as the coqui frog, though smaller and most certainly, quieter, with a soft call that some describe as melodious. Like the coqui, it is a direct developing frog - there is no tadpole stage. No standing water needed, the eggs are laid in damp areas, such as in leaf litter, or under logs, with the little froglets emerging from the eggs in a few short weeks. Greenhouse frogs are nocturnal, and not normally seen, though they may venture out a bit in the day after a rain. Iʻve never seen one in my yard, though students often find them in the landscaping at the school where I teach. Dinner consists of insects, spiders, worms, and snails, some of which are native and threatened. This, plus the fact that native birds compete for similar resources, has earned this guy a page in the Global Invasive Species Database. Little though they may be, they have big potential to become "A Little Hop of Horrors."
People are really sounding off about these little guys, the coqui frogs, and the big ko-KEE noise they make. Comparisons of the frog's call with jet planes, chainsaws, and lawnmowers are not uncommon. Coqui frogs, Eleutherodactylus coqui, much beloved in their native Puerto Rico, were accidentally introduced to Hawaii in 1988, probably through the plant trade. Since then, there numbers have exploded, particularly on the Big Island. And it's not just the noise that concerns a number people (though there are those who do love this frog). According to the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii, there is the issue of their appetite for insects and spiders, some of which are native, as well as the concern that they compete with native birds for these food resources. And with their establishment, they could power the establishment of the brown tree snake if we were to find it accidentally released here.
There are several reasons that the coqui infestations happened so quickly. First, they are habitat generalists, at home in urban areas as well as forests, and from sea level to close to 3900 feet in elevation. Unlike many frogs, coqui don't require water to lay their eggs, because there is no tadpole stage. Instead, the female lays her eggs in leaf litter, an abandoned bird nest, or inside a rolled up leaf, and it's the male's job to guard the eggs and keep them moist. In a little over two weeks, out come the little froglets. With up to seventy-five eggs per clutch, and several clutches per year, you can get quite a few coquis. Not only that, but they have few predators here, and so their populations can get big rather quickly.
By the way, it's the male coquis that are making all the ruckus, the females and juvies, not so much. They "Ko-KEE" both to defend their territory as well as attract mates, and tend to be most vocal when it is raining, and at night, when they are active. Coqui frogs are not large: a few inches or so, with the female larger than the male. They have little spatula-like toe pads that help them to grip on to trees and other moist surfaces. Color can vary quite a bit, and may include mottled individuals. A thin light stripe running from the head down the middle of the back may or may not be present. Coqui have been found Oahu, but have been fairly well controlled.
When I first moved to Hawaii and was just getting acquainted with the flora and fauna, I had no idea there were toads here. So imagine my surprise when I went to grab a flower pot sitting in my front yard and there was this GINORMOUS toad in it, burrowed in the soil. I mean BIG. The biggest toad I had ever seen. Scared the dickens out of me. So the first thing I did was get on google, and searched for "giant toad, Hawaii." And sure enough, I found him. Bufo marinus, aka cane toad and giant toad, in all his warty glory. Aquatic in the larval stage, terrestrial as an adult, this true toad does not have a marine habitat at all, though Linneaus thought so when he named them. The cane toad was brought to Hawaii in the early 1930's to help curb the destruction of sugar cane by the cane beetle. And that's not all they eat: small birds, lizards, invertebrates, whatever's on the menu. They are hoppers and walkers, not leapers, like frogs. They are most active at night and are fond of areas disturbed by humans, such as yards and ditches. Ah, but here's the rub: behind each ear they have glands that secrete a white, sticky, bufotoxin, which is highly toxic and dangerous to pets that may be overly curious. I was worried that my cats might mess with Buford, the name I gave to the bufo that took up residence in my flower pot for a time, but no harm came to them. Luckily, curiosity did NOT get the cat.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.