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

Creature Feature: Feral Hogs

Have some unusual “alterations” to your landscape occurred overnight? Trampled flower beds, plowed up lawn, tufts of hair and mud stuck to fence posts and garden sheds? No, Bigfoot hasn’t been out for some midnight gardening. You’ve likely been visited by feral hogs.

Whether you’re dealing with these unwanted neighbors or you just want to know more about the history, biology and impacts of the invasive Sus scrofa, be sure to attend one of these upcoming lectures by a State expert.

Upcoming Events

Kick off the Spring Walk in the Woods Nature Lecture Series with Dr. John Tomecek, Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Dr. Tomecek is a leading expert in the State on feral hog biology and control. His agency’s mission is both scientific and educational, providing landowners and governmental bodies with support on the identification, management and abatement of damages from feral hogs.

Walk in the Woods: Feral hogs in a Suburban Landscape

Wednesday, February 5 from 7 to 8 p.m.

The Recreation Center at Rob Fleming Park

Free Lecture. Space is limited. Register online here

Can’t make it on the 5th? Don’t worry. Join The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N. for the next Going GREEN lecture, Feral Swine: Challenges and Control. Chris Watts, Wildlife Damage Management Biologist with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension will walk through the history of invasive feral swine in Texas, their ecological and economic impacts, wildlife-human interactions, and urban feral swine management practices and strategies.

Going GREEN: Feral Swine Challenges and Control

Thursday, February 20 from 7 to 8 p.m.

Houston Advanced Research Center

Free Lecture. Space is limited. Register online here.

Feral hogs don’t have great eyesight, but make up for it with excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell

Let’s talk hogs

Feral hogs were likely first introduced to Texas by Spanish explorers in the 1600’s. Over the ensuing 300+ years their numbers have grown dramatically. Over 1.5 million feral hogs are estimated to now roam the State, becoming one of our most destructive invasive species. Feral hogs cost the State some $400 million in damages annually by wreaking havoc on crops and lawns. They also have a tremendous impact on native plants and wildlife. Rooting, trampling and wallowing activity destroys vegetation and destabilizes riparian areas. This leads to soil compaction and erosion, spread of invasive vegetation, water quality degradation, and disruption of the nutrient cycle.

The secret to their success is multi-fold: they are highly intelligent, impressively fecund and lack natural predators. They’re also remarkably adaptable, as more and more residents of urban areas, like The Woodlands, are realizing.

Most human interactions with feral hogs are limited to an uprooted lawn. Feral hogs have a keen sense of smell and use it to avoid contact with humans whenever possible. However, as with most wildlife, feral hogs will defend themselves if cornered and females may aggressively protect their young. They can grow quite large, up to 400 pounds and are more powerful than their domestic counterparts. Should you encounter a feral hog, be calm and move slowly away from it. Do not corner or provoke the animal. If you see adults with young piglets, leave them alone.

What you can do

If feral hogs are impacting your property there are steps you can take.

  • First, reduce access where possible. Address any holes or gaps in your fencing and cordon off garden areas. A fence height of 36 inches is enough to keep feral hogs. Make sure fence is flush with the ground to prevent access.
  • For areas that can’t be fenced, remove food sources, like acorns, fruits and vegetables, and bulbs. They also eat grasses, forbs, roots and tubers, mushrooms, insects, earthworms, reptiles, amphibians, carrion (dead animals), live mammals and birds.
  • Don’t water your yard in the winter. Lawns should go dormant (brown) in the winter to allow the roots to grow deep and strong. Watering in the winter not only weakens your grass, making it more susceptible to disease, the green leaves are a major attractant to feral hogs.
  • If you encounter a hog during the day, you will likely be able to scare it off with loud noise but you’re likely to see it back at night in search of more food.
  • Currently no chemical repellents are labeled for use.
  • Motion-activated sprinklers and ultrasonic animal repellents have also not been proven effective.

While feral hogs may be killed or trapped on private property without a State of Texas license or permit with landowner consent, discharge of firearms of any kind within The Woodlands Township is not permitted.

For more information on feral hogs, check out the Wildlife section of the Environmental Services Department website.

For more resources or to report feral hogs that have been sighted in the area, please contact the following:

Reach out to Environmental Services with questions or comments at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Save The Date

The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department kicks off the New Year with a packed calendar of programs and events. We are ready to plant trees, create water-saving lawns, take down invasive plants, and get our hands dirty in the garden. There is something for everyone so read on and make plans to join us at these free events.

Integrated Pest Management in the Landscape
Saturday, January 18, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon
The Woodlands Emergency Training Center (16135 IH-45 South)

Learn how to implement simple actions throughout your landscape so that your plants can withstand common garden pests. Wizzie Brown, Program Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services, will address practices to prevent most pest problems, control population levels of common pests, and how to do so in an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective way.

Free workshop. Registration is required. Register here.


Arbor Day Tree Giveaway
Saturday, January 25, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon
Northshore Park (2505 Lake Woodlands Drive)

Join The Woodlands Township, and community partner, the George Strake District of Boy Scouts of America, in celebrating the 44th annual Arbor Day Tree Giveaway.  12 varieties of native tree seedlings will be available, while supplies last.  Come early for the best selection and be sure to bring your reusable bag to fill with trees and educational resources.

Since 1977 more than 1.5 million seedlings have been given to attendees to plant in their yard, in community open space reserves, and in forest preserves. Participate in one of The Woodlands longest standing traditions and help plant trees today to benefit our community for years to come.

For a complete list of seedlings available, visit here.


Principles of Organic Landscapes and Gardens
Saturday, February 1, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Woodlands Emergency Training Center (16135 IH-45 South)

Three of Houston’s premier organic educators will teach a FREE workshop on the benefits of organic garden and landscape principles. If you are already gardening, thinking of starting a garden, or looking for a way to improve your yard, it’s time to ditch your synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides and garden with organics. Learn from the experts how to have a beautiful yard or garden free of chemicals.

Free workshop. Registration is required.  Register here.


Backyard Composting Class
Saturday, February 1, 2020 from 10 to 11 a.m.
Parks, Recreation and Environmental Services (8203 Millennium Forest Drive)

Learn how simple and easy it is to turn kitchen waste, yard trimmings and leaves into rich, handmade compost. Try out a variety of composting tools and equipment and learn how compost benefits plants, gardens and lawns.

High quality collapsible compost bins are available to purchase, at half price, to all those who attend.Regular price for a C.E. Shepard Compost Bin is $50. Class participants pay only $25.

This informal, interactive class is packed with great information and lots of fun. No registration required.


Community Tree Planting
Saturday, February 8, 2020 from 8 a.m. to noon
Creekside Park West Trailhead at the George Mitchell Nature Preserve

Volunteer today at the sixth annual Community Tree Planting. Township staff and volunteers will work side by side to help reforest a portion of the trailhead with a variety of native trees, wildflower seeds, and milkweed plants. This effort supports The Woodlands Township’s reforestation program as well as the Plant for Pollinators program that helps protect our native bees, butterflies, and moths.

All ages are welcome to volunteer and get their hands dirty. Registration is required. Register here.


Walk in the Woods: Basics of Backyard Beekeeping
Thursday, February 13, 2020 from 6 to 7 p.m.
HARC (8801 Gosling Road)

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a beekeeper? Not sure where to start, what the neighbors will think or how much work it will take? Join us for a FREE presentation, led by Woodlands residents Lisa and Andrew Miller and hear firsthand from local beekeepers.

Lisa has four hives at her home that she and her son, Andrew, manage. Lisa has a wealth of experience in urban beekeeping and bee removal. She is a board member of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association as well as a mentor to club members. Lisa and Andrew are members of Real Texas Honey, The Texas Beekeepers Association and they created The Woodlands Honey Company to sell their own local honey.

Free program. Registration required. Register here.


Invasives Task Force Training Event
Saturday, February 15, 2020 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
HARC (8801 Gosling Road)

The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department wants you to volunteer!

Non-native, invasive plants crowd out native vegetation, degrade soil health and push out critical food sources that wildlife depend on. Volunteers are needed to work on scheduled days at specific sites around town to remove invasive species such as air potato vine, Chinese privet and Japanese climbing fern.

Since the efforts began in February 2019, more than 80 volunteers have been trained on identification and proper removal of invasive plants. A total of 350 volunteer hours helped remove 2,600 gallons of invasive species from pathways in the Township.

Free training. Light lunch included. Registration required. Register here.


Spring Vegetable Gardening that Works in Location and Climate
Saturday, February 22, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon
The Woodlands Emergency Training Center (16135 IH-45 South)

Register today for the unique chance to hear from Dr. Bob Randall as he shares how to have a successful organic vegetable garden with tips and tricks specific to our climate.

Dr. Randall has a lifelong interest in sustainable food production, gardening around the world until settling in Houston in 1979. As a founding member of Urban Harvest, Dr. Randall has helped establish one of the most successful community gardening programs in the Houston area.

Dr. Randall will cover a variety of topics in this 3 hour presentation including:

  • Organic gardening
  • Spring gardening for Montgomery County
  • Garden site selection and preparation
  • Plant selection related to specific plant hardiness zone (9a)
  • Gardening techniques

Free workshop. Registration required. Register here.


We hope to see you at one of the many programs offered in the next few months. For more information or to see the full calendar of events, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/environment

Bird is the word

Grab your binoculars and guide.  Winter on the Texas Coast is a great time for bird watching.

With more than 600 species of birds documented in Texas, an afternoon outside in the Lone Star State can easily provide a rewarding bird watching experience for all. Whether you’re a novice or have decades of experience, bird watching offers something for everyone from an excuse to spend time outside, travel more or practice your photography skills. More than 20 million Americans enjoy this hobby; now might be just the time to try it out yourself.

In 2016, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that 45 million people nationwide purposefully watched birds, making roughly 1 out of 7 Americans birdwatchers

Consider yourself warned, though; birding can be addictive.  “Birders” spend $41 billion annually on travel, lodging, food and equipment. Many travel great distances just to see that one elusive species, plan vacations around migration patterns, trek through difficult landscapes, and invest in the best equipment. If you’re new to bird watching you probably aren’t ready to splurge on high end binoculars or hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to chase a lead. Don’t despair, there are plenty of opportunities to view our feathered friends at your own pace and price. Simply walking outside and observing can offer plenty of reward.

That said, a few simple tools will make your birding more effective, even a cheap pair of binoculars will make a big difference. As leaves fall off of trees, take advantage of the bare branches which provide great perches for resting birds. What’s that?  A small red bird, with a black mask, hopping from branch to branch.  Can you identify it?  Take some photographs  or write down details, like size, color and distinct markings or make a quick sketch in a notebook.  Identification apps like Merlin Bird ID and Audubon Bird Guide are great tools for identifying birds and collecting data that can then be shared as part of citizen science efforts. Now that you’ve identified your red bird as a male northern cardinal, you are officially a birdwatcher!

Houston Audubon has a great resource on local and migratory birds around Houston

If you build it, they will come

Birdwatching can be as simple as observing with the naked eye. It’s fun as an individual or with groups. And it can range from casual hobby to fierce passion.  When you‘re ready to go beyond just ‘watching’ know that there are several ways to actively bird right in your own community.

