Eugene Weekly : It’s About Time : 7.2.09

By David Wagner

Widow Skimmer. Libellula lactuosa.

Solstice having passed makes wildland lovers a bit anxious. Oh no! Gotta get in all the mountain hiking that I can before the rains come again!  Snowpack is melting! Time to head for the high country!

Back off! The melting snow means mosquitoes are breeding like crazy in snow melt ponds. Mosquitoes are even more anxious than you about the short summer season. They have to breed and lay eggs in snowmelt ponds before the ponds evaporate and before the end of summer frosts put an end to breeding frenzy.

In July the High Cascades are no fun if you have to stop to rest for a moment. Those desperate she-mosquitoes (only the girls bite — a blood meal to nurture eggs) will swarm in and bounce off your face  and arms even if you have slathered on the DEET.

Here’s a secret from the flower watchers of our area: the Old Cascades, hill tops west of the High Cascade crest, are pretty much free of mosquitoes by the end of June. Snow is long gone, open water is scarce.  Head up to the Groundhog Mountain meadows or Lowder Mountain to bask in floral beauty without mosquito madness.

Like tigers and bears? The oldest carnivores around here, older than tigers, are the dragonflies. Watching dragonflies gives a supreme sense of stability, reminding us that natural selection is as likely to retain a good design as it is to make a species evolve. Four hundred million years in a groove, not a rut.

David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. He teaches mosses and is president of the Eugene Natural History Society. He may be reached at