Earth Day GreenUp Registration Closes Soon

Online registration closes soon! If you have a large group, save time on event day and register online here.

Volunteer walk-ups are welcome on event day. Paper registration forms will be available at the event site. Everyone must have a signed waiver to participate. Children under 18 must have a parent or guardian to sign the waiver.

For event details of the 10th annual Earth Day GreenUp, read this recent blog post.

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

Creature Feature: Bees and Wasps

While sitting outside on a spring afternoon you hear a low buzzing sound. On alert and ready to run you scan the area, anticipating an attack from an angry insect. A reaction many of us are guilty of, but why? How many times have you actually been stung and let’s be honest, could it have been avoided? Bees and wasps are feared by many but they need not be. The vast majority of these highly beneficial insects are not aggressive and stings are easily avoided.  

Whether you think of bees and wasps as friend or foe, they play a critical role in the health of our environment. Beyond sustaining our food supply by pollinating billions of crop plants each year, they provide essential needs, like shelter and food, for other wildlife. Bees are responsible for the production of seeds, nuts, berries and fruit that many other species depend on. Bees and wasps themselves are an important food source for thousands of species of birds, spiders, insects such as dragonflies and praying mantises, and larger predators such as skunks, foxes, weasels, mice, badgers and even bears.  

They also help provide shelter for those predators and many other species. By pollinating a variety of plants, trees and grasses they help maintain healthy forests and grasslands and provide nesting and protective spaces for other insects, birds and small mammals. There is no doubting the importance they play in beautifying our flower garden and bringing our favorite foods to the table, but let’s not forget all the other reasons bees and wasps are so important.     

Bumblebees do not store large quantities of nectar and pollen, like honey bees. Instead they rely on a continuous food supply from spring to fall.

Bees

There are more than 16,000 species of bees in the world, 800 in Texas and 13 in Southeast Texas.  The most common varieties include carpenter, squash, leafcutter, sweat, mason and bumblebees.  All wonderful pollinators, we rely on these native bees to transfer pollen amongst many local crops including cotton, fruit trees, melons, berries, vegetables and livestock crops such as alfalfa and clover.  Even onions rely on pollinators for fertilization!

The annual value of native bee pollination to U.S. agriculture is estimated to be $3 billion.

There are a variety of places bees prefer to nest, depending on the species. 70% of all bee species dwell underground. The rest find their shelter in bare ground, weathered wood, or a honeycomb. When cleaning up around the yard, keep in mind that bees need a variety of places to live so leave some options for them to call home. Some bees are solitary dwellers (carpenter bees) and others live in social groups (bumblebees). The most familiar and well-known hive-dwelling bee is the honey bee.

A nest is the proper term to describe a colony that has created a natural cavity, usually hanging and exposed. A hive is a man-made structure used to house a honey bee nest.

The European honey bee has caught a lot of media attention in recent years due to a steep decline in population. Brought over in the 1600s, honey bees have spread to nearly every corner of North America and play a significant role in the pollination of hundreds of commercial crops. Due to pesticides, habitat loss, and disease, the population of honey bees has declined nearly 60% in the last 50 years.

Good news! You can help. Reduce the use of pesticides in your yard and garden, plant native nectar producing plants (groupings of the same plant are easier for bees to find), and provide various shelter options. These simple steps will go a long way in supporting bees and all pollinators. For more information on how you can help pollinators visit our Plant for Pollinators page.

Beekeeping is permitted within the boundaries of The Woodlands Township. State regulations do apply. The Texas Apiary Inspection Service (TAIS) oversees the State regulations regarding beekeeping.

Wasps

Distinct color patterns, smoother, thinner bodies, and a reputation for ill-temperament distinguish wasps from their more beloved counterparts, bees. That bad reputation, though, is not entirely deserved.

True, an un-barbed stinger allows a wasp to sting repeatedly (a honey bee must leave its stinger in the victim, causing it to die shortly after). However, the vast majority of the time, wasps will sting only when they or their nests are threatened. If you keep a safe distance from nests and don’t swat (this only excites them more) you’ve nothing to worry about. If you do find yourself under attack, cover your head and run away quickly into a building or protected area.

Did you know that wasp venom contains a pheromone that causes other wasps to become more aggressive? A good reason not to swat at one near its nest or other wasps.

Even though we loath the sting of a wasp, they are one of the most beneficial insects when it comes to controlling pest populations. Nearly every pest insect on Earth is preyed on by a species of wasp, either for a meal or as a host for its parasitic larvae. So, having wasps in your garden just may solve your tomato hornworm problem!

If your wasp or bee population has gotten a little too comfortable around the house, taking up residence in a wall of your home or storage shed, the best solution is to have the hive removed by a licensed structural pest control operator (the Texas Department of Agriculture maintains a list). Spraying or improper removal most often results in the site being re-inhabited. Lingering pheromones and honeycomb residue will draw them back making proper sealing of access points a critical step. Licensed operators will also work with a local hive owner to relocate bees before treating the nest. Many will not relocate wasps. Instead, the wasps are exterminated and the nest is removed.

Bees and wasps are a critical component of a healthy ecosystem. They benefit the local gardener, the commercial farmer, and all of us who enjoy a cup of coffee, chocolate bars, and fruits and vegetables. If you enjoy the ‘fruits’ of their labor, then help them out by providing them native nectar plants, some shelter, and most importantly, reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides at home. These beneficial insects will show their gratitude in the form of fewer pests in your garden this spring.

Questions? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

For more information, visit our wildlife page or check out these other resources:

Montgomery County Beekeepers Association

Native Plant Society of Texas: Native bees in Texas

Texas Apiary Inspection Service

Drip Irrigation? It’s a Winner!

