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Name: Bumble Bee Toads have several common names, including Bumble Bee Walking Toads, Paraguay Walking Toads, Yellow and Black Walking Toads, and Redbelly Toads (which appears to be the common name most used by field researchers). In fact, we’re not 100% sure of the species in the US pet trade. Traditionally labeled as Melanophryniscus stelzneri (first described by Weyenbergh in 1875), Bumble Bee Toads may very well be Melanophryniscus klappenbachi (described by Prigioni and Langone in 2000). UPDATE : After careful review, we've determined the bumble bee toads present in the US hobby are Melanophryniscus klappenbachi, and not M. stelzneri as they were imported as. The taxonomic history of bumble bee toads in the scientific literature is as follows:
Phryniscus stelzneri (Weyenbergh 1875)
Atelopus stelzneri (Boulenger 1894)
Bufo stelzneri (Noble 1922)
Dendrophryniscus stelzneri (Noble 1926)
Melanophryniscus stelzneri stelzneri (Gallardo 1961)
Melanophryniscus klappenbachi (Prigioni and Langone 2000)
Recommended Vivarium Size: Housing bumble bee toads can be very simple. These anurans do not require much space, as they really will not utilize it. Something the size of a large critter keeper can house 1-2 adults, while a 10 gallon could house 4-6 bumble bee toads. Bumble bee toads seem to be completely passive towards each other, and do great in groups. Ventilation is a must, as these toads will not tolerate high humidity for very long. A screen top will help provide this. Substrate recommendations vary considerably, but ground coconut fiber works well for Josh’s Frogs. Alternatively, you can set up a vivarium using Josh’s Frogs naturalistic vivarium substrates, similar to keeping dart frogs. Provide items for your bumble bee toads to hide under, such as a cork bark flat or leaf litter. The bumble bee toads will spend much of the time hiding under such objects. A shallow water bowl should be provided, as well. Bumble bee toads are not known for their climbing abilities, but they will appreciate a small bit of vivarium wood or live terrarium plants to climb on. Lighting is for any live plants provided, and not required by bumble bee toads. There is no evidence that bumble bee toads benefit from UVB lighting, but a low level UV bulb, such as a 2.0 UVB bulb, may be beneficial. If you'd like to keep housing bumble bee toads simple, check out the Josh's Frogs Bumble Bee Toad Complete Care Kit.
Temperature: They can tolerate temperatures from 40F to over 90F, but ideally are kept at about room temperature, in the low 70s.
Humidity: In the wild, precipitation and humidity fluctuates widely based on season. Bumble bee toads can handle a wide range of humidity levels, but cannot tolerate a humidity level over 70% or so indefinitely – this has done many a bumble bee toad in. Aim for a humidity level of 50-60%. Routine spraying and a full screen top will aid in providing proper humidity levels.
Size: Adult bumble bee toads are not very large, and there is a drastic size different between males and females. An adult male may reach about 1 inch, but most will be closer to 3/4 of an inch. A large female will be much larger and bulkier than a male, and may measure up to 1.5”. All of the Bumble Bee Toad toadlets Josh's Frogs sells are well started juveniles, and measure approximately .75” long.
Age: There is not any good data surrounding the average lifespan of bumble bee toads, but wild caught animals have lived in captivity for 10 or more years. All Bumble Bee Toads for sale at Josh's Frogs are well started juveniles, and are 2-3 months old.
Feeding: Bumble bee toads are microphagus, meaning that they consume small food items. Reportedly, a large portion of the diet of a wild bumble bee toad is termites. Fortunately, bumble bee toads do quite well on other, more easily procured prey items in captivity. At Josh’s Frogs, we feed our adult bumble bee toads primarily hydei fruit flies, as well as springtails, isopods, extra small phoenix worms, and 1/8 inch crickets. Young bumble bee toads start life feeding on baby springtails. At the size Josh’s Frogs sells captive bred bumble bee toads, they are eating melanogaster fruit flies. All prey items should be dusted with a quality vitamin/mineral supplement.
Sexing: Sexing adult bumble bee toads is quite easy. Once the toads are about 10-12 months old, they display obvious sexual dimorphism. Females are about 1/5-2 times larger then males, and much more rotund. Males are smaller, more slender, and typically call when kept in a wet or more humid environment. A bumble bee toad’s call resembles that of a canary, and is very melodious.
