Made in Michigan: Josh's Frogs

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OWOSSO (WJRT) - (05/17/17) - Owosso has many claims to fame, but would you have guessed it's the home of the largest breeder of poison dart frogs in the world? There's a business tucked away in town that quietly raises frogs, toads and cockroaches.

They're cute little rascals. In the wilds of South America, they can make you sick or kill you if you touch them, but in Owosso, "Since they're fed fruit flies, they're totally harmless," said Josh Willard, owner of Josh's Frogs.

Who could resist having a poison dart frog in their living room terrarium?

"These guys come in a lot of different colors. Some will have blue on them, which you can see this guys has blue underneath," Willard said.

Prices for adult frogs start at $30. Raising poison dart frogs takes a bit of work. It seems tadpoles don't get along.

"They have to be kept individually because they're cannibalistic. They'll eat their brothers and sisters," Willard said.

Raising a frog from egg to adult takes about six months. They also sell lots of toads. They send them all over the United States.

"Every week we send out thousands of boxes of frogs, crickets, plants and pet supplies," Willard said.

Shipping frogs and toads takes planning. They can't tolerate large changes in temperatures.

"We pack the frogs inside an insulated box," Willard said.

They also sell bearded dragons, which find cockroaches especially tasty. Cockroaches are simple to raise.

"They're really easy to feed. You can give them your house scraps as well as they're not noisy like crickets," said Erin Forster, a Josh's Frogs cockroach handler.

You want your frogs and toads to feel like they're home, so a rain chamber has been set up. These amphibians think they're in a tropical rain forest.

Frogs account for only 10 percent of the sales at Josh's Frogs.

"When somebody buys a frog, they need to buy bugs to keep that frog thriving," Willard said.

They also sell plants that do well in terrariums. So who buys frogs, toads and lizards?

"Our customers are everyday, average people that want a frog tank in their room, to hobbyists that might have a dozen or so tanks. We also sell to zoos, museums, even sometimes malls or movie theaters," Willard said.

Josh's Frogs is not a store and customers are not allowed in the building. Nearly all the sales are generated online. Josh's Frogs started in 2004 as a business based in an apartment and has since grown to 36 employees.

"In the last two years, we've doubled our business and we see that trend continuing," Willard said.

No doubt business will keep the employees hopping.

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