An easy disguise to outsmart greedy mosquitoes

Ever wonder how mosquitoes seemingly appear out of nowhere to ruin your fun? How do they find you so quickly? It’s all owed to a highly tuned sensory system which targets the next source of blood to fuel the next batch of eggs. Find out how keen their senses are in this explanation of How Mosquitoes Find You.

If only there was a magical coating to cloak you from these marauding blood-suckers – an invisibility cape that took just seconds to put on and followed you everywhere. Would you wear it? Well, you’re in luck. Find out how to harness the Power of Invisibility in the fight against mosquitoes.

For more information on keeping mosquitoes out of your backyard, check out how to Mosquito-Proof Your Patio or thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/mosquitoinfo

To report a mosquito problem, contact the Environmental Services Department at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or 281-210-3800. 

How To Help Migrating Birds This Fall

Thousands of birds migrate through The Woodlands every fall. The reason – food. As days grow shorter, birds begin to head south in search of abundant food and warmer temperatures. Lucky for us, The Woodlands happens to lie right along the path that many species take on their journey south. Our warm climate and dense vegetation provides an ideal rest stop for swifts, swallows, hummingbirds, hawks, flycatchers, warblers and more. Our parks, yards and preserves are heavy with greenery, berries and flowers throughout the fall, but are they providing the food these migrating birds need?

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

…and the berries, insects, seeds and nuts. The most sought after avian delicacies varies with the season. Research shows that all birds, migrating and resident species, require different nutrition in winter than in warmer months. Summer is breeding season for most species and protein to produce healthy eggs and chicks is in high demand. Protein means insects and lots of them. Consider that a single pair of chickadees must find 6,000-9,000 caterpillars to raise their young!

More than 80% of all bird species rely on insects for part or all of their diet. The native Hackberry (Celtis laevigata) attracts insects for hungry birds, who also enjoy its fruit all summer long.

As breeding season ends, birds shift their diet from protein to fat to help them survive cold nighttime temperatures. Fat intake is extra critical for migrators in preparation for the grueling flight ahead. Produce from Woodlands natives such as American beautyberry, wax myrtle, coral honeysuckle, native dogwoods and viburnums, and yaupon holly are prized. Right now, most of these species are in the early stages of their fall and winter fruit and nut production.

Our native plants (and insects) have co-evolved with birds over the centuries, meaning birds depend on the specific nutrition these species provide. So, not just any seed, nut or berry will do. Consider the popular non-native plant, nandina (heavenly bamboo). It produces a bevy of bright red berries – quite attractive to our eye as well as the bird’s. Unfortunately, nandina berries, like most non-native berries, are sorely lacking in fat and other nutrients. Much like feeding french fries to a marathoner, these imitation foods leave birds depleted, unable to complete their migration route or make it through a cold night.

Just like you and me, birds need the right food. Here’s how to help.

Fall in Love with Natives

Migrating birds face several threats to their continued survival: the greatest being loss of habitat. We often think of habitat loss as a paved over forest. Yet, despite the green appearance, our lawns and landscapes have the same impact if they’re devoid of native plants. Much like a parking lot, they become a food desert for birds and other wildlife.

The simplest yet most impactful action you can take to support our migrating birds this fall is to add native plants to your landscape. Remove non-native or invasive plants to ensure you’re providing only nutrient rich food, not french fries.

Not sure where to begin? use the reference guide below and consider joining our free, online Invasives Species Workshop from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, August 14, 2021, to learn how to identify invasive plants in our community. Register online here to receive more information.

Backyard Feeders

For those who go one step further in helping our feathered friends with backyard feeders, consider that not all seed mixes are the same. Cheap mixes are full of milo, wheat, red millet, and various grains that birds can’t make use of. Most all of these “low cost” seed mixes contain little protein and almost no fat. The same holds for black oil sunflower seed. Cheaper seeds are often those which didn’t fully mature and lack protein and fat. Spend a little more on a quality seed and you’ll be rewarded with more frequent and healthier visitors.