Color/Pattern: All bumble bee toads are primarily black with yellow patches. The amount and size of these yellow patches can vary widely, as can the intensity of the yellow coloration. Some older animals appear almost white and black. All wild caught bumble bee toads have red to orange/red coloration on the bottom of their feet and rump. So far, we have been unable to replicate this coloration in captive bred individuals, but are currently trying some new tadpole foods in an attempt to provide captive bred bumble bee toads with the full color palette of wild caught individuals.
Social Behavior: These toads seem to be completely passive towards each other, and do great in groups.
Breeding: Captive breeding of bumble bee toads has been largely unsuccessful until recently. True, there have been several instances of bumble bee toads breeding, but it has largely resulted in very few offspring being produced. Most of the time, I think this was due to a small number of older animals being utilized in a breeding program, as breeding was not attempted much until after the toads ceased being imported, and adult bumble bee toads were difficult to find. For more information on breeding Bumble Bee Toads, please view our Care Sheet.
Natural Range: The Bumble Bee Toads currently in the hobby all originate from Paraguay, although the species occurs additionally in Brazil, Uruguay, and northern Argentina. Habitat description in Paraguay is lacking, but some report bumble bee toads inhabit the Pampas, a hilly grassland that stretches from southern Brazil to northern Argentina. The Pampas grasslands are drier and cooler than rainforest, and experience both temperature and precipitation differences in different seasons. Summer temperatures range from 75-90F, while winter temps range from 40F-60F. Come spring, bumble bee toads travel to small, possibly temporary bodies of water (aka vernal ponds) to reproduce. The resulting sudden population explosion is taken advantage of by collectors – most wild caught bumble bee toads are collected as they cross roads, and are typically not quite sexually mature. It is believed that wild bumble bee toads take 1-2 years to reach sexual maturity. Reportedly, bumble bee toads live in the hills at 500 to 1000 meters above sea level, and may take advantage of humid microclimates that are created under tufts of pampas grass. Termites are often cited as the primary food source of bumble bee toads in the wild. In the wild, bumble bee toad population are stable, and considered a species of least concern due to their widespread habitat and strong population numbers. Bumble bee toads are very adaptable in their breeding habits, and has adapted well to human encroachment on it’s habitat in the wild. Bumble bee toads are explosive breeders, producing hundreds of eggs in a single clutch. In many places, bumble bee toads frequently breed in rice paddies or roadside ditches.
History of Bumble Bee Toads in the Hobby: Bumble bee toads have an unfortunately dismal track record in the US pet trade. Several times, typically many years apart, bumble bee toads are available as wild caught imports cheaply and in huge numbers. Thus, they were often viewed and sold as curiosities to keepers unfamiliar with their care needs, and viewed as disposable pets. Similar in appearance to dart frogs, bumble bee toads are often kept like dart frogs. Even though they do have many similar characteristics, such as a microphagus eating habit (they require small foods) and aposematic (warning) coloration), bumble bee toads kept at the same high humidity as dart frogs are doomed. As a result, availability of bumble bee toads declined drastically as soon as imports stopped. Within a year or so after importation ended in the early 2000s, prices skyrocketed from about $10ea to well over $200.
When bumble bee toads are cheaply and wildly available as wild caught imports, few if any people attempt to breed them in captivity. These frogs, while not impossible to breed, are certainly not easy. An understanding of their natural history, as well as mastery of culturing small prey items, are required to be successful. Fortunately, the staff at Josh’s Frogs has long ago mastered the culturing of microfoods, such as springtails and fruit flies. A strong scientific background has also allowed us to sufficiently research the genus Melanophryniscus to an extent not formerly replicated in the pet trade, allowing Josh’s Frogs to successfully raise bumble bee toads through their entire life cycle, and in large numbers.
Links of Interest:
The Frog Forum – a good, basic care sheet written by one of the earlier keepers of bumble bee toads in the US, Seth Doty.
AmphbianCare.com – another good, basic care sheet on bumble bee toads by Chris Dodson.
RepticZone – another basic care sheet on bumble bee toads.
Dendroboard.com – a good read about bumble bee toads, posted on the largest internet frog forum.
Wikipedia – an article on the genus Melanophryniscus, which bumble bee toads are a member of.
American Museum of Natural History – good taxonomic and natural history information about bumble bee toads.
Berkeley MapMaker – a map of the native range of bumble bee toads.
AmphibiaWeb – more information concerning the natural history of bumble bee toads.
Still not sure if Melanophryniscus stelzneri from Josh's Frogs are the right pet frog for you? Read the reviews below and see what other customers are saying! Then, make sure to check out our more in depth Bumble Bee Toad Care Sheet!
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These two little toads arrived on time and are in great shape! They are both alert and well fed. I could not be happier with my purchase!
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