Tame the Fight Between Tree Roots and Sewer Lines

Protecting against a fight for the ages

It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but an epic struggle between tree roots on your property and your home’s sewer line is an alarmingly real possibility. Since tree roots care about seeking moisture and out-spreading the competition, they’re inclined to overtake anything in their path, including manmade objects like sewer lines. This can have serious ramifications for your plumbing system. Fortunately, it can be prevented in many cases.

Why Do Tree Roots Affect Sewer Lines?

Although sewer pipes are made from tough, supposedly impenetrable materials, tree roots can work their way inside them over the course of many months or years. Tree roots seek and grow through sewer lines for several reasons:

•    Sewer lines may be obstructing their natural growth pattern
•    The root may identify the line as a root from a competing tree
•    Sewer lines contain essential nutrients, including water, minerals and … Read Full Post »

Texas A&M Is Protecting Texas Bees: How Can You Help?

Learn about Texas A&M’s Beekeeping Clinic and what’s next for Texas bees

Over the past decade, bee colonies have experienced troubling population declines across the world. The problem has affected central Texas’s bees as well, and local apiaries worry that they won’t be able to support themselves indefinitely. With its recent beekeeping clinic and other efforts to support local beekeepers, Texas A&M University is doing its part to help. You can do yours as well!

 

A Recap of the 2014 Texas A&M Beekeeping Clinic

On June 7, Texas A&M University Held its annual Summer Beekeeping Clinic. Held right here in Bryan and hosted by Texas A&M University Assistant Professor of Apiculture Dr. Juliana Rangel, the clinic aimed to educate amateur beekeepers, beekeeping professionals and concerned citizens about how to care for bees and how to protect them from environmental hazards that can reduce their numbers. The clinic included a hands-on demonstration from Bill … Read Full Post »

A Weed by Any Other Name

One person’s weed is another’s wildflower

Flower gardens, with their gorgeous colors and delightful fragrances, are a welcome addition to any property. Plus, they tend to draw butterflies and birds, both of which add another dimension of beauty. Unfortunately, amid all these garden pleasures, one not-so-spectacular thing is certain: there will be weeds.

Weeds seem to pop up overnight, almost cheerfully defying your best efforts to have a perfect garden. However, while most people work relentlessly to rid their gardens of them, you might find weeds far less annoying if you stopped to consider a few overlooked facts. Some weeds flower quite beautifully; in fact, the only real difference between weeds and the other plants in your garden is that weeds grow where you don’t want them, often spreading rapidly in the heat of our Central Texas summers.

Interestingly, many of these unwanted plants were once very desirable not only for their beauty … Read Full Post »

How to Handle Scary Scorpions

Dealing with the creepiest pests in Texas

You can’t tell by looking, but scorpions are close cousins of spiders and ticks. Lineage and scientific names don’t matter when they crawl up the bedroom wall, though. Of all the pests that sneak into the house, scorpions may well be the scariest. But do they really deserve so much fear and loathing?

Strange Scorpion Facts

It’s hard to not be afraid of something that can survive a nuclear blast, and scorpions share that dubious honor with cockroaches. Those long-tailed creatures hiding in the attic glow in the dark when you hit them with a UV light. Their elaborate mating ritual involves locking claws and dancing. In fact, they keep up the courtship for more than 24 hours! Have a little sympathy for gentlemen scorpions: The ladies often finish the mating game by eating their partners.

Wood-Loving Pests

Texas is home to 18 species, but only striped bark … Read Full Post »

Flowering Evergreens That Deer Hate to Nibble

Choosing bushes that beat nature’s biggest plant predators

When it comes to improving the outside appearance of your home, nothing is more important than landscaping. The grasses, trees and shrubs that you choose for your yard can make a big impact on what your home looks like and how much you enjoy it. Unfortunately, choosing plants that deer don’t love eating can be a challenge. If you’re looking for deer-resistant plants for your home, consider beautiful, drought-resistant evergreens.

Choosing Viable Evergreens for Your Home

Choosing the right plants for your yard is essential to the success of your landscaping. Whether you’re just plotting out your yard or want to add to your current landscape, it’s important to look for plants and bushes that are well suited to the local area. Choosing native evergreens is a great way to create a gorgeous yard without worrying about how you’ll water and maintain sensitive plants.

As you … Read Full Post »

Create Flights of Fancy With a Butterfly Garden

Attracting butterflies with beautiful blossoms

Splashed with vibrant color and scented with wonderful fragrance, a garden is a delight to the senses. Perhaps these are the same reasons that butterflies are so often attracted to gardens as well. Just watching them flit from flower to flower is part of the pleasure of being in a garden. In fact, luring butterflies into your Central Texas garden is just a matter of growing flowers that they enjoy. The right colors and shapes make all the difference in creating a butterfly garden that attracts people, too.

Plants with clusters of tiny flowers where butterflies can perch for a moment and sip the nectar are their favorites. Vivid yellows, reds, oranges and purples are the colors that attract butterflies’ attention. White also works well. You can’t go wrong combining these colors in your garden.

Sunflowers are a great choice. Ranging from 1 to well over 12 feet … Read Full Post »

The Sticker Shock of High Water Bills

Finding the leaks and plumbing problems that are sabotaging your budget

Are hidden water leaks making your water bills skyrocket? Try these tips for finding the source.

Trust the Meter

Your water meter is the best tool you have for leak detection. When you suspect you have a leak, turn off everything in your home that uses water and go take a look at the meter. There should be a small red triangle on the face of it, which is known as the low flow indicator. If it’s moving, you have a leak.

Tricky Toilets

“Phantom flushing” in toilets can waste as much as 4,000 gallons of water per day. To test for a toilet leak, drip food coloring into the tank and wait about five minutes. If the water in the bowl becomes colored, you’re likely dealing with a leaking rubber flapper valve. Constantly hearing water trickle inside the tank could be a sign … Read Full Post »

The Tiny Mosquito: A Big Texas Buzzkill

Smart strategies for swatting the swarms

On a warm summer evening, it’s easy to think that all of Texas’ 85 different species of mosquitoes live right here in Bryan/College Station. How much do you really know about these pesky insects? Before they turn your next backyard barbecue into a swat fest, fight back with a little knowledge and some smart outdoor strategies.

Only Ladies Bite

These little buzzers are considered the vampires of insects, but they don’t really drink your blood. Only lady mosquitoes bite, and they pull protein from your blood when they’re carrying eggs. Males live exclusively on sugar from plants. They use their long proboscises to gather juice and nectar, but females are equipped with cutting edge technology for piercing skin. These insect vampires have 47 sharp points attached to their skinny snouts. The tiny razors are called stylets, and this physical oddity is the source of myths about mosquitoes … Read Full Post »

Dancing in the Garden With Daddy Long Legs

Are you really waltzing with a spider?

Even if spiders make you shudder, it’s hard not to smile at that long-legged creature bouncing along like a button suspended on silk rubber bands. Whether you’re watching a garden floor show featuring a cast of dozens or enjoying a solo performance, this interesting insect’s name stays the same: daddy long legs. Is he really everything he appears to be?

What Is He?

While daddy long legs belongs to the Arachnid class of insects, your friendly biologist will explain that this little guy is actually a non-insect anthropod belonging to the order Opiliones. Also called a harvestman, this special species has a single body unit and only two eyes. Daddy long legs doesn’t spin silk or weave webs, and he doesn’t produce venom. Officially, he isn’t a spider, but don’t tell him that you’re on to his secret, and don’t believe all the crazy stories you’ve … Read Full Post »

Honey Bee ID Crisis: Friend or Foe?

Does the honey bee have an evil twin?

Honey bees are beneficial insects that everyone should protect. By pollinating plants, they help people grow vegetables, nuts and fruit. This friendly bug also creates the delicious honey that we enjoy adding to many foods. It will only sting you if it feels threatened. However, this bee has an aggressive cousin that arrived in Texas during the early 1990s.

Although some people call them “killer bees,” Africanized honey bees cause very few deaths. They don’t fly faster or have stronger venom than other species, according to the Houston Beekeepers Association. Nonetheless, these insects won’t hesitate to use their stingers. They can attack in large swarms and sting repeatedly. People with venom allergies must avoid them at all costs.

If honey bees begin stinging you, it’s best to escape as quickly as possible. Texas A&M reports that some colonies contain up to 90,000 insects, so it … Read Full Post »