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Create a Totally Rad(ish) Fall Vegetable Garden

Opening the week’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery is always an exciting experience. What delicious vegetables await?! Well, this round certainly didn’t disappoint. I opened the box to find something completely new – a round white root vegetable with light green shoulders and dark green stems and leaves. Of course, I had to cut into it right away and what a splendid sight was revealed: beautiful, dark pink concentric circles with a light green outer edge, like a tiny watermelon!

I cut a few slices and chomped away. The pink flesh was crisp and sweet with a mild, peppery taste; the exterior a bit spicier. It was a watermelon radish. And it was delicious! 

Watermelon radishes (raphanus sativus) are in the brassica (mustard) family and are related to Napa cabbage, bok choy, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. It is an heirloom variety of the daikon radish.  

Originating in Asia, watermelon radishes have grown in popularity and are now available in our high-end groceries year-round. You might also encounter them at a farmer’s market in late fall and winter – prime growing season in Texas. They can be grown during warmer months though higher temperatures tend to soften their texture and bitter their taste. 

When shopping for watermelon radishes, choose ones with roots, stems and leaves intact. The roots should be pink, indicating a dark pink, tasty interior. Look for crisp, lively leaves, smooth shiny skin, no blemishes on the bulb and firmness when squeezed. 

Watermelon radishes are extremely hydrating – almost 90% water – and a good source of fiber, vitamins B and C, calcium and phosphorus. And just 16 calories per 100 grams! 

But why buy these beauties when you can grow them right at home – an ideal addition to your fall and winter vegetable garden. Plant them from September to mid-November and again from February to mid-March.  

Source your seeds from online seed catalogs or high-end plant retailers. Consider that they might be labeled by one of their many alternative names: Beauty Heart, Rose Heart, Shinrimei, Misato, Asian Red Meat and Zin Li Mei radish. Shop the “specialty” daikon or Korean radish categories. 

Once planted, be sure to use your drip irrigation – maintaining a consistent soil moisture level is important. Too little moisture and your radishes will turn out pithy and hollow, while too much water can cause splitting.

For the best flavor harvest your watermelon radishes about 45 days after planting. They should be about the size of a golf ball at this point. If you can stand waiting another 20 days you’ll produce a crunchier radish with milder flavor. 

Radish bulbs should be wrapped and stored separately with leaves and stems removed. The bulbs will keep refrigerated for about two weeks. You’ll need to use the stems and leaves quickly, within 2-3 days. 

Beauty and flavor combined make cooking with watermelon radishes a delight. Although, cooking isn’t really needed since their full flavor is best achieved raw. Take this buddha bowl for example – as tasty as it is lovely.

To prepare your radishes, scrub under cold water and trim the root just before using. If crispy radishes entice you, start by soaking the bulb in ice water for 1-2 hours. Their mild, peppery taste pairs well with citrus and slightly bitter greens such as arugula. The striking color accents any dish. I especially love paring them with root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, purple potatoes and rainbow carrots. And they’re perfect for pickling.

Don’t forget about the greens. Fold them into your favorite salad for a little extra spice or sauté them just as you would spinach or collard greens.


The Woodlands Township’s online Fall Sustainable Organic Vegetable Gardening Class is a great opportunity to learn more about growing watermelon radishes and other cool season vegetables. Questions about how to time planting, prepare soil, and care for your fall garden will be answered by an expert horticulturist. This FREE class happens Saturday, August 21, 2021 from 9 a.m. to noon. Register now using the button below. We’re excited to see you in class! 

How a Light Bulb Can Save Water

Yes, a light bulb!

Let’s shine some light on the link between water and energy. The fact is, they’re inseparable. It takes a LOT of energy to capture, treat and deliver water, and 90% of all electricity generation is water intensive. Both of these critical resources are in need of conservation as our local, national and global populations grow. Fortunately, conserving one helps us conserve the other.

