Simple changes are enough to avoid West Nile virus

We’re all doing our best to social distance these days. If only mosquitoes self-quarantined, too. Fortunately, out of the 44 species of mosquitoes in The Woodlands, only one one threatens to pack more than an itch with its bite – West Nile virus. Here’s what you need to know about preventing annoying bites and potentially much worse.

AVOID PEAK TIMES 

You might feel like the main course at times, but the southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus) – the primary vector for West Nile virus – would rather feast on birds than people. That’s why they’re most active at dawn and dusk, when birds are roosting. However, if you’re active then, too, you’ve put yourself on the menu.   

Consider changing your routine to avoid harm’s way. Could you: 

  • Walk the dog before dinner instead of after dark? 
  • Go for a run after the sun has risen? 
  • Take a tee time between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.? 

Putting it in action: Marissa likes walking her dog in the morning when the air is as cooler. With the increase in WNV activity though, she’s started answering emails until 9 a.m. and then hits the trail. Sure, it’s a little sweatier but the peace of mind is worth it. 


FIGHT BACK  

If you do find yourself watering plants at dusk or enjoying a sunrise coffee on the patio, here are some tools to fight the bite. 

A Big Oscillating Fan 

A fan that blows air horizontally creates an air current too stiff for mosquitoes to handle – their flight speed maxes out at 2 miles per hour (a gentle breeze is about 10 mph). The wider the fan oscillates, the greater the area you can keep mosquito-free. Overhead fans are nice, but not as effective. Pro tip: add a second fan for more complete coverage and refreshment. 

Best application: when you’re outdoors in one spot. Think grilling, reading, or lounging, on a blanket with the kids. 

Putting it into action: neighbors Neil and Susan read how to Mosquito-Proof the Patio and liked the simple solution of an oscillating fan for their grilling competition. Susan had a fan in the garage that would fit the bill, just needed an extension cord. Neil decided to augment his overhead fan with a floor fan. Now let the competition begin!   


Cloaking Spray 

It can’t be said enough – wear repellent! Now is the time to make it a regular part of your outdoor routine. Think they all stink, are full of chemicals, or just plain don’t work? We explore these three common reasons and offer some myth-busters to help you find the repellent that works for you. For those with wee ones see this Parents Guide to Repellent.   

Best application: anytime you’re out and moving – especially during peak times. Think watering the veggies in the evening, walking the dog before a 7 a.m. Zoom meeting or picnicking in the park for dinner. 

Bonus points: wear a light-colored, long-sleeve shirt or long pants (or both!) to cut down on your exposure to bites – and reduce the amount of repellent you need. 

Putting it into action: Sebastian likes to work off the day’s stress at the park before dinner – but he’s noticed this is a peak time for mosquitoes. After some trial and error, he found that IR3535 works best for him. It isn’t greasy and has no odor. Now he makes sure to keep a bottle in his car so its right there when he needs it.  


The options are endless – what three things can you do today to reduce your chance of being bitten? Here are some ideas: 

  • Leave a can of repellent by my front door to use before walks 
  • Try a new repellent, one with a different active ingredient that might work better for me: try oil of lemon eucalyptus which has a citrusy scent or IR3535 that doesn’t small at all 
  • Wear a long-sleeve shirt when I garden 
  • Wear long pants when I go for a walk 
  • Move the floor fan from the spare room to the patio 
  • Water the garden with a sprinkler on a timer instead of standing there with the hose  
  • Change up the timing of my dog walk 

The best protection against West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites. To make sure you aren’t breeding your own mosquitoes, find a handy checklist and other good resources at www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/MosquitoInfo

To report a mosquito concern, contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800 

23rd Annual Woodlands Landscaping Solutions

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions Drive-Through

Sterling Ridge Park & Ride (8001 McBeth Way)

9 a.m. – noon

Saturday, September 26, 2020


The area’s premier annual lawn and garden event, hosted by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department, takes place as a drive-through this year. Improve your home landscape with giveaways and resources. Items are great for all gardeners, beginner to expert. 

Be sure to arrive early. Giveaway supplies are limited to the first 300 vehicles. Limit one item per vehicle. 

