Cooling Off: Summer Nightlife

Written by Kelsey Low on July 5, 2016

 

 

Summer in Houston means one thing – HEAT. We love our city, but it is a tough place to live during the intensely hot, humid summer months. When the heat index can climb to 110, we have to find ways to cool off. We use all kinds of tricks like air conditioning, fans, cool drinks, a dip in the pool, and sitting in the shade. I suspect that everyone’s favorite way to cool off in the summer is to enjoy delicious cold treats like frozen fruit, popsicles, and ice cream. It’s a fun, sweet, delicious way to beat the heat. But while we all enjoy our ice cream and other frozen confections, we may wonder – how do animals cool off in a Houston summer?

Animals feel the heat much like we do. Even fish may suffer when shallow water heats up during a summer afternoon (hot water doesn’t hold as much oxygen as cold water, making it harder for fish to breathe). So how do critters with no air conditioning, fans, or ice cream manage the heat? Many seek shade, hide in cool burrows, or take dips in ponds or patches of wet mud. They may be active in the early morning and then sleep during the hot afternoon. But one of the most interesting ways for animals to beat the heat is to become nocturnal.

Plenty of animals are strictly nocturnal no matter what time of year it is. However, there are a number of species – especially in hot places like Houston – that only become nocturnal in the summer, sleeping during hot days and becoming active during cooler nights. For example, most of our snake species are active during the day in fall and winter. Snakes are cold blooded, so their body temperature matches the temperature of the air. During cool months, they need the heat of the sun to warm their bodies and keep them active. However, our intensely hot summer air can raise a snake’s body temperature to dangerous levels. Many snakes rest somewhere cool during summer days and only emerge at night when the temperature is more pleasant.

In addition to snakes, many insects, frogs, toads, snapping turtles, coyotes, and rabbits change their schedules in the summer to beat the heat. We think that’s a great strategy, so we’re inviting you to become (temporarily) nocturnal too for Eye Shine & Ice Cream on July 9th from 8-10 pm. Cool off with some delicious frozen treats from Amy’s Ice Cream while you learn about nocturnal animals and how they manage to see in the dark. You’ll also get to go on a guided night hike to experience some of Houston’s wildest summer nightlife!

If you want to celebrate these nifty nocturnal critters at home, try making some of these deliciously cool Coral Snake Pops – coral snakes become nocturnal during the summer too. If you don’t like bananas, try using chunks of pineapple instead.

Coral Snake Pops
2 bananas, peeled and sliced into rounds
4-5 strawberries, sliced
4 wooden skewers (cut off the sharp points if you’re serving kids)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 sheet of parchment or wax paper

Alternately push pieces of strawberry and banana on each skewer until all are filled. Lay the fruit skewers on the parchment or wax paper and place in the freezer. When the fruit is frozen, place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave, then stir and heat for another 15 seconds. Keep stirring until completely smooth – if the chips haven’t fully melted, heat for another 15 seconds. Use a spoon or spatula to drizzle melted chocolate over each fruit skewer. Put back into the freezer until the chocolate has hardened. When you’re ready to eat, just take the skewers out of the freezer and let them warm up for two minutes or so and enjoy!

 

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

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