Thousands of residents live alongside the only 18-hole golf course in Vail. The Del Lago Golf Course property runs throughout multiple communities. The course includes numerous hills, green grass, and even contains 9 large ponds used as water obstacles for players. Over the last month, some local residents have become concerned that these same ponds are potentially the source of the recent surge of mosquitoes throughout the Rancho Del Lago community. Residents have taken notice of the insects and have had to modify their outdoor activities.
Brian Beebe lives near the 15th hole of the golf course which is well within a block from one large golf course pond. He said because of the mosquitos, “I can’t walk around my neighborhood or even sit in my backyard.” Brian takes note that the golf course maintenance workers do a great job, but added, “I would like to enjoy the neighborhood.” However, he continued saying, “I am getting stung around 6-8 times each time I go outside.”
David Ludwig is the manager of consumer health for Pima County. He explained how mosquito bites aren’t the only thing to be worried about. “We are concerned about illnesses that can be transmitted. The Zika virus, Chikungunya, and dengue fever are just a few.” I asked David about the golf course ponds and if they should be a concern to residents as a source of mosquitoes. “The ponds should have sharply steeped walls. This will allow waves to disrupt the mosquito larvae process and also permit fish to feed on the insects. Shallow shore lines permit larvae to grow,” David said. Mr. Ludwig explained, “If residents are concerned about mosquitoes, the first step is to make an official complaint.” The complaint process is simple and involves calling the county health department (520-724-7908) and answering a few questions.
After the county receives a complaint, they will investigate in order to determine the extent of the possible infestation, identify the type of mosquito, and also try to determine the water source.
“We are always in need of trapping volunteers to assist with this process,” David added. “Interested volunteers can call the health department.” The volunteer process is very simple and training only takes a few minutes. More volunteer inspectors can make for better analysis.
I spoke with a person who was very knowledgeable about the golf course’s mosquito abatement program, but he did not want to be identified. He stated, “The county periodically conducts inspections on the property. The situation is always being monitored and we ensure we do not have standing water on the course to promote mosquito reproduction. Additionally, all of the 9 ponds are stocked with fish to quickly eat any larvae that are in the water. Finally, chemicals are added to the water to reduce mosquito larvae.”
In mid-July, the Pima County Health Department received multiple complaints from Rancho Del Lago residents. The department sent an inspector that same week who set up 6 mosquito traps. 4 traps were set up on the golf course and 2 traps were set up in the community.
I called the health department the next week and they shared the results with me. They found no Culex mosquitos (which is the insect primarily responsible for the West Nile Virus in our area). The department did detect some Aedes aegypti mosquito, but none with the feared Zika virus. They also found floodwater mosquitos which are typically found in non-permanent stagnant water.
An analysis by the department points to the retention basins closer to the Pantano Wash as the cause of the floodwater mosquitoes. Initial findings are that the golf course property is not the primary cause of the recent mosquito surge. The health department stated they are returning to this area in early August to continue their monitoring. In the meantime, be sure to use bug spray until the monsoon rains have subsided and insect populations are reduced. One pond along the golf course property suspected of being conducive to mosquito larvae