Giveaways include: 

  • Compost 
  • Water Saving Devices 
  • Native Plants 
  • Wildlife Feeders 
  • Children’s Activity 
  • Wildflower Seeds 
  • And More 

For Your Safety 

Please follow these guidelines for the safety of residents and staff: 

  • Residents are to remain in their vehicle at all times. 
  • Masks are required. 
  • Staff will place items in the trunk, bed or rear storage of vehicles. 
  • Drive slow, follow directional signs and watch for staff directing traffic.

Compost Bin and Rain Barrel Pick Up: 

Purchase a compost bin and pick it up at the event. Bins are $50 each (half off retail price). To pay by phone, call 281-210-3900, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To purchase online, create or login to your Active account here.  

Bring a copy of your receipt to the event for pick up. 


Purchase a rain barrel and pick it up at the event. Rain barrels are $85 each (50% rebate available through Woodlands Water Agency). Order online at www.thewoodlandsgreen.org/rain-barrels.  

Bring a copy of your receipt to the event for pick up.


Learn from the Experts 

Join us the following week (September 28 – October 2) for Woodlands Landscaping Solutions online learning. Tune in each day to the Environmental Services Blog for expert instruction on sustainable gardening and landscaping topics including drip irrigation, garden pest control, backyard composting, attracting butterflies and pollinators and much more. Watch from the comfort of your own home. Then take what you learn and turn your lawn and garden into a healthy, beautiful landscape. 

Questions or comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Creature Feature: Squirrels

Widespread and widely liked, squirrels are not only adorable and intelligent, but also one of the most visible wildlife in our community. Home more than ever these days, many of us have had delighted in their backyard entertainment and mischievous antics.  Though familiar, there’s still plenty to uncover about these wildly acrobatic and entertaining creatures.

Fast Facts 

  1. Squirrels will occasionally engage in “deceptive caching” – digging and re-filling a hole without actually depositing a nut. This throws off would-be thieves. 
  2. Eyes positioned on the side of the skull allow squirrels to see behind them. 
  3. With a large area/mass ratio and a tail for a parachute, squirrels can survive a fall from ANY HEIGHT.  
Squirrels are one of the few animals that can run head first down a tree. Their back ankles can rotate 180 degrees, allowing them to grip the tree trunk on the way down.

Why do we need them?  

It’s no secret that squirrels bury seeds and nuts. But they only recover a portion of what they bury. Sometimes their cache is raided before they return, but in many cases they’ve simply forgotten where they buried their food. When this happens, the squirrel has unwittingly helped to re-forest our community.   

Even though they dine mostly on nuts, seeds and fruit, squirrels are omnivores. Occasionally eating insects, small birds, mammals and carrion, squirrels play a role in a balanced food chain.  

They’re also an important source of food for many predators, including snakes, coyotes, hawks, and owls.  

Removal 

If you’re a gardener or have a bird feeder, chances are you’ve had a run-in with squirrels. These clever creatures love to take advantage of an easy meal. But before you attempt to trap or remove them consider the following:  

  • Be sure it’s a squirrel. Squirrels are diurnal creatures, so you should be able to catch them in the act in broad daylight. If your plants are dug up during the night, chances are another critter was to blame.  
  • Remove a squirrel and another will likely take its place. Even if you remove several squirrels at once, the lag in activity will be short-lived.   
  • Humanely trapping and relocating results in low survival rates. A relocated squirrel lands in unfamiliar territory where it must quickly find food and shelter and fight off predators. It has none of the security it depends on. 

The easier option is to live in harmony with squirrels.   

  • Reduce or eliminate food sources. Bird feeders are a common attractant. And while it may take a few tries, keeping squirrels at bay can be done. Try some of these suggestions from Birds and Blooms
  • Make your garden uninviting. Consider adding plants that don’t appeal to squirrels such as mint, marigolds or nasturtiums. 
  • If you’re still having trouble in the garden, consider enclosing with chicken wire or mesh cloth. 
  • Keep squirrels out of the attic by trimming tree branches at least 10’ away from the roof. Seal any holes or gaps to prevent access. Just be certain no squirrels are inside before you do.
Their very small and very sharp claws allow them to hang upside down, making many bird feeders an easy meal.

