Swat Team

Circle Cross Ranch residents say unwanted mosquitoes are forcing them to stay indoors and keep windows shut

Mosquitoes can breed in a little as a bottle cap of water, according to Pinal County Director of Public Health Tom Schryer. This female Aedes aegypti mosquito was photographed while she was in the process of acquiring a blood meal from her human host, biomedical photographer, James Gathany, in a controlled environment at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (James Gathany CDC/Special to the Independent)

Mosquitoes can breed in a little as a bottle cap of water, according to Pinal County Director of Public Health Tom Schryer. This female Aedes aegypti mosquito was photographed while she was in the process of acquiring a blood meal from her human host, biomedical photographer, James Gathany, in a controlled environment at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (James Gathany CDC/Special to the Independent)

Kaitlyn Sanchez got the keys to her new home in San Tan Valley about three weeks ago. She expected to be greeted by new neighbors, but the reception she received by another group — swarms of mosquitoes — has been quite disturbing.
“It’s been horrible,” she said during a phone interview May 20. “We’ve been sleeping here for about five days and the mosquitoes are all over you. The kids are out of school and they can’t play in their backyard. It’s not safe for them.”
Mrs. Sanchez lives in the Circle Cross Ranch neighborhood along Empire Road at Gary Road. Residents have been complaining about the mosquitoes, which Tara Lentz and others claim are forcing them to keep their windows closed and children indoors.
“It sucks when you’re trying to be outdoors,” Mrs. Lentz said during a phone interview May 20. “We noticed it at the beginning of spring, when I was taking my girls to the park. My youngest one was getting bitten like crazy. It’s not fair to the kids.”
The mother of four — ages 8, 10, 14 and 16 — said the mosquitoes have gotten inside her home, where they have bitten her autistic son. The flying insects also have found their way inside her family’s clothing.
“I went outside to do yardwork last night and was covered in 15 minutes,” she said about being outside between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. “They were up in my shirt, in my clothes and in my fiancé’s clothes. I counted more than 10 mosquitoes on my arm.”
Mrs. Lentz said the mosquitoes also are attacking her pets.
Mrs. Lentz and her neighbors complained to the Pinal County Environmental Health Services division. Its vector control program oversees mosquito problems within the county, according to its website: www.pinalcountyaz.gov (click on Environmental Health).
Representatives from Pinal County visited the area to capture samples of the flying offenders. The investigators determined the mosquitoes were not the variety — the permanent, or stagnant, water mosquito — that carries the West Nile Virus. Instead, they were the floodwater — or intermittent, water variety — and are not deemed a public health threat, according to the county’s website.
Pinal County considers them a nuisance mosquito, according to the site, and the county does not fog for nuisance mosquitoes, only those carrying the West Nile Virus, Pinal County Director of Public Health Tom Schryer said during a phone interview May 20.
“Our focus is to concentrate on the source and resolve that,” Mr. Schryer said.
His investigators found standing water — which provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes — collected in the retention basin along Empire Road near Circle Cross Ranch, Mr. Schryer said. The water could be, in part, caused by runoff from rain, landscaping and a nearby farm, he said.

These mosquitoes were gathered May 14 from a home in Circle Cross Ranch in San Tan Valley. They had become trapped in the door wall track after the homeowner had sprayed pesticide through the door the night before. The photo was taken in the photographer’s home. (Arianna Grainey/Independent Newsmedia)

These mosquitoes were gathered May 14 from a home in Circle Cross Ranch in San Tan Valley. They had become trapped in the door wall track after the homeowner had sprayed pesticide through the door the night before. The photo was taken in the photographer’s home. (Arianna Grainey/Independent Newsmedia)

Residents in the Morning Sun Farms subdivision, just south of Circle Cross Ranch, also have complained about the flying insects, Mr. Schryer said.
Floodwater mosquitoes typically appear, sometimes in significant numbers, a couple of days after rains and flooding, according to the county website. Monsoon rains and flood irrigation contribute to the floodwater mosquito population, according to the site. Mr. Schryer said the larva of floodwater mosquitoes sit in the dirt and can be activated when it rains.
“The best strategy is to get rid of the standing water,” he said. “Source-mitigation to reduce breeding has had a 75 percent reduction in breeding.”
Residents who filed a complaint with Pinal County received a response from Tamra Schuler, an environmental health specialist for the county, Mrs. Lentz said. In it, Ms. Schuler reported the county had met with the landscapers and have treated the standing water in the retention area at Empire Road and Village Lane.
“I have also met with the farmer who has a field west of the retention area,” Ms. Schuler wrote in her response, which Mrs. Lentz supplied to the Queen Creek/San Tan Valley Independent. “The farmer has agreed to correct the matter with the developer and to address future plans to prevent further mosquito-related issues.”
“A little bit of everybody has ownership in this matter,” Mr. Schryer said.
Ms. Schuler went on to say in her response she had placed a mosquito trap in the standing water. She confirmed the county had no plans to fog the area, and said any fogging would be up to the farmer and developer, according to the response.
He thinks the problem may be caused by the retention basins, which may not be engineered properly to allow water to evaporate or be absorbed by the ground, he said.
“We have an agricultural area that butts up against a residential area, and those two aren’t necessarily compatible,” he said. “Irrigation on farm land will often create standing water.”
He said he checked the retention basins on May 21 and found there was still some water in them, which could present a problem.
“We have to cut off that source of water to prevent more mosquitoes from breeding,” he said, adding he will reach out again to the farmer and developer to ensure the basins are emptied.
Calls to the Circle Cross Ranch homeowners association and the company that owns the land and leases it to a farmer had not been returned as of press time, 4 p.m. Friday, May 22.
Given the rural setting of Circle Cross Ranch and San Tan Valley, Mr. Schryer recommended people look for standing water on their property. He said mosquitoes can breed in as little as a bottle cap full of water.
The public health director recommended residents take the following steps while they are waiting for the mosquito population to subside:
•Wear clothing to avoid being bit
•Wear mosquito repellent
•Make sure screens on doors and windows are intact to prevent mosquitoes from entering a home
•Call Pinal County Environmental Health Services toll-free at 866-287-0209 or contact it online at www.pinalcountyaz.gov/environmentalHealth to report standing water, especially green pools at properties that are not being maintained.
A resolution to the community’s mosquito problem cannot come too soon for residents like Mrs. Lentz.
She is afraid the upcoming monsoon rains, according to the county website, could contribute to the floodwater mosquito population.
“It’s a real concern,” she said.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799 and via e-mail at qcnews@newszap.com, or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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