How to help newts in your pond mate & lay eggs

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Facts about UK Newts and their life cycle:

  • There are 3 varieties of newts Native to UK - Smooth Newt, Great Crested Newt and Palmate Newt. see images to know what they look like.

1. Smooth Newts:

  • Smooth Newts (or Common Newt) are brown & about 9cm/3" long.
  • They live most of their lives on land hiding under sheds or in log piles.
  • They return to your pond as mating adults when 3 years old
  • Smooth Newts prefer neutral to slightly alkaline water.

Males:

  • Are distinguished by bright orange markings on both tail and underbelly when they are ready for mating.
  • Also prominent black spots on his belly and back.

Females:

  • Look duller & paler brown in colour with a spotted throat
  • They are also about 7-9cm/3" long.

2. Great Crested Newts:

  • A Great crested newt is black in colour and larger than Smooth or Palmate newts - about 13-15cm/5-6" long. (Image showing crest - Courtesy of Jim Grundy)
  • The male has a silver stripe the length of his tail when he is of mating age and a very pronounced wavy crest when swimming in the water.
  • It is against the law to handle, disturb or disrupt the pond or habitat area associated with Great Crested Newts.
  • These newts are under threat.
  • Great Crested Newts are Fully Protected in law under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (Regs) & Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000.
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and/or Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) can be created for protection where Great Crested Newts are found.
  • This means legal restrictions on managing a pond and its plants and the land around these pond sites.
  • The laws are intended to save the specific habitat these newts require.

3. Palmate Newt

  • Palmate Newts like shallow ponds in acid soil areas like peat bogs or moorlands.
  • They are small in size and very like Smooth Newts in size and colour.
  • In breeding season male Palmate Newts have webbed back feet and a thin extension to the tail.
  • The female has a plain (not spotted) throat.

What do Newts do in Spring?

  • Newts become active in Spring when the night temperatures rise.
  • All species then start to return from land to water for a breeding season in a pond.
  • Newts breed later than frogs and toads.
  • Newts look for still water for mating
  • Ideally a pond without fish.
  • Open water space to perform their mating routine which generally occurs at dawn or dusk.

Mating Newts in your pond:

  • Males try to attract a female with a bright tummy and by waving his brightly edged tail.
  • She should swim after him.
  • He waves his tail more to waft his glandular secretions (pheromones) towards her to encourage her to get closer.
  • When she touches his tail with her nose he releases his spermatophore.
  • She will swim over this and it will stick to her underbelly.
  • A female is plump on the hips in Spring 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.
  • Then she fertilizes her eggs just before laying.
  • Any species of female newt will lay her eggs between March and June (approx)

The video below is 4:35 minutes long but was edited down from an 8-minute video taken in real-time.

Where do newts lay their eggs?

  • Female newts lay eggs in water using pond plants as protection.
  • Any species of female newt will lay her eggs between March and June (approx)
  • She will lay in the leaves of horizontal growing, rafting plants on the shallow shelf ( <p>Suitable for shelf depth 13-15cm(5-6”) or waterlogged mud </p> ).
  • The female newt finds a suitable leaf and lays an egg.
  • She folds the leaf over each egg with her back feet.
  • She lays & wraps each egg individually in a folded leaf and secures it by sealing the fold with a secretion for safety from predators.
  • A newt egg is small, white and round with a clear jelly-like secretion around it.

What are the best plants to help Newts in your pond lay eggs:

These are the best pond plants to encourage any female newts to lay her eggs:

Photos below show a female newt laying eggs & folding them in a leaf for safety.

  • Photos show an area of folded leaves of Myosotis scorpioides (Myosotis palustris) used by a female newt and a closeup of the egg inside the folded leaf.
  • One female will lay several eggs a day over many weeks and can lay between 150 - 300 eggs in a breeding season.
  • Eggs will take between 10-20 days to hatch dependent on temperature.
  • Only 1% of eggs laid will reach adulthood.
  • They can be eaten by other amphibians - frogs or toads or by dragonfly larvae.

Watch our video  'Mating Newts' in your pond and learn how to plant your pond to encourage newts to visit you.

What do Newts do in Summer?

  • Adult newts leave the pond after mating and hide under nearby plants or under rocks or log piles feeding on insects.
  • Newt tadpoles or larvae develop from the eggs and swim in the pond.
  • Tadpoles hide in the oxygenating weed using their gills to breathe underwater and feed 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 below shows they range from 1cm to 3cm.
  • From June onwards when they have developed legs and begin to leave the water as efts.
  • They hide and look for food in the surrounding undergrowth.
  • You should provide an area of plants next to the pond for this foraging and for their protection from predators.
  • Blackbirds are quick to pick on the young newts as they emerge from the water if they have nowhere to hide.

What do Newts do in Autumn & Winter?

  • Smooth Newts have dull brown skin as camouflage to overwinter in log piles, compost heaps or under sheds.
  • Newts find frost free and safe places from predators like cats or birds.
  • Make sure you make plenty of safe areas of Winter protection for them near your pond.
  • Build a Hibernaculum or Bug House for any amphibians to overwinter in.
  • They do not hibernate but stay dormant.
  • In a spell of warmer weather - above  5C at night they may emerge and look for food - earthworms, slugs or insects.
  • Newts are nocturnal and will begin to travel back to their ponds for breeding as it warms at night but find shelter again if it turns cold.

See below - best pond plants for the newts in your pond to lay eggs on:

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