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 »

The Ancient Romans Had a Goddess of Sewers and Drains

Her name was Cloacina, and she meant business

Ancient mythology is filled with some incredible characters, but few are as memorable as the Romans’ goddess of sewers and drains. Known as Cloacina, she was initially imagined to have presided over the city of Rome’s Cloaca Maxima, the city’s primary drainage tube. Over time, she came to be known as the patron of many additional things, including actual sewage, sexual intercourse between spouses and personal cleanliness.

A Brief History of Rome’s Sewers

As one of the ancient world’s most advanced civilizations, Rome has a long history of public sanitation. Along with its satellites, the city had open sewers since its founding. Beginning in the 6th century B.C., engineers constructed the first segments of covered sewers within the city limits. As Rome expanded, its sewer system grew along with it. Although its drains and tubes have mostly been filled in or built over, modern Rome … Read Full Post »

Bugger Off, Boxelder Bugs!

All about a pervasive central Texas pest

Boxelder bugs are a fact of life in central Texas. Like many other garden pests, these insects love to reproduce in ornamental trees and other cultivated plants that commonly appear in the region’s gardens. Although they do have some redeeming qualities, they’re notorious for causing serious damage to a wide variety of plants. If you have a boxelder bug infestation, there are a few tips you can follow to mitigate it.

What Are Boxelder Bugs?

Boxelder bugs are half-inch critters that live in and around several species of trees that are native to central Texas. During cold weather, they often burrow under roof shingles and attempt to enter homes through cracks in the wall. They can cause serious damage once they’re inside, so it’s best to keep them outside. Although they’re not members of the same species, red-shouldered bugs and largus bugs behave in a very … Read Full Post »

If You’re Going to Live in Texas, You Might as Well Grow Yellow Roses

Roses take well to Texan soils

“The Yellow Rose of Texas” has been a well-known ditty since the middle of the 19th century. It remains relevant to this day, but not for the reason you might think. According to folks who know about these things, Texas is one of the country’s best places to grow roses. Whether you prefer the yellow variety or want to plant a different hue, your property could use the color.

Where Do Roses Grow in Texas?

As anyone who lives here knows, Texas is blessed with a wide range of climate and soil types. In the far western part of the state, residents of El Paso contend with sandy soils and meager rainfall. Despite these limitations, hardy varieties of roses bloom handily amid the brown desert. In the northern fringes of the Panhandle, cold winters demand a little extra care. To the east and south, rain-fed soils and … Read Full Post »