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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And now a story about the real estate down turn in the Sacramento area and an uptick in mosquitoes.

In the last year, sales volume has dropped by almost a third for single-family houses. That means there are more vacant houses than usual. More vacant houses means more untended swimming pools. And more untended swimming pools means more places for mosquitoes to breed. They lay their larvae in standing water.

So the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District sent out an email to real estate agents. It says something like this: report vacant houses with untended swimming pools so we can send out a technician, a technician like Robert Fowler. He'll come with larvicide, mosquito-eating fish and a willingness to jump the fence if the place is locked up.

Mr. ROBERT FOWLER (Technician, Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District): Okay, well, first, we'll knock on the door and make sure that the home is actually vacant. It says on the door they are bank-owned property, so I'm going to look inside and make sure there's no furniture, anything like that.

(Soundbite of noise)

Mr. FOWLER: You can see the pool from over the fence.

(Soundbite of noise)

Mr. FOWLER: This is lodged as well. But I normally have to do that - is just jump the fence so that you're not going to be able to get back there.

(Soundbite of noise)

Mr. FOWLER: This is a typical pool that we find - floating debris, sometimes you find furniture in there, and things get in there, and the color is typical. It's just a dark-shaded green, and something that you wouldn't even consider swimming until you completely, you know, changed the water completely.

(Soundbite of water)

Mr. FOWLER: As far as the numbers in this pool. I would figure, I guess, to say that there'd be at least 20,000-30,000 just in the spa and the pool alone, just in this one pool. You can imagine that one mosquito that gets in your bedroom at night bothering you and if you let these go to adult stage where they're flying out in the neighborhoods, some of the neighbors here would have a tremendous problems on their hand.

What I'm going to do is I'm going to apply a thin oil to the pool, and that's actually going to suffocate the larvae. This is a surface film that we apply and it, basically, doesn't let them breathe through the top of the water. If you figure - you're trying to snorkel in the water while you're in the ocean or something and somebody puts the hand over your snorkel, you'll run out of air, and that's what happens to them.

You can already see them struggling for air, all those surface ripples there are them having trouble breathing. And then I'm going to apply some mosquito fish to both of them. But, generally, we put about a tenth of a pound of fish in - for a pool and a spa, and they're very effective. They'll start feeding almost immediately.

(Soundbite of noise)

Mr. FOWLER: And there they go. That's it for this pool, and off to the next one.

NORRIS: That's Robert Fowler of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District taking care of untended swimming pool near Sacramento, California.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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