Source: Flicr via creative commons

Mosquitoes are members of a group of small flies within the “gnat family. The name “MOSQUITO” is derived from Spanish for “little fly”. These little “bast***s” have a recognizable slender segmented body. They have one pair of wings, a pair of halteres, three pairs of long hair-like legs, and elongated mouths that are designed for one thing: sucking out blood.

The average size of these pests are about 0.15 to 0.4 inches long, although some species can be less than 0.1 inches long – however, that tidbit has been blasted out the window with the more “recent discovery” of one particular breed of mosquitoes coming out of China in 2018 that has a 5 cm-long body (nearly 2 inches) with a wingspan of 11.15 cm (over 4 inches). That means that the supersized mosquito is about 10 times longer than an average mosquito.

Source: Xinhua/Barcroft Images

It kinda makes the old joke of bringing some artillery to fight said pests not so funny when you consider that they can grow to that size. The only upshot is that the humongous mosquito discovered in China don’t “eat” human blood – its main food source is nectar.

With that tidbit out of the way, I guess that we can all agree that we hate those pesky flying leeches. They’re what we call the “vampires” of the animal/insect kingdom. They carry diseases, viruses, and any other pathogens that can be transmitted through a blood exchange as they flit from person to person – animals included. They’re also everywhere in the warmer parts of the world where they breed like the plague, especially in swampland.

Take Florida for example, the majority of the state is mostly swampland, hence mosquito country. But not Disneyworld in Florida – which is supposedly in the middle of one of the heavily populated swamplands around. And yet they seemed to have a knack of having almost zero mosquitoes in their parks over there.

Source: Flicr via creative commons

So what gives? What sorcery is at work at that part of the Magic Kingdom?

The short answer? FLOWING WATER.

Here’s the long answer:

Most of Florida’s wetlands are filled with still water – proving it to be fertile ground for mosquitoes to thrive in. Making the state prone to diseases like Malaria if left unchecked. Florida used to have a ton of malaria cases until it was mostly eliminated in the 1940’s – but Walt Disney wanted to be sure nothing could go wrong when he planned to open a Disneyland franchise in the area during the 1960’s. This is where Joe Potter came in.

Major General William “Joe” Potter, source: Wikipedia

Walt Disney met Major General William “Joe” Potter during the 1964 New York World’s Fair when Potter was involved with the logistics of said fair. Potter’s resume includes being an MIT grad with an engineering background. He was also a military officer who was part of the planning of the American invasion of Normandy for D-day on June 6, 1944. He attained the rank of Major General and was the Governor of the Panama Canal Zone from 1956 to 1960 – he retired shortly after and moved to the private sector where he handled the logistics of the 1964 NY World’s Fair.

Potter’s tenure as the Panama Canal Zone Governor was especially interesting to Disney in that it was here where Potter had cultivated and developed his extensive knowledge of pest control since he was one of the engineers fighting to control the mosquito swarms during the time that area was ravaged by malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The two met at that Fair and Disney asked for advice on how to keep his future park that he planned to bring to Florida become mosquito-free. Potter’s advice to Disney impressed him enough that Walt hired the man on the spot as one of the key planners and engineers in Walt Disney World Florida.

At Potter’s direction, their main target weren’t the bugs already there – they wanted it so that the bugs wouldn’t even BREED there at all. So they used methods to target the larvae instead, to make the park an environment no longer ideal for mosquitoes to lay their eggs in. One of the ways they accomplish this is by making sure the park has zero standing water and to keep the water constantly moving. Mosquitoes are normally attracted to still water – which is pretty much what most of the wetlands in Florida are: STANDING STILL water – making places like that the ideal environment for the mosquitoes to lay their eggs.

Construction of the drainage ditches which drained the original swamp and was later used as the underground drainage system for the park itself. Source: YouTube screenshot of a photo from Disney World Construction of the park circa 1967

During the construction of Disney’s Florida location, Potter immediately set about designing and building drainage ditches to remove all of the water that was initially there. They literally drained the swamp to make way into converting the reclaimed land into buildable land where the park would stand. Some of those same ditches are still in use today in one form or another. Potter had also built underground power and water treatment facilities to keep the water “clean” and flowing. These are cleverly hidden throughout the park with water fountains or waterfalls situated whenever a body of water is found.

The design is such that there is no standing body of water to be found in said park – every single body of water in Disney World is supposedly constantly moving. But that’s not all – the whole place is designed to make sure no standing water would collect even if it rains. Most of the buildings inside the park are designed in such a way that they’re sometimes “slightly curved” to make sure no water would collect around them.

Plants are also selectively chosen with a layout in mind to make sure they eliminate any standing water from accumulating with precision landscaping throughout the park. And while Disney has ix-nayed the use of pesticides, they do allow only one sort of spray: liquid garlic extract. Allegedly, mosquitoes, like their fictional vampiric brethren, HATE the smell of garlic. The amount of extract that they use is small enough not to affect humans visiting the place, but it’s one big stinker to any and all mosquitoes in the area that they’ll probably avoid the place on instinct.

Sadly, Major General William “Joe” Potter passed away on December 5, 1988, at the age of 83. In his honor, he became a Disney Legend in 1997, and one of the three ferry boats that transport guests across an area in the park was rechristened in his honor.

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