It would be safe to say that the state of Florida is the biggest swamp in the United States Of America with around 30% of the state being wetlands.
So the Walt Disney World resort should be absolutely overrun with mosquitoes, however, it is not.
Disney strives to give all of their guests an amazing time and mosquitoes just do not come into that equation.
Why Obsess With Mosquito Numbers?
Regardless of the fact that Disney world wants to give all of their guests the perfect vacation, mosquitoes carry some inherent dangers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) publish stats that claim a million people are killed from mosquito-related issues each and every year. Mosquitoes can carry some very nasty fatal diseases, including Malaria, West Nile Disease and Zika. Although Malaria is predominantly an African problem.
Walt Disney's Fight Against Mosquitoes
Although it would be impossible to completely irradicate mosquitoes from the Disney resort, they spend an awful lot of effort minimizing the effect that mosquitoes have on resort visitors.
The Disney corporation uses the following tools in their fight against mosquitoes:
- Insect killing insecticides (Just the use of plain mosquito-killing chemicals, quick and easy).
- Mosquito growth regulators ( Growth regulators are used in reducing the lifespan of a mosquito).
- Natural mosquito predators (Predators that naturally feed on mosquitoes, for instance, spiders).
These 3 methods used together go a long way in managing the mosquito levels at Disney. Everything started with the Mosquito Surveillance Program a sub-sector of the Department of Planning and Engineering for the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
The Organization That Controls It All
The organization tasked with mosquito control at the park is the Reedy Creek Improvement District. This organization is actually controlled by the Disney corporation.
They decided that large mosquito reduction plans, like mass insecticide spraying the entire Disney site, needed to be managed and tracked with laser precision. Methods were therefore applied to track where to spray insecticide and when to spray.
Dozens of mosquito traps are located across the park that let out varying amounts of carbon dioxide (one of the things that attract mosquitoes to humans).
These traps are placed where humans are not located. The traps capture mosquitoes who are then killed by freezing them to death and disposed of. Every female mosquito captured and killed is then another mosquito not able to breed and create more mosquito larvae.
The captured mosquitoes are also analyzed, back at the Disney labs, to ascertain their age what species they are and other important data to help in the reduction of mosquitoes at the park. The collated information then guides the anti-mosquito efforts to valuable data that can decide which species and areas to target.
Mosquito Disease Monitoring Chickens
Yes, you did read that right!
The Disney anti-mosquito team also utilize a type of chicken, called sentinel chickens, across the property.
These chickens, although will catch mosquito spreading diseases, do not get sick from mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus. It appears the chickens have developed antibodies that protect them from the virus. This fact makes it easy for the team to locate the sentinel chickens, in pens, across the park and then regularly check the chickens for any diseases that are mosquito-spread.
Also, the antibodies that protect the chickens keep the virus levels, in the chicken's blood, very low and stop other mosquitoes from passing the virus along.
Every time a sentinel chicken is tested with the virus in their blood it tells the anti-mosquito team that a mosquito carrying certain viruses was nearby. This is a much better way than testing wild birds who's actual infection location was not really known.
Deciding On Mosquito Control Adjustments
The methods described above give the anti-mosquito team the tools required to decide on mosquito-killing tactics and which areas to concentrate on rather than a blind mosquito-killing strategy.
The areas that are decided as being "target areas" are sprayed with insecticide twice a day. A fleet of mosquito extermination vehicles are dispatched at sunrise and then again at sunset. Sunrise and sunset are the times that data shows mosquitoes are most active.
Obviously, the areas that are more heavily used by park guest are sprayed as least as possible. For instance, the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds are on the bottom of the list for mass insecticide spraying as these areas are locations that outside living and activities are encouraged.
Although the Disney staff are set on mosquito control, they will not insecticide spray anywhere that, in any way affects the health of their guest. All Disney park guests are advised to minimize any outdoor activities during sunrise and sunset and wear mosquito-repelling clothes where possible.
The Disney Zika Virus Scare Of 2016
During this period mosquito stations were set up, throughout the park, that offered free mosquito repellents to all park guests.
Park guests were told to try and reduce activities outside at sunrise or sunset and also advised to wear long trousers and sleeves if possible.
Some of the water-based attractions were also closed early or relocated inside.