Under Dark of Night

Bats! Superhero crime fighters, blood-sucking vampires, quirky animated characters, and quintessential fixtures of Halloween décor. These creatures of the night are thoroughly intertwined in American pop culture. Yet, these cultural characterizations often lead to misunderstanding, fear and certainly under appreciation.   Read on for 5 fascinating facts about how bats really are heroes of the night.

1. They Live Among Us

There are more than 1,300 species of bats worldwide, inhabiting nearly every part of the world except the most extreme deserts and polar regions. Ten species of bats call the Greater Houston Area home. They range from the more common Mexican Free-Tailed Bat, the official bat of Texas, which emerges on warm nights in masse from under bridges, to less common species like the Silver-haired bat, one of the slowest flying bats and a solitary forest dweller.

Learn about the various bats that can be found around Houston here.

2. Bats Have Very Few Natural Predators

Owls, hawks, and snakes will eat bats. However, the biggest threat to colonies is White-Nose Syndrome. Millions of bats have died from this disease since it was first identified in 2006. Named for the white fungus that grows on the muzzle and wing of hibernating bats, this disease causes bats to become overly active, including flying during the day. This extra activity burns up their fat reserves which are needed to survive the winter.  There is no cure for white-nose syndrome, but scientists are working to control the spread of the disease. White-nose syndrome can persist on clothing, shoes and hiking gear so, if you’re going to enter a cave, be sure to decontaminate first to prevent the spread of this deadly disease.  Decontamination procedures recommended by the National Parks Service can be viewed here.

3. Bats Are Pollinators

More than 300 species of fruit, including guavas, mangoes, bananas, peaches and avocados, and over 500 species of tropical flowers depend on nectar bats for pollination. The Mexican Long Tongued Bat, found in western Texas and throughout the Southwest and Mexico, is responsible for pollinating the iconic Saguaro cactus and the raw material for tequila, Agave plants.

Learn more about bats that pollinate here.

4. A Bat Can Eat Their Body Weight In Insects Every Night

Bats help control the insect population, and in our part of the world, that includes mosquitoes!  Feeding on moths, beetles and other flying insects, bats contribute an estimated $1.4 billion annually in insect control in the state of Texas.  Mexican-free tailed bats have been recorded flying up to 100 miles round trip in a night, reaching speeds up to 60 miles an hour and reaching heights of 10,000 feet when hunting for food. There aren’t many insects that can outmaneuver those flying skills.

Read the Texas Senate Resolution recognizing the Mexican free-tailed bat as
the Official Flying Mammal.

5. Bats Aren’t Blind

In fact, bats have excellent eyesight.  Their sensitive vision helps them see in the darkest of nights.  The common misconception that bats have poor vision likely comes from their renowned echolocation ability which allows them to hunt more efficiently at night and has no connection to blindness. So the old adage of being ‘blind as a bat’ doesn’t seem that bad, does it?


To learn more about habitats, behaviors and threats to bats living in urban areas, attend Our Neighborhood Bats, led by Urban Wildlife Biologist, Diana Foss from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Registration is required for this FREE lecture. For more information or to register, visit the Walk in the Woods website here.

For more information on programs offered by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/environment

The countdown to fall is on

School is back in session. Everything pumpkin spice flavored will be here soon. Falling leaves, sweater weather and romanesco are just around the corner. Caught off guard by that last one? If you’re not counting down the days to having fresh romanesco on your plate, then you are missing out on one impressive fall vegetable.

With a vivid chartreuse color and an unusual shape made of multiple cones arranged in a hypnotic spiral pattern, romanesco is one of the most underrated vegetables you will find this fall.

What’s in a name?

A member of the brassica family, romanesco is related to both broccoli and cauliflower.  Sometimes  labeled “romanesco cauliflower” or “romanesco broccoli”, it’s neither cauliflower nor broccoli. Romanesco is its own unique and individual vegetable. Just the visual details alone allude to how uncommon it is.

The stunning appearance of romanesco is created by a fractal,  or “a never-ending pattern.” Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop.” (Fractal Foundation). You might be having déjà vu from your high school math class, but if you didn’t memorize the details of the Fibonacci sequence, just take a look at the intricate spiny spiraled protrusions that make up the edible flowering head of the plant and admire its complicated beauty, without sweating a pop quiz in geometry.

With the support of high resolution photography, romanesco’s fractal pattern is mesmerizing.

Eat your greens

While romanesco is more commonly found in Italian cuisine, there are many ways to serve this crunchy crudité as part of dinner this week. Chock full of vitamins C and K and high in fiber, this cousin to cabbage, kale and radishes is very versatile in the kitchen.   

With a nutty and slightly spicy flavor and a texture similar to cauliflower, romanesco adds a nice kick of flavor to a simple salad or is a great addition on your next fruit and veggie tray.  When lightly steamed or roasted, enhance the flavor with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Cooked romanesco goes great in a bowl of pasta or as a nice addition to a sandwich. Try it on your next Italian sub!

The season for romanesco comes and goes quickly.  If you find it available at the farmer’s market or in a grocery store, grab it before it’s gone. Look for it late in the summer or during a second harvest in early winter if planning to purchase this exotic vegetable.  Don’t want to rely on retail for this tasty treat?  Add romanesco to your fall garden and create an endless supply to enjoy during the cooler months.

Try this delicious salad recipe, using grilled romanesco.

Get your hands dirty

Ready to add some romanesco to your fall garden?  Join The Woodlands Township’s Environmental Services Department on Saturday, August 24, 2019, for a  free organic fall vegetable gardening class.  Learn how simple planting and caring for fall vegetables is from our distinguished presenters, Bill Adams and Tom LeRoy. Bill and Tom will share their many years of experience as Texas A&M horticulture agents and their personal expert gardening skills and knowledge.

This FREE organic fall vegetable gardening class will be held at The Woodlands Emergency Training Center from 9 a.m. to noon. Space is limited, so register today.

Romanesco’s dark blue-green leaves appear very similar to broccoli and cauliflower plants. A cool season plant, romanesco is perfect for fall gardening in southeast Texas.

For more information on upcoming events, visit thewoodlandstownship-tx/environment or contact the Environmental Services Department at 281-210-3800.