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Friday, September 18, 2015

What do baby toads look like?

“I know that tadpoles hatch out of eggs, grow legs, and become baby frogs, but I don’t know anything about baby toads. What happens to them?”

Baby toads are much the same as baby frogs! Both creatures are amphibians, and both lay eggs that develop into tadpoles. There are a few ways to tell frog and toad eggs and tadpoles apart. While frogs lay their eggs in clumps, toads lay theirs in long strands. Both kinds of tadpoles are black when they first hatch, but frogs change to a mottled brown while tadpoles remain black. Also, toad tadpoles will hang together in groups, called shoals, which isn’t something frog tadpoles will do. [Info from]

Ohio is home to the Eastern Spadefoot toad, the Eastern American toad, and Fowler’s toad. According to, it takes about two to ten days for their eggs to hatch and two to eight weeks for the tadpoles to fully develop.

Of all the frogs and toads, the Surinam toad has the most interesting way of hatching its eggs. After fertilization, the eggs sink into the mother’s back. A layer of skin grows over them. The eggs hatch in the pockets on her back and the tadpoles spend three to four months developing under her skin before hatching out as fully-formed tiny little toads. The mother then sheds her skin, ready to undergo the whole process next breeding season. While this aquatic toad is native to South America, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo houses dwarf Surinam toads in its Rainforest exhibit for anyone to visit.

For more information on frogs and toads, Chris Mattison’s Encyclopedia of North American Reptiles and Amphibians, William W. Lamar’s The World’s Most Spectacular Reptiles and Amphibians, and Frogs: A Chorus of Color by John and Deborah Behler are available for borrowing here at the Newton Falls Public Library. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

What are these bugs in my garden?

“A few weeks ago, I noticed a lot of strange insects on my magnolia tree. They were black in color with antennae and wings folded over the top of their bodies. When you looked at them from the side, they have a kind of pointed teardrop shape, but from above they looked very narrow. They were clustered in pretty large circular groups all over the bark and branches of my tree. I sprayed them with a hose and they scattered. Do you know what they were?”

We brought out Insects by George C. McGavin and The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders. First we looked up termites, which is what our patron thought their insects were. However, they turned out to be the wrong shape, their antennae were too short, and their wings were too pale. We flipped through the color plates at the beginning of the Audubon Society Field Guide, and that’s where our patron recognized their mystery insect as a type of aphid.

We were surprised, as we’re used to thinking of aphids as tiny, plump, wingless bugs, usually green in color. (These wingless aphids are sometimes called “ant-cows” because ants will “milk” them for the honeydew they secrete.) Winged female aphids will migrate to a new host plant and establish a new colony through a kind of asexual reproduction called parthenogenesis. (Eggs produced this way can develop into young without being fertilized.) The aphids produce several wingless generations this way, eventually producing more winged female aphids, which then fly back to their original host plant to mate with males and lay fertilized eggs.

According to Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver by Fern Marshall Bradley, the best way to deal with aphids is to lure beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings, to the aphid-infested plants. In the meantime, hosing the aphids off every three or so days for two weeks should help keep them at bay.

Friday, September 4, 2015

What are the requirements for donating hair? Will they take grey hair? What if I dye it?

One of our patrons regularly donates her hair and was wondering if she could continue to do so if she dyed her hair, or as her hair started to go gray. Looking around online, we found several organizations that accept donated hair, and all of them have their own particular requirements. One thing that they all have in common is that hair must be clean, dry, in good condition, and gathered into a ponytail or a braid. They all have minimum lengths for donated hair, from eight to twelve inches depending on the organization, but most of their websites specify that curly hair can be stretched straight while measuring it. It can take up to twelve ponytails to make a hairpiece.

Locks of Love is one of the most well known. They provide hairpieces to children who are suffering from long-term hair loss because of a medical condition. Most of the children they serve have alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes the hair follicles to stop working. (It was founded, in fact, by someone with alopecia.) Ponytails or braids donated to Locks of Love must be at least ten inches long. They don’t accept bleached hair or dreadlocks, but they will accept permed or otherwise colored hair, along with grey hair. While they don’t use it in their wigs for children, they’ll sell it, along with hair that’s too short or otherwise doesn’t meet their criteria, to help defray costs.  

CWHL (Children With Hair Loss) was founded in September 2000 with the goal of helping kids with cancer, but they’ve since expanded their reach to include children with alopecia, burns, and other medical issues. They pride themselves on providing their hairpieces at no cost. Donated hair must be eight inches or longer. They accept grey hair, and, while they prefer hair not to be chemically treated, they will accept that as well.

Wigs for Kids is another organization providing wigs free of cost to kids and their families. They were founded around thirty years ago by Jeffrey Paul, a hairdresser who wanted to help his fifteen-year-old niece after she was diagnosed with leukemia. Hair donated to Wigs for Kids must be at least twelve inches long and cannot be colored, permed, or otherwise chemically treated.

Wigs 4 Kids, a completely different organization, has the same mission as Wigs for Kids and CWHL but is focused solely on helping kids in Michigan. Anyone can donate hair, but it must be at least ten inches long, not colored or chemically treated, and not “more than 10% grey.”

While the above organizations focus on helping children, Pantene Beautiful Lengths provide free wigs to women who have lost their hair through cancer treatments. They accept hair that is at least eight inches long, and, as with Wigs for Kids and Wigs 4 Kids, it cannot be colored or chemically treated.

We found our information on the charities’ websites. For more information on how to help out charitable organizations, Karl T. Muth’s Charity and Philanthropy for Dummies is available for borrowing through CLEVNET.