The development lifecycle of Newts in your pond
Newts in Spring:
- Smooth Newts return to the pond as mating adults when 3 years old and are about 3" long.
- These newts can be identified as Smooth newts not Palmate newts as their back feet are not webbed.
- They are looking for still, neutral to slightly alkaline water
- Ideally a pond with no fish
- Clear water space to perform their mating routine which generally occurs at dawn and dusk.
- When ready for mating he can be distinguished by bright orange markings on both tail and underbelly.
- Males try to attract a female with his bright tummy and he fans his brightly edged tail to waft his glandular secretions (pheromones) to her, encouraging her to swim and follow him.
- When she touches his tail with her nose he releases his spermatophore so she will swim over it and it will stick to her underbelly.
- Look duller/paler in colour and plumper on the hips at this stage of the season as she has a bellyful of eggs waiting to be fertilized.
- She can store the sperm of more than one male in her body for a few days until she fertilizes the eggs just before laying.
Great Crested Newts:
- Great crested newts are black in colour and larger than Smooth or Palmate newts - about 5-6" long.
- The male has a silver stripe the length of his tail when he is of mating age and a very pronounced crest when swimming in the water.
- It is against the law to handle, disturb or disrupt the pond area associated with Great Crested Newts. (Image above courtesy of Jim Grundy)
Rafting pond plants for newt egg laying:
Any species of female newt will lay her eggs between March and June (approx) in the leaves of rafting plants so these are good pond plants to encourage any of the 3 Native species of newts to breed successfully in your pond.
- Native species of horizontally rafting plants raft across the water with some leaves submerged under the waters surface that are useful for newts -
- Mentha aquatica
- Veronica beccabunga
- Myosotis scorpioides
- Water Cress (Rorippa nasturtium aquaticum)
- The female newt finds a suitable leaf and lays her eggs. Then she folds the leaf over each egg with her back feet. (Photos taken 14 April 2016).
- She lays, wraps each egg individually in a folded leaf and secures it by sealing the fold with a secretion.
The photo shows the folded leaves of Myosotis scorpioides (Myosotis palustris) used by a female newt to wrap her eggs in for safety from infection and predators.
- One female will lay several eggs a day over many weeks of a season and can lay between 150 - 300 eggs in a season. They will take between 10-20 days to hatch dependent on temperature (but only 1% of eggs laid will reach adulthood).
Newts in Summer:
- Newt larvae or tadpoles develop from the eggs and swim in the pond hiding in the oxygenating weed using their gills to breathe and feeding on aquatic insects.
- They have no legs at this stage and as each batch of eggs develops you can see a range of sizes of newt larvae within one pond - image shows they range from 1cm to 3cm.
- In June when they have grown and developed legs they begin to leave the water as efts to look for food in the surrounding undergrowth.
- Ideally you will supply an area of plants next to the pond for this foraging and for protection from predators such as blackbirds that are quick to pick on the young newts as they emerge from the water if they have nowhere to hide.
Newts in Winter:
Smooth Newts have a dull brown skin colouring as camouflage as they overwinter in log piles, compost heaps or under sheds - anywhere frost free and safe from predators like cats or birds.
- Make sure you supply plenty of these areas of Winter protection for them near your pond.
- They do not hibernate but stay dormant so in a spell of warmer weather - above 5C at night they may emerge and look for food - earthworms, slugs or insects.
- They are nocturnal and will begin to travel to their ponds for breeding as it warms but find shelter again if it turns cold.
See below - plants for newts to lay and wrap their eggs in: