Behold, the power of invisibility

There are two ways to guarantee that mosquitoes won’t bite you. 

  1. Get a shield 
  2. Go incognito 

Let’s start with number 2 first. What if I told you that there is a magical coating that cloaks you from marauding hordes of blood-sucking mosquitoes, no matter where you go? An invisibility cape that takes about 20 seconds to put on. Would you wear it?  Like standing upwind of a deer hides your location, wearing repellent has a similar effect when mosquitoes try to track down their next target, as explained here in How mosquitoes find you.  

The biggest problem with the efficacy of repellent is that people don’t wear it. If you are complaining about mosquitoes and not wearing repellent, you may as well criticize the government but not exercise your right to vote.

Here are the top 3 reasons people give for not wearing mosquito repellent:

It stinks

Certainly some repellents are more heavily scented than others (we’re looking at you DEET), but two have almost no smell at all. Look at the front of the bottle and go for one that contains picaridin or IR3535 (also sometimes listed by its chemical name, ethyl N-acetyl-N-butyl-ß-alaninate). If odor is your issue, these are the two you want.

It doesn’t work

There are people at universities that make a living studying the effectiveness of mosquito repellents. One thing they can agree on is that there are 4 effective active ingredients. 

Have you tried each of these? Not everyone will find the same one the most effective. Keep trying until one works for you; it might not be the same one that works for your friends.  Also, note the percentage of active ingredient. It tells you how much of every spray is actual cloaking juice. The more active ingredient, the longer it will repel before you need to reapply. If you’re out where ticks are also abundant, choose one that is effective for both and more highly concentrated. 

Active IngredientPicaridinIR3535Oil of Lemon EucalyptusDEET
% Ingredient15 to 20%15 to 20 %30 to 40%10 to 30%
Fights AgainstMosquitoesMosquitoes and TicksMosquitoesMosquitoes and Ticks
Age Restrictions> 2 months> 2 months> 3 years> 2 months
Derived FromSynthetic version of piperine, found in group of plants that produce black peppercornsStructurally similar to the natural substance β-alanine – a component of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)Derived from lemon eucalyptus tree branches and leaves or a synthetic version of the same (PMD)Synthetic repellent invented by the US Army for use by military personnel in insect-infested areas
Also Listed AsIcaridin, KBR 3023ethyl N-acetyl-N-butyl-ß-alaninatePara-methane-diol or PMDN, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide
Additional InformationNPIC Fact SheetNPIC Fact SheetNPIC Fact SheetNPIC Fact Sheet

I don’t want to bathe in chemicals

Does anyone want to expose themselves to harmful substances? Of course not. Rest assured that repellents are approved through the EPA and safe for use – read the label. If you use fabric softener, you are exposing yourself to more unknown chemicals formulations than you would be with repellent. Some people are sensitive to DEET and can develop a rash. If the concern is to find a more “natural” mosquito repellent, then check out oil of lemon eucalyptus. It’s derived from an actual lemon eucalyptus tree, but standardized so that the same amount of active ingredient is in each batch. See this previous post for guidelines on using repellents safely.  

Back to Number 1

When weighing all the options to reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites, and thus the risk of mosquito-borne disease, nothing beats an impenetrable shield. Anything that physically separates those piercing, sucking mouthparts from your skin provides the ultimate protection. This usually begins in the form of clothing with a tight weave that hangs loosely, away from the body. 

Bug nets around strollers are the best protection for babies before they’re old enough (see chart above) to wear repellent. Bug jackets are available for adults too – and depending on your situation you might consider it! When treating post-Harvey floodwaters for mosquito larvae, Township staff used these to protect against the swarms of floodwater mosquitoes.  

Fighting off mosquitoes starts by protecting yourself but remember that you can also fight back by treating and removing common breeding places around the home. By protecting yourself with these two simple steps above, you can once again comfortably enjoy your time outside. Just remember that you are only invisible to the mosquitoes, the rest of the world can still see you! 

Questions, comments or to report a mosquito concern, email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800

New recycling program is the REEL deal

Did you know The Woodlands Township has more than 40 ponds in its parks system?! Many are stocked with bass, catfish and more, making them a great place to go fishing this summer. All bodies of water are catch-and-release, meaning you must remove the hook and toss your catch back into the water, except for Bear Branch Reservoir, Lake Paloma and Lake Woodlands, where you can keep the fish you catch. 

It’s critical we take care of this precious resource so we can enjoy it for many years. The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department offers year-round programs to educate residents on the health of our waterways and provide opportunities to get involved. Visit our website for a list of upcoming programs including the Storm Drain Marking Project, the Pet Waste Project and the Invasives Task Force Program, all of which take action to protect our waterways. 

Some of our younger residents have taken up the cause to protect local aquatic wildlife and keep our waterways clean through a new recycling program at local ponds. Thanks to the hard work of two local Eagle Scout candidates, twelve township parks now have monofilament recycling stations (MRS) available for the public to use. Discarded monofilament line, or single-strand nylon fishing line, entangles birds, turtles and fish, causing unnecessary injury or mortality that could easily be prevented when properly discarded.  

Monofilament fishing line can last up to 600 years in the aquatic environment 

Daniel Verachtert first approached The Woodlands Township with his proposed Eagle Scout project to install an MRS at Northshore Park, Lake Paloma and Rob Fleming Park. Daniel’s project was well received and laid the groundwork for another Eagle Scout candidate, Colton Moore, to build and install eight additional MRS’s at parks throughout The Woodlands. 

An MRS not only provides a place to safely dispose of unwanted fishing line, but the collected line is cleaned of hooks, weights and trash and then shipped out for recycling where is it melted down and turned into other plastic products. So, next time you’re casting a line at a local pond, be sure to collect your broken, tangled or unwanted line and drop it off for recycling at one of these twelve parks with a monofilament recycling station:  

  • Capstone 
  • The Cove 
  • Reedy Pond 
  • Creekwood 
  • Cypress Lake 
  • Shadow Lake 
  • Deepdale Pond 
  • Mystic Lake 
  • Alden Bridge 
  • Northshore 
  • Lake Paloma 
  • Rob Fleming  

 “I’ve always loved fishing, and I fish a lot at the ponds in the Woodlands. I really enjoyed carrying out an eagle scout project that aligned with my personal interests so well, and I’ve committed to collecting fishing line from the recycling stations for the next three years until I go to college.” 

Colton Moore

Remember, a fishing license is required for all residents and non-residents to fish in public waters of Texas for almost everyone over the age of 17.  All lakes and ponds other than Bear Branch Reservoir, Lake Paloma and Lake Woodlands, are strictly catch-and-release but do NOT require a fishing license since they’re considered private waters. The upper portion of The Woodlands Waterway and Lake Robbins are the only bodies of water in The Woodlands that DO NOT allow fishing.

From Bags to Benches

Closing the recycling loop in The Woodlands

Did you know? Every ounce of plastic ever created is still with us. Breaking down into ever-smaller particles, plastic never fully disappears or forms a new compound. Since plastic remains an integral part of our lives, recycling is critical for protecting the environment. We all know that plastic bottles and containers belong in the recycle cart, but what about plastic bags and film?

Plastic bags and film cannot be recycled in your curbside recycling cart.

Why not? Your recycling cart delivers a mixed load of materials to the recycling facility – this is known as single stream recycling. Once there, the jumble is sorted into discrete bales of recyclables – aluminum cans, cardboard, paper, glass, and plastic containers. Contamination is filtered out and landfilled. The more contaminants that enter the system, the harder it is to produce bales of quality recyclables.

Plastic bags and film top the list of contaminants. Hoses, wires, textiles, and Styrofoam are a close second. They wrap around equipment, clog filters, and force the line to stop for cleaning and repair. These interruptions increase the cost to process the material, harming its marketability and the success of our recycling program.

Recycle more at the store! Although plastic bags and film cannot go in your recycling cart, they CAN be recycled at participating locations including all grocery stores in The Woodlands. Any plastic bag or film that is clean, dry, and stretchy can go back to the store for proper recycling.

Click here for a printable version of this tip card

What happens next? Each year, tons of plastic film are turned into composite lumber – a plasticized material used in park benches, picnic tables, decks, fences, and playground equipment. This material is commonly used in our parks and pedestrian bridges.

Want to learn more about plastic film recycling in The Woodlands? Visit us at the next Plastic Film Outreach Day this Saturday, July 30, 2022 at H-E-B in Creekside Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. An expert will be available to answer questions and provide examples of recyclables films. Reusable produce bags and shopping lists will be available while supplies last.

Want to recycle MORE? Check out this the Recycle More Guide for locations to recycle items such as batteries, electronics, Styrofoam and more at  www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/recyclemore. For questions, contact Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or 281-210-3800. 

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:  

3R Drive-thru: Light Bulb Recycling

Recycle Light Bulbs; earn scholarship funds for your village!

If you feel in the dark about light bulb disposal, here’s a bright idea: recycle used light bulbs to earn scholarship money! The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has selected Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs for the annual Village Recycling Challenge held at the 3R Recycling Drive-thru on Saturday, November 12, 2022 from 9 a.m. to noon in The Woodlands High School’s parking lot. Light bulbs must be intact, not broken. Batteries and other listed items will also be accepted. This event is for residents only, no businesses. 

This year’s Recycling Village Challenge shines a light on the importance of responsible waste disposal. Recycling light bulbs saves material that can be reused, reduces landfill space, and keeps hazardous chemicals out of our environment. Although they are made of glass, metal and plastic, light bulbs cannot be recycled in your curbside cart.

How are light bulbs recycled? 

Light bulbs are put through a machine, called a tumbler, which crushes and separates the primary components: glass, metal, plastic, mercury and phosphor. These materials are then stored for manufacturing into new items.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) contain a small amount of mercury gas. If CFLs are disposed of in a trash can or landfill, the glass can crack and release mercury into the environment. Chemicals from CFLs and other hazardous waste, such as batteries that end up in the landfill, can leach into the surrounding water table, endangering human health and the environment. CFLs and other household hazardous waste should always be treated with care and safely disposed of through special collections. If you are saving CFL bulbs for recycling, please store them in a safe place such as their original box to avoid damage. 

Want to save money, energy and even water? 

LED light bulbs use 80% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, saving energy, money and even water. They also pose almost no fire risk because they emit  less heat than other bulbs. LED lightbulbs may cost more up front, but they’ll save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the years because of efficiency and long life span.  

Join us for free recycling of select items and support your village by bringing Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs to the 3R Recycling Drive-thru for the Village Recycling Challenge. The village that collects the most will receive a donation to its scholarship fund from The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N.  

Can’t make it to 3R Recycling Drive-thru?  

That’s ok! The Montgomery County Precinct 3 Recycling Center (1122 Pruitt Road in Spring), Home Depot, Lowes, Batteries Plus and Best Buy accept different types of light bulbs all year. For a comprehensive list of local recycling opportunities of other oddities such as electronics, batteries, paints, pharmaceuticals, and more check out the Recycle More Guide.  

For more information, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/3rdrivethru

Turn your nightmare lawn into a dream 

With less fertilizer, less money, and less work. 

So, your lawn is having a recurring nightmare… you dump on the high-nitrogen fertilizer, thinking more is better. You get an immediate reward of super green grass and pat yourself on the back for your green thumb, BUT then the problems start. Since nitrogen overuse decreases grass’ water-holding capacity, you’ve soon got unhealthy turf and a welcome mat for weeds and disease. Desperate for a remedy, you then crank up the watering. And your nightmare snowballs – our St Augustine lawns suffer when they get more than an inch a week. Now you’re back to the store shelling out more money for more chemicals and paying a higher water bill, too boot.  And the nightmare rolls-on. 

What your lawn dreams of instead is to grow deep roots thereby reducing stress, promoting health and keeping pests and weeds at bay – something it can’t do when over-fertilization and over-watering keeps the top green but the roots shallow. 

So, listen to your lawn: 

  • Apply fertilizer only if you’re sure you need it – have a soil test performed every 2 to 3 years to find out. 
  • Apply fertilizer only when the lawn is actively growing – in the spring after you’ve mowed at least 2 times (and indicator of active growth). 
  • Look for fertilizers with slow-release Nitrogen so your grass can take up a little at a time and the rest won’t be lost through leaching and runoff. Too much nitrogen leads to fertilizer burn, so follow label instructions carefully. In our clay soils, keep to a 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet to prevent Nitrogen leaching. 
  • In our region, avoid fertilizing after mid-October. This allows the grass to fully uptake it before the first freeze occurs. 

Your grass would also like you to know: 

  • St Augustine grass needs 4 to 6 hours of sun every day – if you see thinning growth, it may be getting too little light. 
  • Mow at a height of at least 2 inches, but 4 to 6 inches is better – and only take off a max of 1/3 the height at a time. 
  • Skip the bagging, leave the grass clippings right on the lawn. This provides nutrients your lawn needs. And your back will thank you.
  • Water no more than 1 to 2 times a week for a total of 1 inch per week. This lessens susceptibility to turf grass diseases. 
  • Use cycle and soak methods. Set your timer to water for 10 to 15 minutes, rest for 20, and then water again. Remember, no more than 1 inch a week, total.    
  • Follow the mandated Defined Irrigation Schedule for The Woodlands (2-days per week allowed) and water between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. This reduces water waste from evaporation and supports a healthier lawn. 
  • Turn off irrigation over winter. Our grass naturally goes dormant in the cool months (November through March): leaves turn brown so the roots can concentrate on growing deep and strong. Watering hampers this process, leaving you with a disease and pest-prone lawn in the spring.  

Better yet, turn off your automatic system year-round and operate it manually only when needed. How will you know when to turn it on? It’s easy.

Simply sign up for Weekly Water Recommendation from Woodlands Water Agency. You’ll get an email each week recommending how much to water.  

Stop the nightmares and help your lawn lose the stress and get strong, healthy and lush!  

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