Create a bird-friendly environment in your yard, patio or balcony. Providing food, water and shelter for winged visitors provides an ecological benefit while also creating great birdwatching opportunities right outside your window. Depending on the species you wish to attract, the habitat should include a variety of trees, grasses, and shrubs to create an inviting space for birds to live, hunt, and raise their young.  A general rule of thumb is “more native plants mean more insects, which leads to more birds” (ecology professor and author, Doug Tallamy). If using pesticides in your garden to control the insect population, you are removing the main food source for many birds.  Adult bluebirds will eat up to 2,000 insects in one day and gather more when they have a nest of chicks to feed.  A yard full of insects is like an all you-can-eat buffet for birds.

Providing shelter and food are two very important considerations if you are hoping to attract specific species to your yard. For example, did you know that red-bellied woodpeckers are attracted to suet feeders? For more tips on attracting local birds to your yard, check out this article on the Environmental Services blog. Looking for the right bird house to attract purple martins? Plans to build the perfect birdhouse  to attract your favorite feathered friends can be found here.

December is a great time to get your Purple Martin houses prepared for their arrival in January

Beyond the back yard

Filled with local and migratory birds in search of winter sustenance, southeast and coastal Texas offers a number of prime bird watching spots, several within a short drive of The Woodlands.  When you’re ready to venture out, be sure to check with the Houston Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Map for nearby birding hotspots.

Hit the road early to enjoy a full day of birding and be sure to remember the essentials for a day of birdwatching: binoculars, sunscreen, hat, water, snacks, a notebook and pen. 

Don’t forget that the annual Texas Christmas Bird Count takes place December 14, 2019 – January 5, 2020.  For more information on how you can participate and take part in this long standing holiday program that collects data from around the state, be sure to check out this year’s event page.


The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department presents ‘An Introduction to Bird Watching in The Woodlands’. Join us Thursday, November 14 at 6 p.m. at Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) for a presentation by Alisa Kline, naturalist at Buffalo Bayou Park. To register online, view here.

Questions? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800

Just in time for Halloween: vampires, zombies and other ghoulish bugs.

Good night, sleep tight; don’t let the bed bugs bite

While this rhyme has been sung to loved ones since the 1880’s, the nocturnal creatures it refers to have been feeding on sound sleepers since the time of the pharaohs.

Sheltering in the nooks and crannies of baseboards, floorboards, or even along the seam of the mattress, bed bugs emerge at night to feed on unsuspecting dreamers. Lured by carbon dioxide and body heat, the little wingless vampires crawl along your body in search of uncovered skin to draw their weekly feast. Ten minutes later, engorged and sated, they return to the shelter of the box spring, or a loose flap of wallpaper, and digest. Take a Deep Look at these bloodsuckers if you dare.

Attack of the body snatchers

The prospect of being fed upon in the dead of night might make your skin crawl, yet it is a far sight better than what can happen to a tomato horn worm in broad daylight.

A teeny, tiny wasp – only an eighth of an inch long – will lay eggs just under the hornworm’s skin. The eggs hatch inside the caterpillar and start eating its insides while it’s still alive! Larvae chew their way to the outside and spin cocoons that look like white insect eggs along the hornworm’s back. Weakened, the hornworm soon dies, unleashing 50 or more wasps to parasitize other tomato-destroying caterpillars. Purdue University has produced a brief look at the “alien encounter” for your viewing displeasure.

Photos used with permission from the Galveston County Master Gardener Association

Superhero bugs to the rescue!

For everything that creeps and crawls, there is another thing that stalks and eats it. Spiders are a formidable foe, ensnaring flies in sticky webs, chasing down crickets, or ambushing ants.

Whatever the method, most spiders end the fight by injecting venom into their hapless prey through fangs at the end of their “jaws”. All spiders are on a liquid diet – that narrow waist makes it impossible for solid food to pass into their abdomen. Just like in Arachnophobia, these eight-legged predators must pump their prey full of enzymes to suck the resulting juices, leaving behind an empty husk. Fortunately, if you are not a fan of spiders, there are even spider-eating spiders such as the cunningly clever, Portia.

For more spectacularly spooky tales from the creepy crawly world of bugs, join us for Walk in the Woods, October 10, 2019. 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