A few weeks ago Kieran and I hiked to a hidden pond on Mt. Diablo — we suspect it may be fed by a spring, as it was brimming over with water even as nearby creeks had dried up. This is one of the few ponds we know not yet taken over by invasive bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) — this pond is full of native toads and also Hyla regilla and Rana draytonii.

Tadpoles lashed around the clear water, and thousands of tiny Hyla regilla frogs bounced all over the muddy shore.

When we swept the water with nets, we found the usual creatures — water boatmen, backswimmers, dragon- and damselfly nypmphs, and suchlike. But we also caught some predatory water bugs, or “toe biters,” so named for their painful bite (they are relatives of the assassin bug!). We think this species is Belostoma bakeri.

Female toe biters often glue their eggs onto the back of their mates, and the fathers carry the eggs around, protecting them and keeping them oxygenated by movement through the water. This is a good metaphor for parenthood — literally carrying your kids on your back!


Thousands of tiny treefrogs bounced every which way on the muddy shore of the hidden pond.


Hyla regilla, or Pseudacris regilla, is the Pacific Treefrog, with a voice made famous in Hollywood movies and TV shows.


A tadpole, probably Rana draytonii, with back legs already emerging. Just above it is a backswimmer, Notonecta.


Checking the pond.


Checking the net.


A male “toe biter” — we think it’s Belostoma bakeri — carrying eggs on his back.


The female Belostoma glues the eggs to his back so he can protect them and so they will also get plenty of oxygen as he swims around.


Although he has a painful bite, I was lucky this time!

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