Wildlife/Food: Eating Insects

July 22nd, 2014

Robert Nathan Allen, founder of Little Herds, with a container of roasted crickets at McKinney Falls State Park, photo by Cecilia Nasti.

Robert Nathan Allen, founder of Little Herds, with a container of roasted crickets at McKinney Falls State Park, photo by Cecilia Nasti.

This is Passport to Texas

Bugs have a way of showing up just as you unpack your picnic. But what if you welcomed their presence? No, not as guests… as snacks.

04— They really do have a crunch [crunches]; really similar to roasted nuts.

That’s Robert Nathan Allen, who was just then crunching a toasted cricket. He’s founder of the Austin, Texas based nonprofit Little Herds (www.littleherds.org).

08—And we focus primarily educating the public and particularly children about edible insects and why and how we can adopt them into
our diet.

We call eating insects as food Entomophagy; it’s commonplace among 80% of the world’s population. But we westerners steer clear.

19—Once western societies started becoming very agriculturally based, particularly in northern climates, it just became ingrained in our society that insects are dirty. And so, that idea has continued to be passed down generation to generation in these western cultures. Whereas in the tropical environments where the habit has continued, it’s just another food source.

The thing is, we already eat more than 400 insects a year without knowing it. Allen says by intentionally swapping insect protein for animal protein we can feed ourselves and help the environment. That’s tomorrow.

We record our series at The Block House in Austin, Texas, and Joel Block engineers our program…

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Camping: Affordable Family Fun

July 21st, 2014

Family Camping in Texas

Family Camping in Texas

This is passport to Texas

Before the school bell rings for the fall semester (it’s closer than you think) gather the family for a camping getaway—or two. With parks in every region of Texas, your destination is only a short drive away.

Most state parks have campgrounds, and some of those have water and electric hook-ups. Several parks also accommodate RVs for those who wish to bring the comfort of home with them to the great outdoors. Before hitting the road, though, check to see if RV connections
are available at your chosen park’s campsites.

For the pampered camper, check out state parks that offer cabins and lodges. Historic landmarks and secluded ranches make for a relaxing getaway.

When tent camping, remember to properly dispose of food waste to discourage unwanted animals visitors; and always pack out what you pack in.

Another reminder: you are not just a visitor, you are part of the natural world, and as such, it is your responsibility to keep it healthy and inviting to others. Play nice.

If you’ve never been camping before, and feel somewhat unprepared for what’s ahead, go on and sign up for one of our Texas Outdoor Family workshops. TPW staff will school your family on outdoor basics in a fun-filled weekend. Class is in session.

Find more outdoor opportunities at texasstateparks.org.

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram…

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Wildlife: Become a Bumblebee Watcher

July 18th, 2014

Texas Bumblebee Poster, Mike Warriner

Texas Bumblebee Poster, Mike Warriner

This is Passport to Texas

Do you like the idea of bird watching, but don’t have the patience to learn about every bird species? Then, maybe you should try bumblebee watching, instead.

12— Bumblebees could be a new kind of hobby for folks. Birdwatchers have to learn hundreds of birds. There are only nine bumblebees [species] in Texas. And so it’s just a matter of learning their color patterns.

Michael Warriner is an invertebrate biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and curates the website texasbumblebees.com.

18— In Texas, we have nine bumblebee species. And, fortunately, bumblebees are large bees; they’re pretty noticeable because they have a pattern of black and yellow. But, each one of the nine differs a little bit in terms of how much yellow they have on – let’s say – on the front part of their body versus the rear….

Tracking these insects – and reporting back to biologists like Warriner – can provide needed information about the status of bumblebees in Texas. What you may not know is …these native bees are facing threats.

16—They’ve lost habitat. Pesticide use is another concern. And also, there’s been the importation of bumblebees from Europe into this country, which has brought in parasites and diseases that may be impacting them. So, there’s a lot of concern how they’re faring in North America.

Find a chart on bumblebee identification and where to report sightings at Texasbumblebees.com.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Wildlife: Texas Bumblebees

July 17th, 2014

Texas Bumblebee, photo Jessica Womack

Texas Bumblebee, photo Jessica Womack

This is Passport to Texas


Bumblebees are the bomb—or per their genus: bombus. Texas has nine native species of this big, slow-flying, black and yellow insect. They’re effective pollinators of our native plant species, and many food crops, too.

This is the time of year when they start to wind down.

18— At the end of the summer, the queen that started the colony gives birth to new queens. The old queen dies and all her workers die. But the new queens mate, find a hole in the ground, spend the winter there, come back out in the spring, and she starts a whole new colony.

Michael Warriner… an invertebrate biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife… tells us how this queen bee does it.

36— In early spring—February and March—the new queen comes out, and she’s foraging. [She] finds a nest site, and she starts making what’s called a “honey pot.” It’s a little waxen thimble, and she fills that with food. Then she accumulates pollen and makes a big pollen ball. Then she lays eggs, and she stays there [tending to the nest and larvae tht hatch]. And those are her first workers. Once her first worker daughters mature, she stays there [in the nest] full time—her main business is laying eggs. But, getting started is pretty much all on her: getting all the food and having the reserves to stay put and raise that first batch [of young].

Learn more about Texas Bumblebees at Texasbumblebees.com.

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Stewardship: Sycamore Canyon Ranch

July 16th, 2014

This is Passport to Texas

Ruthie and Johnny Russell, with their sons McLean and William, own and operate the 87-hundred acre Sycamore Canyon Ranch—along the Devil’s River in Val Verde County. This family understands the importance of preserving the wide, open spaces for both livestock and wildlife.

15— We don’t want fragmentation to occur here. We love the open spaces. And you really can’t protect water, wildlife and habitat without big, open spaces. If I were a billionaire I’d buy as many ranches as I could and protect them. [laughs]

Ruthie says their goal is to protect, share and communicate the public benefits of private lands stewardship, including preserving beautiful vistas, native wildlife habitats, clean air and water.

08—We look at this as a wilderness area. A wild area. We want to preserve it. We want to protect it. And, it’s just the perfect wild place to protect.

Some range management strategies they’ve used include deferred grazing and aggressive whitetail population control. In addition, they put their ranch under a conservation easement to protect it for generations.

11—My brother and I were both raised on ranches and in the outdoors. It would never have crossed our minds had this not been put under a conservation easement to sell this land.

The Russell’s Sycamore Canyon Ranch is a regional Lone Star Land Steward Award winner for 2014.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series, and is funded by your purchase if fishing and hunting equipment and motorboat fuel.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.