If you live anywhere in Florida, you probably hear frogs at night. The chorus can be deafening following rain.
Most of these amphibians do an excellent job of helping keep insect populations down and are a food source for many predators. However, did you know a common invader may be lurking in their midst and even eating native frogs?
A Growing Threat
Jumping from Cuba to the Florida Keys as stowaways on shipping crates back in the 1920s, Cuban treefrogs—officially known as Osteopilus septentrionalis—marched northward across the state.
They are now as far north as South Carolina and as far west as Texas.
In many areas of Florida, this invasive pest often hangs around outdoor lights at night, looking for an easy meal.
When you first see them, nothing seems out of place. They look like other treefrogs but could cause some real damage to our native ecosystems.
As this pest spreads, it feeds on other treefrogs, lizards and small snakes, lowering their populations. They also eat many insects, taking food away from other creatures. Even their tadpoles can outcompete other species.
Identifying the Problem
The Cuban treefrog can be distinguished from other native treefrogs due to its size, eyes and toe pads.
While other treefrogs in Florida max out at around 2½ inches, the Cuban treefrog can grow up to 5 inches long.
Their eyes are also larger than other species, giving them a bug-eyed appearance, and they have larger toe pads.
They can be green or brown with a warty appearance on their backs.
What to Do
Since this introduced invasive pest can cause so much damage, it is best to attempt to control the population.
The good news is many of our native predators—such as snakes, owls, crows and wading birds—eat them.
If you find a Cuban treefrog, the recommendation is to humanely euthanize it if possible. However, do not handle it with bare hands because it can excrete an irritating chemical from its skin.
If you need help identifying the Cuban treefrog or information on how to do your part to control the population, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or check out the fact sheet at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw259.