Automated sprinkler systems are the way to go if you are only watering you lawn. But most of us also have garden and flower beds to add beauty and functionality to our landscapes. This is where drip irrigation systems really shine! Drip out performs sprinkler heads hands-down when it comes to irrigating the parts of your yard that don’t have grass.

A spray head waters from the top down. Most plants don’t like to be watered on the leaves; it can promote the spread of fungal disease. Directing water to the base of the plant makes the water more readily available for uptake by the roots, resulting in healthier plants with less water.

Sprinkler heads supply uneven watering to your garden. Drip lines apply water precisely and reliably. Each part of a drip system can deliver an exact flow rate. It’s easy to match each plant’s needs with the right amount of flow; not too much, not too little.

A study by Colorado State University found that drip irrigation exceeds 90% efficiency. A sprinkler system is between 50-70% efficient at best.

Back to those lawns for just a minute: It’s a good idea to routinely check your sprinkler system. The spray heads require regular adjustments to keep the water where you want it – on the lawn and not the street. Misdirected water from improperly aligned spray heads leads to costly runoff – water wasted. And the setting matters too. Spray that is too fine evaporates faster – as much as 30% can be lost. Be diligent about keeping your sprinkler heads tuned up and efficient.

Still not convinced it’s worth the effort? Converting a spray zone to drip is easier than you think. Most homeowners can set up a full system by themselves with supplies readily available from your local hardware store. If converting the entire yard all at once is too big a project, install it in phases, one zone at a time. Attaching a drip line to a hose faucet makes it even easier. Each of these options will give you healthier plants, waste less water, and lower your water bill.

As a bonus, if you live within the areas of the Township that are served by Woodlands Water Agency (formerly Woodlands Joint Powers Agency – WJPA), you are eligible for a rebate on your drip irrigation purchases. Turn in your receipts to receive up to 50% of the purchase price as a rebate on your next water bill (up to a maximum of $150). Check with WWA for more details on this offer. Now that really is a winner!

If you’re ready to learn how easy it is to install or convert to drip irrigation, we have the class for you! On Saturday, March 7, The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department presents a workshop on Drip Irrigation at The Woodlands Emergency Training Center, located at 16135 IH-45 South, Conroe 77385. Local Drip Irrigation specialists will explain the advantages, the nuts and bolts f planning and offer hands-on demonstrations of assembling the needed parts to create a drip system for your yard and gardens.

This is always a popular workshop and space is limited. Sign up early to save your seat. Class details and registration available online at www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/environment. For questions, call Environmental Services at 281-210-3800.

Organic Spring Vegetable Gardening Class

Now is the time plant a spring vegetable garden. Whether you’re a novice gardener unsure where to begin or you’re experienced and looking to take your garden to new heights, the Organic Spring Vegetable Gardening class on February 22 can help. Skip Richter, noted author, photographer and horticulturist, will share his vast knowledge and experience with organic vegetable gardening in Southeast Texas. Skip will breakdown crucial information into easy-to-follow guides including when to plant specific vegetables, which varieties do well in our climate, and keys to preparing your soil. Montgomery County Master Gardeners will be available to answer your most challenging garden questions. Complimentary gardening resource materials and soil testing information will be offered. 

Can’t wait for the class? Check out Skip Richter’s YouTube channel, Gardening with Skip, that has over 120 videos on gardening in Texas. Skip is also the host of the Garden Success radio show and just published a new book, Texas Month-by-Month Gardening.

Space is limited. Register here for Organic Spring Vegetable Gardening Class and join us tomorrow, Saturday, February 22, 9 a.m. to noon at The Woodlands Emergency Training Center.

Organic vegetable gardening expert, Skip Richter, will walk you through simple steps to have a successful spring vegetable garden

Are you ready to take the next step in serving your community?

Volunteer to help educate others about water conservation!

Residents across The Woodlands Township are seeking help with conserving water. These water heroes may already irrigate wisely, fix leaks quickly, and use low flow devices, but they want to do more. And, they live right in your neighborhood. Perhaps you know who they are; perhaps you are one of them. If that’s the case, how about joining in to help spread the message about water conservation to even more Township residents?

The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has launched a new program: The Watershed Project. It’s packed with training and volunteering opportunities.  There are a variety of ways to get involved; participants can choose the ones they are most excited about. Opportunities include:

Water Conservation Education

  • Learn how to conduct a sprinkler system audit and teach others in your area.
  • Staff outreach booths at events, spreading the word about water conservation.

Working with Youth

  • Assist with classroom and field study activities related to water conservation for student groups.
Students learn about aquatic ecosystems during field study activities

Hands-On Tasks

  • Apply storm drain decals to raise awareness of water quality impacts from run-off from lawns and driveways.
  • Learn about invasive plants in our waterways and help remove them.
  • Train to become a water quality monitor, collecting pollution data for the State.

Logistics Help

  • Support classes, workshops and volunteering events by checking in fellow volunteers, handing out materials, or overseeing equipment.

Neighborhood Information Resource

  • Organize educational meetings and other activities for small groups.
Volunteers monitor the health of local waterways

So, you see, being a resident water volunteer can be about more than just saving water in your own home. Increase your impact by helping others to do the same. Ready to get started? Come to our upcoming workshop and learn how to be our next water information resource. 

The Watershed Project kick-off workshop is this Saturday, February 22, at H.A.R.C, 8801 Gosling Road, from 8 a.m. to noon. Register here.


Looking for more ways to save water? Follow the monthly actions above for simple ways to save water all year long

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