Texas Pollinator BioBlitz Continues

Second Week to Submit Photos of Butterflies, Bees and More

The monarch population across the Eastern United States, Canada and Mexico has declined by nearly 80 percent over the past 20 years. Besides monarchs, 30 native pollinator/flower-visiting species (bees, butterflies, and moths) are designated as Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Pollinators (butterflies, bees and moths, bats, hummingbirds, wasps, flies, and beetles) sustain native plant species, human food crop, and even crops for livestock.

Join the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz with family, friends and neighbors this week through October 20. Here’s how to participate:

  • Pollinator BioBlitz participants observe and identify pollinators.
  • All ages and abilities are encouraged to find pollinators and nectar-producing plants, take photos, and share with friends!
  • Share observations by posting a photo or video to Instagram, iNaturalist or the Facebook event pages.
  • Pollinator observation challenges and informative links will be emailed to all registered participants regularly to add to the fun.

You can help! Learn about pollinators and pollinator habitat with these resources. You can help by planting native, nectar-producing plants and pollinator gardens in communities, schools and backyards across Texas.

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The Perfect Swarm

Looking for Love, Crickets Pile Up in Central Texas

Photo © Mary Schmidt

Folks may recoil in horror, but the swarms of crickets massing at various locations around Central Texas are not a new phenomenon but an annual occurrence.

Piled up on porches and scurrying across sidewalks, Texas field crickets (Gryllus sp.) naturally occur in the state. Their mating season gets triggered by the first cold front, and the lights of stores and homes attracts them to gather together at night to procreate.

A perfect storm of conditions — a dry spring/summer with high temperatures occurring through September followed by a rapid temperature decrease and a bit of rain — made this year’s “invasion” particularly memorable.

Social media and local news stations featured Central Texas images that captured the imagination and spread like…. well, crickets on a mission. A few San Antonio and Austin restaurants shut their doors for an afternoon to deal with the insects. Pest control companies were inundated with calls. A school in Boerne even brought in chickens to eat  their way out of the problem.

TPWD invertebrate biologist Ross Winton says there’s no need for concern about this short-lived phenomenon.

“They may get inside your house or business, but they won’t stay long,” Winton says. “The crickets don’t bite, harm crops or spread disease.”

The field cricket foray seems to be ending as quickly as it began. Winton says the females go off to lay eggs and die. A good sweeping of carcasses is recommended to stave off the smell of decomposition.

“The eggs remain dormant in the soil over winter and the juveniles will emerge in the spring to start the cycle anew,” Winton says. “It’s hard to predict if next year will be a good year for crickets, or when we might see similar numbers in the future.”

If your mind’s still not set at ease, just remember that field crickets don’t bite or sting, they just want to munch on a bit of decaying matter.

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Look Up Tonight!

Meteor Showers Light Up Texas’ Dark Skies

Though the moon has been bright for the past few nights, Texans will look forward to not one but two meteor showers peaking tonight and tomorrow night.

The Draconid meteor shower will be active through October 10. It can be seen best in early evening or just after sunset. It’s small, just a few streaks each hour.

The South Taurid meteor shower will be fantastic these nights as well, and last through November, with about five per hour visible. Later this month, a darker, new-moon sky may afford better viewing. 

Both meteor showers are created from comet debris.

More meteor showers – the Orionids, the Northern Taurids and the Leonids — will join in the celestial show in November. Find a Dark Sky state park for best results, or drive away from the city lights.

Use these photography tips to help capture the nighttime magic with your camera.

Teach your kids about the night sky with this special edition of Keep Texas Wild, “Star Party.”

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National Octopus Day

Eight Great Reasons to Love Octopuses

While there are octopuses in the Gulf of Mexico, they’re mostly found on Florida beaches, not on the west side. Still, we can see them in aquariums (check out the Texas State Aquarium’s “Tentacles” exhibit and their Facebook page to see a beautiful video) and learn about their amazing abilities on social media and in documentaries.

1.    They’ve got eight arms that are used for many things, but most interestingly, to taste. An octopus can sever his arm to escape; it will grow back. 
2.    They’ve got nine brains. Neurons run down their arms, giving them the ability to solve problems on their own, like opening a jar.
3.    They are super flexible and can fit through almost any opening.
4.    Though not a bird, they have beaks used to crack shellfish (that’s handy).
5.    They can produce a neurotoxin that paralyzes their prey and enzymes that break down their food.
6.    They are so well camouflaged, with the ability to change the color and pattern of their skin to match their surroundings.
7.    They’ve got ink and they know how to use it. They spray it to avoid predation.
8.    Last but not least, they are super smart: the smartest invertebrates in the world. 

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Catch the Buzz

Texas Hosts Fourth Annual Pollinator BioBlitz

For the next two weeks, Texans are invited to take part in the fourth statewide Pollinator BioBlitz. The goal of the BioBlitz, which runs from Oct. 4-20, is to raise awareness of the diversity and importance of pollinators while bringing greater attention to the critical habitat needs of monarchs and native pollinators across the state.

In support of the event, organizations and sites around the state will be hosting a variety of events to get people outdoors to observe pollinators of all types in yards, natural areas, gardens, parks and community centers. Of course, you don’t have to visit a particular site to participate; your very own yard or green space will do.

“Documented declines in insect populations, particularly pollinators, have brought to the forefront the need to better understand these species and the support they provide Texas rangelands, agriculture and native ecosystems,” says Ross Winton, invertebrate biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Texas is home to thousands of pollinator species from the iconic monarch down to the smallest solitary bee.”

Citizen scientists involved in projects like this help us gather data on Texas species and the plant communities they are connected to, Winton adds. This helps us learn not only what we have in our great state but also what we need to strive to protect.

The BioBlitz is designed to be fun for all ages, with no experience required. Participants are simply asked to look for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and moths, as well as nectar-producing plants; photograph or take video of them; and share their discoveries online via Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #TXPollinators. Plant and insect species may be difficult to identify, so observers are encouraged to post what they know. For example, “Striped bee on Turk’s cap in Mission, Texas” is fine.

Participants are encouraged to take it a step further and help increase the amount of data collected during the peak of fall migration by becoming a citizen scientist. Anyone can sign up and record their observations through the iNaturalist application on their phones or home computers. All pollinators and flowering plants posted between Oct. 4-20 will automatically be included in the 2019 Texas Pollinator BioBlitz Project at  There is no cost to participate and the only tools needed are a camera or smartphone and internet access.

In addition to the monarch, 30 species of pollinators have been designated as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by TPWD. Native butterflies, bees, moths, bats, hummingbirds, wasps, flies and beetles are essential to healthy ecosystems and sustain native plant species, human food crops and crops for livestock.

To learn more about the importance of pollinators, sign up to be counted, and locate events across the state, visit the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz website at

Participants can also sign up for weekly email updates during the event that will add to the excitement as everyone works together to increase awareness of our pollinators and the availability of their habitat.

Join event partners TPWD, National Butterfly Center, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as we celebrate the importance of pollinators.

It’s easy to get involved. Individuals and families, schools and clubs are all asked to join, observe, identify and share. At this time of year, cooler temperatures across the state also alert bees to eat as much as they can before hibernation begins, so it’s the perfect time to photograph, post and record the insects you see while enjoying the great outdoors.

To view a video news report about the Pollinator BioBlitz, visit

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