Friday, May 30, 2008

Recent Rains, Rising Temps and Green Pools Have Mosquito Teams on Alert

By Joe Pyritz

FLORENCE- Normally this time of year Pinal County Division of Environmental Health Vector Program crew mates Tami Schuler and Garry Bouquot keep themselves busy trapping and testing mosquitoes for any signs of West Nile virus.

     But now with the housing slow down another challenge to keep mosquitoes at bay has landed on their doorstep, so to speak: Foreclosed properties with swimming pools that have been neglected and are becoming breeding areas for mosquitoes.

     "These pools have become a bigger problem than ever in our efforts to control mosquitoes," said Environmental Health Specialist Tami Schuler.  "In prior years the number of vacant homes with neglected green swimming pools averaged around 30 in any given year.  In all of 2007, we had a total of 115 reported neglected pools at vacant properties.  As of May 27th, we have 117 active neglected pool complaints, for 2008."

     So now, along with their mosquito trapping and testing activities, Schuler and Bouquot are attempting to contact property owners, banks, or foreclosure trustees' by any means necessary.

     "Our Assessor's website is a great tool to help us find the owners," Schuler said.  "If we can't find the owner that way, we will call the banks and try to track down the owner through them."

     It is simple to treat a green pool with chemicals that stop the growth of mosquito larve.

    "It's nice that there are chemicals that will keep the mosquitoes at bay, but really we would hope that the owners would drain the pool before they leave to reduce health and child drowning hazards," Schuler stated.

     Statewide numbers of West Nile have been very low in the beginning of 2008 due to a cool spring and low rainfall.  Statewide, only two cases of mosquito West Nile infection was reported in the Yuma and Maricopa County.

     "We've been trapping for two months," Schuler said.  "We have placed 115 traps and tested 62 mosquito samples.  None of the samples have shown any signs of West Nile."

     Schuler and Bouquot credit Pinal County residents for their past efforts at keeping their properties free of standing water.  They are now asking residents to report any abandoned pools to their mosquito hotline at 1-866-287-0209 extension 6200 or (520) 866-6200.

     "The residents have come through in the past, we are counting on them again to help us stem the mosquito population," Schuler said.  "All of us working together make a great team against West Nile and mosquitoes."

How to keep your property mosquito free:

  • Drain all standing water where mosquitoes can breed. This includes buckets, tires, cans, jars, bottles, and other containers that can hold water.
  • Keep grass trimmed.  Mosquitoes like to hide out in tall grass.
  • Change water in outdoor flowerpots, birdbaths and pet watering bowls located outdoors at least twice per week.