Most people often scratch their heads when it comes to picking out between frogs and toads. So before we dive deep into what do toads eat, let’s first get our head around this common problem. According to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, there is no scientific distinction between the two, despite the fact most members of this order (Anura) are either referred to as ‘frogs’ or ‘toads’.

All members of the family Bufonidae are known as toads (or ‘True Toads’). This family belongs to the order ‘Anura’, which means ‘without tail’. Bufonidae contains more than 580 extant species of toads. Anuran contains 25 families with more than 4,000 species in total.

American Toad - What do toads eat

Eastern American Toad/Photo © MDC Staff. Image Source: Missouri Department of Conservation

Now let’s try to tell the difference between frogs and toads. Toads tend to have distinct dry, warty (or bumpy) skin and shorter legs. Besides, they crawl or walk. However, frogs have moist, smooth skin with relatively longer legs. Frogs don’t walk, but hop with the help of their longer legs. 

When a toad picks up any danger, it releases a vile-tasting secretion (known as bufotoxin) through its parotid glands to fend off predators. Moreover, they may also puff up their bodies to look bigger.

With a length of only 3.3 cm, oak toad is the smallest North American toad. Likewise, cane toads are the world’s largest that can grow as long as 23 cm in length. 

Most of them live on dry land, but some toads may partially live in streams. Unlike frogs, they lay their spawn in a long jelly-like string around waterweeds. A seven-meter string can have at least 4,000 toad eggs. 

They tend to have remarkable homing instinct and will make their way to their breeding site from almost anywhere. They are quite smart too; once they recognize that you are feeding them at the same time, they will wait for you. Last but not least; they don’t take kindly to being handled at all. One more thing, since toads have mildly toxic skin, it may cause slight irritation to your skin. 

What Do Toads Eat In Your Garden  

Toads spend most of their time in moist, shaded places. They are active at night and sneak up on a wide variety of invertebrates. They suck up their prey (like snails and slugs) by means of their sticky tongues. Moreover, they may inhabit the same locality throughout their life, if they find a good food supply.

Generally speaking, toads can pretty much swallow any living animal that can fit into their mouth.

They can be very friendly especially if you offer them regular feeding (such as live mealworms, wax worms or crickets). A toad’s huge appetites for insects also make him the gardener’s best friend.

Normally, toads feed on a wide range of arthropods including worms, caterpillars, slugs, ants, beetles, insect larvae, aphids, woodlice, moths, and spiders. 

However, the diet of some larger toads is quite different as they happen to prey on larger prey items. Some of these may include slow worms, newts, small grass snakes and younger toads. They can even harvest young mice and frogs.

Tadpoles consume algae, dead dish, detritus and other aquatic organic matter. They may also eat other tadpoles. 

Once they finish foraging for food, toads retreat into the shallow burrows. 

Sources & Further Reading:

Toads“. Wildlife World. Accessed 21 March, 2021

Common Toad“. RSPB Giving Nature a Home. Accessed 21 March, 2021

Bradford, Alina. “Facts About Frogs & Toads“. Livescience. Accessed 21 March, 2021

Heying, H. 2003. “Anura” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 21, 2021 at

Heying, H. 2003. “Bufonidae” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 21, 2021 at

Toads“. The National Wildlife Federation. Accessed 21 March, 2021

Common Toad“. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Accessed 21 March, 2021