Walt Disney World may be the Most Magical Place on Earth, but no amount of pixie dust can keep Florida’s infamous mosquitoes at bay. Most Central Florida natives spend much of the spring and summer covered in itchy bug bites. However, Disney has implemented what they like to call the Mosquito Surveillance Program, which is tasked with preventing those pesky bug bites from becoming the most unpleasant of souvenirs from your Walt Disney World vacation. Without this program, there’d be more guests covered in calamine lotion than suntan lotion.
When Walt Disney purchased the desolate swampland to build his Florida Project in 1964, he knew that he would have some natural obstacles to overcome. Thankfully, the 1964 World’s Fair had introduced Walt to Major General William E. “Joe” Potter, a retired Army general and engineering guru. Potter had worked on the construction of the Panama Canal, and it was his time in Central America that made him an expert on pest control. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because one of the ferryboats that transports guests from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom is named after him!
With over 27,000 acres of Central Florida land purchased and Joe Potter officially part of the development team, the Walt Disney Company was ready to get started on building this new vacation kingdom. Of course, building on top of the swampy homeland of millions of mosquitoes presented its own set of challenges. Since mosquitoes are drawn to stagnant water and like to lay their eggs in it, General Joe knew that eliminating standing water would be the most effective way to prevent a serious mosquito problem. He accomplished this by digging ditches across the property to drain shallow pools of water, which would keep the mosquito population from growing. Over 50 years later, “Joe’s Ditches” are still in use all over Walt Disney World.
However, these ditches are not the only way that Disney combats the build up of standing water. Their goal is to keep water across the resort in motion, whether that be in a fountain, a pool, or on Splash Mountain. The year-round rain in Florida presents a unique challenge for Disney’s preventative mosquito program. But as usual, Disney’s Imagineers and developers have thought of just about everything. They have purposely designed the architecture across the resort to make it impossible for standing water to develop. Curved ceilings and pointed rooftops are not only pleasant to look at in the parks, but they are also an effective way to keep the mosquito population from booming.
A Hint Of Garlic
But Disney’s mosquito prevention doesn’t stop there! Instead of using harmful pesticides, Disney uses liquid garlic to repel insects. Just like vampires, mosquitoes are repulsed by garlic, so liquid garlic is sprayed around the parks in minuscule amounts. This spray keeps the mosquitoes away, but luckily the smell isn’t strong enough to be detected by parkgoers.
The Mosquito Surveillance Program also uses carbon dioxide traps to catch mosquitoes. The insects are then frozen and examined in the hopes of finding new ways to get rid of them. Disney also employs chickens, called sentinel chickens, that live in coops across the resort. The blood of these “cast members” and their feathers are regularly analyzed to make sure that the mosquitoes in the area aren’t carrying any harmful diseases that they can potentially spread to their guests. Don’t worry, the chickens aren’t affected by these viruses like humans could be. This method of mosquito prevention was especially helpful in 2016 when the Zika virus was concerning travelers all around the world.
Orange County, Florida used to be named Mosquito County, but mosquitoes are far from welcome at the Walt Disney World Resort. To keep guests happy and healthy, Disney uses a proactive and safe approach to ward off insects. Of course, it would be impossible to completely eliminate these pests, but Disney has used their famous creativity to invent new insect repellant strategies. So if mosquitoes want to visit the Most Magical Place on Earth, then they better pay park admission like everyone else.