Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hopping into housework

Today I'm doing housework.
Not momentous, you think?
Well you're quite wrong.

If cleanliness is next to godliness, I'm playing out-field for the atheists.
Being blessed with an astonishing tolerance for grime and clutter, and living alone, I'm happy to wallow in slovenliness. In truth, I simply don't notice the carpeting of dust, the haunted-house cobwebs billowing around the lights or the snowy drifts of dog fur under the sofa. It takes something unusual to make me stop and think, 'oh, I suppose I should clean up'.

Of course the most dreadful manifestation of this is the Unexpected Visitor (oh my God, oh my God...). But such ordeals are rare (thank Heaven) and my wake-up calls are usually more subtle. You know the sort of thing (well you probably don't, and if you do, it's best not to admit it): the computer refuses to type S and P because cat fur is sprouting from the keyboard, a procession of dung beetles trundles past on route to the kitchen bin, the dog starts licking random places on the floor, or a strange green fluid is seeping from the fridge.

Well today's wake-up call was a bit different.

It was uttered by a frog.
'A series of discordant croaks or squeaks', to quote my frog guide.
Not your usual call to dish mop, I admit.

But this is the call of the foam nest frog. To be precise, the foam nest frog that perches by day on the cupboard above my sink. Still don't see the problem? Then let me fill you in on the idiosyncrasies of foam nest frogs.

The Southern foam nest frog (Chiromantis xerampelina) is one of 15 species of foam nest frog which gallivant about in tropical Africa and South East Asia. This photo was snapped on a cool, rainy evening and features the same individual (my croaking sink-dweller) as the last two photos below (taken on a hot, sunny day).

These attractive little amphibians, with their big round eyes and sucker-like toes, suffer paranoia. Rightly or wrongly, they're convinced that every body of water is brimful with ghastly predators whose sole purpose in life is the annihilation of frogs' eggs. To avoid this rampant egg-consumption, foam nest frogs deposit their spawn in trees. Courting males find themselves a romantic spot with a waterside view - preferably a branch overhanging water – and then tell the world about it. If a lady frog gives their potential nursery the thumbs up, she'll secrete a gelatinous goo which the pair treadle into foam. It's into this confection of froth that the female lays her eggs. Additional gentlemen will help in the arduous whisking operation, surreptitiously fertilising some of the lady's eggs while they kick up a storm.

Southern foam nest frogs building the nursery.
Photo by Arno & Louise Meintjes.

The meringue-like nest hardens on the outside, forming a crust that protects the little embryos from harsh temperatures and drying out. After 4 to 6 days the young tadpoles wriggle down to the base of the nest, where the crust softens, dropping them - with a plop - into the water below.

So the frog sitting croaking above my kitchen sink, believes he's found the ideal nursery.

OK, I admit that my sink probably does qualify as 'permanent water'. Filled with a clutter of encrusted pots, half-empty coffee mugs and milk-rimmed cat bowls, it does provide an alluring mosaic of puddles and pools. And while I realise that it isn't every day one gets the opportunity to witness the miracle of amphibian procreation in one's own kitchen, the prospect of 1200 tadpoles (no exaggeration, according to my frog book) plopping down among my dirty dishes is more than I can face.

So today I'm doing housework.

Starting with the washing-up.

When they aren't loitering in my house, foam nest frogs sit in trees, exposed to the elements. To avoid heatstroke, they turn chalky white (to reflect heat) and secrete tiny droplets of sweat. Unlike other frogs, they don't pee, excreting nitrogen waste as uric acid (rather than ammonia or urea) in an almost water-free, white paste.

Foiled foam nest frog.


  1. My husband guilts me into tidying up every-so-often. Not that we have problems with foam frogs here - we had 5 inches of snow last night!

  2. So help me - but that little frog has a very smug look on her face! She knows where she has a safe place and is - ah - appreciated? (Grinning). ATB!

  3. OMG, this is so funny, and except of the included wildlife it's me, LOL!
    We have to set quite other priorities, right?
    Okay, as for the wildlife, I have a pair of big spiders, species unknown but they are a couple, that are allowed to constantly resident here, that I constantly rescue from my cats and that don't bother, they perform themselves really seldom.
    Also not so much coffee mugs, I always use the same one.
    However, guess what I was up to do and just took one more short look into the web before I drive my laptop down - chartering the hoover to clean my keybord from cat fur, LOL. Hey, and don't forget the cooler slots ;-)

    So okay, you did housework today (I'm still in process), could this keep the beautyful little frogs off building the nest above your sink???
    (Don't you dare to remove them! LOL)

  4. LOL I can just see all those tadpoles in your sink :-) Diane

  5. Do you ever do as I do and just buy new dishes rather than attempt to remove the accumulated slime? Really bad smells is what reminds me to do housework.

  6. I think I would have cleaned out the sink, and put a bucket in there, filled with water for the tadpoles. Dishes can wait until they're moved, much later.

  7. Wow. That's an awesome wake up. The cleanest my kitchen has ever been for more than a day is because of ants, when they're very active, 'cause they'll invade if there's any food around. Sad it takes a threatened ant invasion to make me good about dishes, but whatever works! Hope your cleaning frenzy goes well!

  8. Don't Bug Me,
    Spouses are masters at that. Ah, the wicked indulgences of living alone...
    Pity we can't exchange weather for a day or two: 38 C (100 F) here.

    Strangely, all my animals seem to have that look!

    Thank you. Hopefully, I wont be writing a post about the difficulties of washing up without losing tadpoles down the plughole.

    Oh dear, I did forget the cooler slots!
    Unless I'm cleaning up for visitors, I leave the cobwebs alone (and there are lots!). They don't bother me (they give the place an eerie air) and are preferable to homeless, refugee spiders limping about all over the place.
    Despite my now pristine sink, the frogs are still spending their days in my kitchen (no, I wouldn't dare remove them). However, croaking rates have fallen significantly, so I'm feeling positive.

    When I was a kid we used to have a European carp (victim of a fishing expedition that someone took pity on) living in the laundry sink. It grew immensely large, and smelt horrible. I suppose tadpoles in the kitchen could only be an improvement.

    I'm embarrassed to admit that I have been known to throw away items of cutlery rather than face scouring off the evil-smelling sludge. But I normally don't replace them: the fewer utensils you possess, the fewer dirty dishes you can accumulate!

    Nice to see you've got your priorities right.
    I must admit I'm now feeling a bit guilty about depriving them of a nursery site, but after all the trauma I went through last summer, trying to rear homeless tadpoles (described in 'Wet and Froggy' - under April - and 'Triumph of the Traumatised Tadpoles' - under May - in the Archive), I'm fighting the urge to give them their own bucket!

    I'm afraid that my cleaning frenzy has petered out (no surprise there). Maybe you'd better send me some of your motivational ants.

  9. Bwahahahaha, thanks for the good laugh! LOL! I daresay you're a case for ^^ *grin, duck & run*

  10. Ute,
    I've never encountered 'Flylady' before. I'm sure I'm a prime candidate, but I baulk at the whole concept of a shiny (amphibian-free) sink.

  11. LOL! Awesome post! A frog would be way cooler than the occasional fruit flies I get in the kitchen.

  12. Zoologirl,
    Glad you liked the post but you mustn't knock the humble fruit fly. They do, after all, provide food for little froglets...


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