Disease 

The best way to appreciate wild animals, squirrels included, is to watch them from a distance and not feed them. Feeding squirrels discourages natural foraging and can result in a serious bite. Like other rodents, squirrels may be a carrier of rabies, lyme disease, hantavirus and several other diseases according to the Center for Disease Control. Keep your distance and you won’t have any problems.  

So, when you step outside and see a squirrel raiding your bird seed, remember their more likeable attributes. These acrobatic, charismatic creatures are an everyday reminder of the wildlife that share our forested home.  Maybe we should be thanking them for helping plant the trees we enjoy everyday. 

Pictured above is the gray squirrel. The most common of the three species found in The Woodlands.

Questions or comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Walk in the Woods presents Damselflies and Dragonflies

Kick off the Fall Walk in the Woods Nature Lecture Series from the comfort of your couch. The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department now presents one of our most popular programs online. The entire family is invited the second Thursday of the month, September through November, as local experts explore the wonders of the natural world.   

Be a part of  the fun on Thursday, September 10 at 6:30 p.m. when Bob Honig presents on Damselflies and Dragonflies. Over the course of an hour, Bob provides an up-close look at their predatory behavior, explains the “killer lip,” takes a deep dive into their unique mating rituals, and more.  

Registration is required for this free presentation. 

Questions or comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Save the date for GreenUp: Fall Sweep

In light of the annual Earth Day GreenUp cancellation in March, the Township encourages individuals and family groups to organize their own cleanup on Saturday, September 5, 2020. 

Help keep The Woodlands looking clean and green. 

How Fall Sweep Works 

  • Gather your family and ready your gloves, bags and outdoor gear for some community beautification. 
  • Choose a location in the community in need of litter cleanup. Check out suggested sites below for ideas. 
  • Cleanup litter along pathways and in the tree lines. Report large or hazardous items to the Township through the 311 App or by calling 281-210-3800 during normal business hours. 
  • Dispose of full bags at home or in a park trash can. Tie your trash bags tightly to protect sanitation workers. Avoid causing more litter issues and take bags home if  park trash cans are full. 
  • Share your success by posting a photo on social media using #GreenUpFallSweep 

Safety 

  •  Wear protective gear– Gloves and close-toed shoes  
  • Follow COVID-19 guidelines – Wear gloves and maintain a 6’ distance. Bring a mask for passing within 6’ of others. If you encounter littered gloves and masks, please use care and review this guide for safety tips. Dispose of your single-use face masks and disposable gloves in a trash can (not a recycle can). Check out this resource by Keep Texas Beautiful for cleanup guidance during the pandemic. 
  • Be prepared for the elements – Long pants, closed-toe shoes, hats, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and a reusable water bottle are recommended. 
  • Sanitize when you’re done – Immediately wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer after collecting litter. 
  • Be aware of wildlife –Observe from a distance. Watch where you step. Do not place hands in holes or brush piles.   
  • Know poisonous plants– Poison ivy is common along pathways and inside tree lines. Touching leaves and stems can cause a painful rash. Remember leaves of three, leave it be! See image below.   

Site Suggestions 

Participants may choose their own cleanup locations. Parks, pathways and green spaces by businesses always need cleaning. Pay attention to tree lines to spot litter hiding under leaves and brush. 

Litter Hot Spots 

Find litter hot spots on www.Litterati.org or by using the app on your phone. Help us track litter in The Woodlands by snapping pictures and logging found litter in the app leading up to the event, during and after for future events! 

 Locations by Village 

Find specific locations within each village. These are only suggestions only; you’re encouraged to clean up any public area in need. 

Click on the map below for locations and directions

Why is litter a problem? 

All litter, big and small, is not only unsightly, it has serious environmental consequences. Please dispose of waste properly, educate or report those seen littering and start the habit of picking it up when you see it. 
 
Negative effects on our community: 

  • Decreases community aesthetic, reducing property values. 
  • Causes soil, water and air pollution. Chemicals can leach from litter, polluting nearby soil and water bodies. If the littered area is burned, it can release toxic particulate matter. 
  • Creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can reproduce in containers as small as a bottle cap. 
  • Causes fire hazards. 
  • Harms wildlife. Aquatic and land animals ingest small pieces of litter and fishing line or other tanglers entrap them.  

Questions or comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov