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Bumble Bee Arrow Frog Dendrobates leucomelas
These beautiful, diurnal frogs are one of the most unmistakable species in the collective group of poison arrow frogs. Typically bright yellow or orange and patterned with jet-black reticulations, these little frogs make ideal and terrarium subjects.
Arrow frogs as a group are sometimes labeled as poison dart frogs. There are many species available, and often times they only have a species name to identify them. This particular species has become popularly referred to as simply "leucs." Luckily bumble bees are quite unique in their color and pattern, and are seldom confused with other, less hardy species.
In the wild this species can be found throughout the tropical rainforests of Venezuela and adjacent territories. They are usually encountered near water, be it a permanent pond or stream, or sometimes near temporary rain pools. Although still abundant in the wild, the vast majority of specimen offered for sale in the U.S. are bred in captivity.
Adult bumble bees will measure between 1.5 to 2 inches in snout to vent length. Males are typically smaller, with a slighter, more angular build, while females are larger and more robust.
With recent advancements in our understanding of arrow frog husbandry and natural history, bumble bee arrow frogs can be expected to live over 10 years in captivity. Longer life spans are not out of the question, especially as our knowledge base continues to grow.
Arrow frogs in general are a territorial bunch, and aggression is regularly observed in mature females. However, this particular species is slightly more tolerant of communal living, and immature frogs can be safely housed together as long as numerous visual barriers are provided. Adults should be housed in male-female pairs in all but the very largest of enclosures.
A few babies can be maintained in a standard 10 gallon terrarium. As they begin to grow, close attention should be paid to their sizes. Larger, more dominant individuals should be separated to their own enclosures to avoid a monopoly on food. Young frogs can also be raised in front opening terrariums, and while smaller terrariums work for froglets up to juveniles, the larger sizes are better for larger groups and/or larger frogs.
An adult pair of this species should be given no less than a 15 to 20 gallon enclosure. These frogs are primarily terrestrial, but if the enclosure is properly designed, they will utilize vertical space as well and this can be taken into consideration when choosing an enclosure. The larger tank sizes made by Exoterra are ideal for the keeper seeking to keep a group of these semi communal frogs, with tanks as wide as 3 feet and some as tall as 3 feet as well.
Due to the high humidity requirements of this species, all glass terrariums should be your first choice, and a fully or partially screened lid is a must. A little trial and error will help you to determine how much ventilation will be necessary to maintain a healthy humidity level.
As a tropical species, this frog should be maintained between 75 and 80 degrees during the day, and no less than 70 degrees at night. Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 84 can be stressful, and even higher temperatures may quickly prove fatal to arrow frogs.
During the warmer months of the year, most keepers will not need to provide any form of supplemental heat to their frogs. However, in the winter, or in cooler regions, the use of an under tank heat pad (designed specifically for reptile use) or a low wattage nocturnal (red or purple)bulb may be required.
Because these frogs are found mostly on the rainforest floor, the sunlight that they receive is often mottled and indirect. However, some consistent source of quality light is highly recommended for raising this species, and a necessity if you intend to keep live plants in the terrarium.
A low output UV light such as Zoo Med’s Repti-Sun 5.0 fluorescent tube would be an excellent choice. These fluorescent bulbs should be the length of the entire enclosure and be bright enough to provided a steady photo period and to support plant life. When using any source of light other than ambient light from the room, make sure to provide ample shaded hiding spots for these secretive frogs.
The substrate for these frogs should be one that aids in maintaining a high ambient humidity. Pulverized coconut husk (Eco Earth) is ideal, and it can be mixed or layered with other types of barks and/or mulches until you find the combination that works best for you.
Live or artificial plants should be included in the set-up as they serve as natural hiding spots as well as providing visual barriers for enclosures housing multiple animals. Other decorations can include pieces of driftwood, cork flats, cork rounds, naturalistic rock caves, coconut hiding spots, repti shelters, and various other natural decor.
The use of a high quality sphagnum moss is recommended to further aid in keeping your frogs moist. This bedding can be used in clumps, or put down as an entire layer of substrate. Special attention should be paid to keeping the moss fresh and damp.
A large, shallow water bowl should always be provided for arrow frogs. The water should be shallow enough to allow your smallest frog to sit in comfortably and keep its head well above the surface.
Water quality is important, and bottled or spring water should be used if possible. This not only ensures that your frogs will not be exposed to any contaminants present in tap water, but will also not cause water spots on the terrarium glass as a result of frequent spraying. Additionally, the water should be replaced everyday, and the bowl disinfected once a week to prevent any threat of bacterial infection. If the prospect of buying bottled water for your frog is distasteful, consider using a water treatment to remove the harmful aspects of tap water from the water you are providing your frogs.
Humidity for this species should be high, optimally above 80%. Use of appropriate substrates and water bowls are a good start, but regular misting of the entire enclosure with either a hand sprayer or pressure sprayer will be required. In most situations, misting twice daily will suffice. You may need to alter your misting schedule based on ambient humidity, temperature, and ventilation within the cage. You can also use a fogger to increase humidity in your cage, and the natural effect of the water vapor rolling through your cage is an extremely aesthetically pleasing way to increase humidity within your cage. To further decrease the effort needed to maintain humidity, consider adding a timer to your fogger, or even a fancy timer that can be programmed for your lights, as well.
As adults, bumble bee arrow frogs will eat a variety of tiny insect prey including pinhead to 1/4 inch crickets. Smaller animals will require smaller food items, and flightless fruit flies serve as the staple diet for nearly all captive arrow frogs. Even large animals will relish these insects over any other type of prey.
Fruit flies are typically purchased as a "culture" which is a container complete with a colony of adult flies, food, and many different stages of larvae. A single culture will continue to produce flies for up to a month, or perhaps longer depending upon the rate at which you are feeding them off. There are numerous species of fruit flies in the world, but the two species commonly fed to dart frogs are melanogaster, a smaller, faster breeding fly, and hydei, a slower producing fly that is larger and often better suited for older frogs.
These little frogs have very big appetites and should be offered food at least twice a day until they reach adult size. From then on, daily feedings should suffice. Prey should always be dusted with a good calcium supplement complete with vitamin D3. A multivitamin should be used as well, but as formulas differ, be sure to follow the manufacturers directions regarding how much and how often.
Only put as many food items into the enclosure as the frogs will eat in 20 minutes. Excess feeders (especially fruit flies) tend to reproduce in the enclosure and can potentially be a source of stress to frogs that aren't hungry.
Arrow frogs as a group have evolved bright, flashy colors to warn potential predators of their foul taste and toxic skin secretions. In fact, some species of arrow frogs have skin toxins that are deadly. The good news is that captive bred arrow frogs, as well as those that have been in captivity for a while, lose all traces of these toxins. In nature, they eat a particular ant species, and from the amino acids within these ants they synthesize said toxins. So luckily, crickets and fruit flies make for a mostly harmless pet.
That said, these frogs should still not be viewed as a handling pet. For one, they are frogs, which in general do not tolerate the stress of handling nor the trauma to their fragile skin. Secondly, even though they are not deadly, there is a chance of a mild reaction to their skin secretions should it be ingested or make contact with a mucous membrane.
If you think of these animals as tropical fish, and enjoy their stunning beauty from the other side of the glass, then you will no doubt have a rewarding experience with these creatures.
© LLLReptile & Supply, Inc 2006