Mosquitoes move in
Disease-prone pests thrive in the stagnant pool water of empty homes in Fresno-Clovis area.
By Farin Montañez / The Fresno Bee
Rotten leaves and insect corpses float on pea-soup colored water in a Mickey Mouse-shaped pool at an abandoned house in west-central Fresno.
It's a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Ever since a neighbor complained several months ago, mosquito abatement district workers have been doing what they can to get rid of the bugs.
They've sprayed insecticide three times. They've dumped in about a dozen guppylike fish to eat the mosquitoes -- but the fish just can't keep up.
It's just one of 827 swimming pools in Fresno and Clovis that district workers have treated this year -- far more than in any recent year, officials say. District officials are monitoring 1,000 more pools, and they say there are hundreds more they don't even know about.
"This isn't even the worst one," Roy Benavides, an area supervisor with the Fresno Mosquito and Vector Control District, said of the Lafayette Avenue pool -- just a quarter-mile from Slater Elementary School.
"It's a nice neighborhood. You would never guess a pool like this would be here."
A proliferation of unsold houses in a tight real-estate market is giving mosquitoes a bonanza of breeding opportunities -- even during an exceptionally dry year, officials say. That has elevated concerns about the West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne disease that can be fatal.
Foreclosures appear to be a huge factor in the proliferation of neglected pools, said Mulligan, whose district covers Clovis and north and east Fresno.
"People who can't afford to pay for their homes will neglect their pools -- they're the first thing to go," Mulligan said. "Then they move out, and there's really no one to maintain them."
Home foreclosures have been on the rise in the Fresno and Clovis area. The number of foreclosure notices sent to homeowners in Fresno County has more than doubled between the first quarter of 2006 and this year's first quarter -- from 540 to 1,116 -- according to DataQuick Information Systems, a private company that tracks home sales.