Sandwiched in between a beautiful jogging path, the children's playground at , and a swath of tract homes, is a very vigorous mini wetlands.
“This is the best recipe for mosquitoes,” said Bill Van Dyke, as he looked out over the approximately 3-acre habitat restoration area thick with vibrant-colored cattails and other water-loving plant species. The growth is so vast it’s hard to see the murky standing water that sustains it all.
Van Dyke is a technician for Northwest Mosquito and Vector Control District, a public health government agency that contracts with the City of Lake Elsinore and other Riverside County cities to controls “pests.”
Working alongside Van Dyke at Canyon Hills was Greg Williams, an assistant vector ecologist for the District. He said recent rains, warm weather and high humidity have made mosquito control in the Lake Elsinore hotspot “challenging.” The number of foreclosed properties in the area – with their sometimes-unkempt swimming pools and scattered backyard debris that collects water – also make mosquito control more difficult.
Van Dyke has been conducting regular fogging in the area to kill adult mosquitoes and is treating the standing water with a larvacide. The technician concedes that while his agency has significantly reduced the mosquito population there, the environment makes control difficult.
The mosquito problem in Canyon Hills, Williams said, is also the result of poor environmental planning. According to Northwest Mosquito and Vector Control District field supervisor Nikia Smith, per environmental regulations the habitat was restored by developer Pardee Homes, the builder on the tract at Canyon Hills Community Park.
The science behind restoration efforts across the county is lacking, she said. “We need to get better at it to avoid these situations.”
The land is home to protected species, so ripping out and starting anew is not possible, Smith said, but the mosquito problem doesn’t sit well with local residents.
“They eat us alive,” said Fred Miranda, whose home on Cedar Creek Lane abuts the habitat area. “It’s infested here.”
Norma Diaz is Miranda’s neighbor. She said evening walks are impossible.
“It’s terrible. We don’t even go out then.”
Both neighbors have lived on Cedar Creek for eight years, and they say the pest problem is worse this year than ever before. Mosquitoes aren’t the only issue. The neighbors also complain of a rat infestation.
“We’ve been getting a lot of rodent activity in Canyon Lake and Tuscany Hills,” Van Dyke said. “The whole state definitely has more activity,” Williams added, noting again that weather is a factor for all pests. For example, the common roof rat tends to migrate away from flood areas during rains, but then moves back into wetland areas when conditions dry out a bit, Williams explained.
Creatures do pose . On Sept. 4, a second human case of West Nile Virus in Riverside County was confirmed by the state. The patient, a 22-year-old man, lives in western Riverside County.
“He is recovering at home after being hospitalized and is the second confirmed human case this year in Riverside County,” according to Ray Smith, spokesman for the Riverside County Executive Office. “No other information about the case is currently available and there is no indication the two human cases are connected.”
Smith also reported that county health officials were spraying for mosquitoes in Beaumont on Wednesday after insects there tested positive for West Nile Virus. The action followed spraying Aug. 31 in Blythe, where some mosquitoes were found to be infected by the virus.
West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes contract the virus when they feed on infected birds.
San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District is currently doing battle in El Monte with the Asian Tiger mosquito, believed to have been brought to this country from China via bamboo imports, Williams said. The pest can transmit dengue fever, yellow fever and encephalitis.
So far, the pest has not migrated to Riverside County, at least that’s what the mosquito traps reveal.
“There’s always the possibility,” Smith said, explaining that vector control agencies across the Southland are collaborating to prevent the Asian Tiger's spread.
Pest control is an ongoing struggle. In addition to the Canyon Hills hotspot, the Northwest Mosquito and Vector Control District teams contends with dozens like it across the county. In Lake Elsinore alone there are others, including an 89-acre infestation area directly across from the Outlets.
Although field counts and traps are important indicators, pest control is largely complaint-driven and the increased mosquito abatement efforts in Canyon Hills have mostly been a result of calls from residents, Williams said.
“The priorities,” he explained, “are where people are getting bit.”