Let’s take a deeper dive into this critical relationship…

  1. Energy can’t happen without water: 
  • 15% of all global water withdrawals are for energy production. 
  • In the U.S., freshwater sources provide 40% of the water for power generation. 
  • Freshwater availability varies with weather and climate and is coming under ever-increasing pressure from development. 
  1. Water can’t get to our faucets without energy: 
  • Drinking water and wastewater systems account for 3–4% of all energy use in the United States. 
  • Electricity accounts for 25–40% of the operating cost of a wastewater utility and approximately 80% of drinking water processing and distribution costs. 

This intertwined relationship increases the vulnerability of each; what threatens one, threatens both. We’re all aware of the current drought issues in the western U.S.. We see the images of fires, dried lakes and desiccated crops. Less publicized but equally critical are the constraints being placed on power plants throughout the region. It wasn’t that long ago, 2011-2013, that we experienced similar conditions in our region and they are sure to happen again. Our extreme storms pose another threat to the water-energy nexus, only in reverse. Storm-related power outages place great stress on water facilities, especially treatment facilities. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey left hundreds of communities in southeast Texas without safe drinking water. In total, 45 water systems shut down and 171 areas issued boil water notices. Thankfully, The Woodlands avoided that problem. Let’s hope we’re that lucky next time.

These are large-scale issues that may seem out of our control. Fortunately, they aren’t. The individual actions you and I take each day make a difference. More good news, most water and energy saving actions are simple and easy to do. And they save money, too! Essentially, we get paid to do the right thing.

Make a commitment today to take action and you’ll save water AND energy at the same time.

What a Bright Idea

Are there still incandescent bulbs burning in your home? If so, change them over to LED bulbs. They last longer, burn cooler and use a lot less energy. Here’s a great offer: Stop by the Environmental Services office and ask for a free LED Nightlight, or bring in a burned out incandescent bulb and we’ll give you a 75w equivalent LED light bulb to get you started in transitioning to “water saving” lighting (while supplies last). NO BROKEN BULBS please!

  • Environmental Services
  • 8203 Millennium Forest Drive
  • Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

West Nile virus is actively circulating in The Woodlands – take precautions

The Woodlands Township Mosquito Surveillance Program indicates disease activity is increasing with almost half of monitored zones returning a positive mosquito sample for West Nile virus (WNV). Mid-July to mid-August is the typical peak of WNV activity in the mosquito population—please be vigilant in protecting yourself and your loved ones from mosquito bites. There has been one reported human case of WNV in north Texas, according to the Department of State Health Services. 

The Township partners with county agencies to respond to disease activity. Access the Mosquito Treatment Activity Map for South Montgomery County here and for Harris County here to find out if and when your area has been scheduled for spraying. Montgomery County Precinct 4 conducts additional operations which includes Harper’s Landing, their map is accessed here. Residents of Alden Bridge and College Park west of I-45 can learn of additional operations in Precinct 2 by calling that office at 281-259-6405. 

Environmental Services regularly looks for and treats sites where mosquitoes are breeding. Help us stop mosquitoes at the source by targeting these items in your own neighborhood: 

  • Tip out toys and garden equipment after rain 
  • Clean out gutters 
  • Maintain birdbaths 
  • Treat meter boxes that hold water with Bti Mosquito Dunks® 

Non-toxic Bti Mosquito Dunks® are the best way to treat areas where water stands for more than five days. Cheap, easy, and safe for pets and wildlife, you can find them at your local hardware store.  

Personal Protective Measures 

  1. Everyone is advised to wear repellent when outdoors and when West Nile virus is known to be circulating. This is especially important when someone: 
  • Is over age 50 
  • Is outside in the early morning or evening hours when mosquitoes are most active 
  • Has underlying health conditions 

There are special considerations for children – see this Parents Guide to Repellent.  

  1. The mosquitoes that carry WNV are more active during early dawn, dusk and dark hours. Consider changing your routine if you are normally outdoors during these times, or create a barrier by covering skin with long sleeves and pants. 

More Tools to Mosquito-Proof Your Patio 

Here is information about why an oscillating fan works well and why we recommend garlic barrier, just two of the suggestions in the Mosquito-Proof Your Patio series. Use this handy guide to check your yard for other places mosquitoes might be lurking.  

To report a problem area or to request more information, contact the Environmental Services Department at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800.