The Playa Strikes Back

The playa that I drive past to and from the school now has water in it. So does every low spot, ditch, gutter, and grass-stem, as best I can tell. We’re bordering on 20 days in a row with rain or very heavy fog/drizzle. The good news is that it feels more like mid-September than late August. The not so good news is it also feels like July in Houston when you poke your nose out the door or open the window. And with moisture comes . . . mosquitoes.

The playa has been dry for just over a year, but not bare. Plants grow in rings, sort of like a living bathtub ring, based on how long the soil holds moisture. So, as you can imagine, it took a lot of rain and inflow to get standing water, which we developed two weeks ago. Yeah! The playa looks like a wet playa! Boo! It’s been dry for so long that the bug-eating predators all left.

You know it’s a bad sign when you step out of your car to take a photo and you hear mosquitoes humming the theme to “Welcome Back, Kotter” in harmony.

None of the students want to go outside for lunch because they become lunch. A few smaller students swear they needed blood-transfusions after waiting for their parents to pick them up after school. The track team and PE students are setting new state speed records to get away from the clouds of mosquitoes rising in drifts from the grass and the ditches and the playa and… The teachers pray we won’t have a fire-drill because that means going outside.

Part of the reason why the playa was dry for so long was because two years ago, when it got so wet, the county needed to do roadwork on the opposite side of the lake. They  arranged to have it pumped lower. “Lower” turned into “down to the mud.” No mosquitoes, but no more dragonflies, the swallows departed for moister locals, and other insect-eaters wandered away. Now we have a perfect combination of water, wet grasses and forbs (lots and lots of amaranth), no predators yet, and lo, skeeter paradise arises. Oh, and there’s not been much wind to blow the little blood-sucking b@stards away.

In another week or so, I suspect we’ll have a surge in the number of dragonflies. And we’ll have more birds, if the golden eagle mozies on. Yes, golden eagle. It was eating a mouse by the road into the school last week. I thought I’d seen it earlier, but we have the occasional red-tailed and sharp-shinned hawks that pass through. Nope, this is a golden eagle, probably wandered down from the breaks. It is part of the reason why the doves, pigeons, meadowlarks, sparrows, grackles, starlings, finches, ducks, and other avians are sparse all of a sudden.

But for now, no one lingers outside the school, and you drive slowly and with lowered windows at your own peril.

8 thoughts on “The Playa Strikes Back

  1. *shudders* *slaps* *slap* *slap* Auuuugh! Mozzies are no fun, no matter where in the world you encounter them. Giant overwintering Alaskan mozzies with anti-freeze-filled blood, small fast gnat-sized mozzies in Florida… (did you know mozzies can mass in clouds that are dense enough to make shadows? I don’t EVER want to witness that again!)

    My sympathies!

  2. At least they’re not noseeums… Hopefully the predators get back soon, and the @$%@ state doesn’t draw it all the way down again.

  3. Are these smaller mosquitoes that might deign to fly in formation, or are they the dreaded Heavy Lift Mosquito as has been rumored was developed by the Dastardly Weapons Div. at K. I. Sawyer AFB once upon a time?

    • Apparently these skeeters follow Trafford Leigh-Mallory’s “Big Wing” theory used by Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. I’ve managed to avoid being bitten while at the playa *taps wood* but the ones that got me while I was walking my neighborhood raised welts the likes of which I’ve not suffered in several years.

  4. I seem to have developed an immunity to the bite of the little monsters, although I’m not sure when it happened. Sometime around college, I think. I just know their bites don’t make me itch these days, and they did when I was a kid. Chiggers on the other hand…

    I don’t think we’ve had quite the amount of rain you’ve gotten, but we’ve had enough that the mosquito population has boomed. I hope none of the municipalities up there try to spray. My observation is that spraying causes a short-term drop but long term boom in the mosquito population. Spraying kills bugs that eat mosquitoes, and when the larvae (which aren’t affected by spraying) reach maturity, there are no predators. Saw it happen for several years when I lived in Commerce. We always had a colony of daddy long legs on our porch and rarely saw mosquitoes. Then the city decided to spray. No more daddy long legs, but plenty of mosquitoes.

    • I wonder if I got re-sensitized by the mosquitoes in Bruges. I had stopped reacting so dramatically, got bitten badly in Bruges (no window screens, B&B in low-lying area near moat and meadows), and now the bite reactions are rather impressive.

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