Posted June 10, 2021 | 3:05 PM
Hillsborough County gives away “mosquito fish” each spring and summer
Jannette Sheppard and Helen Jacques are fans of a mobile program that provides free mosquito-eating fish to Hillsborough County residents. In June the neighbors were back for more Gambusia holbrooki, each taking home a water-filled bag containing 10 live fish to place in a pond behind their homes in the Northdale community.
The fish are an environmentally-friendly way to help control the insects, whose bites range from an unpleasant nuisance to a health danger.
GET FREE MOSQUITO FISH
With some COVID-19 protocols still in place, the fish are distributed at drive-up events on Saturday mornings from May through September. As a precaution, the educational trailer that usually accompanies Hillsborough County Mosquito Management staffers to the distribution sites is not making the rounds this year. The colorfully decorated trailer appeals to children and adults, and teaches about the types of mosquitoes, their characteristics, and how to combat them.
A Mosquito Management employee hands a bag of “mosquito fish” to a resident.
The fish distribution program dovetails with the County’s goal to eliminate as much of the mosquito population as possible in the premature larval stage, before the insects hatch into adults. Gambusia holbrooki grow to about 2½ inches in length, reproduce rapidly, and gobble lots of their favorite food: mosquito larvae. They are ideal for small ponds, fountains, rain barrels, and livestock troughs.
Hillsborough County this year began raising its own “mosquito fish” to ensure a steady supply for the popular distribution events and to reduce costs.
Jannette and Helen are convinced the fish take a bite out of the local mosquito population. And the women prefer the biological remedy to spraying pesticides on their lawns, with runoff entering the pond that’s home to turtles, ducks, and other water fowl.
“We absolutely love the program,” Janette says. “Our tax dollars are being well spent.”
Top photo: Jannette Sheppard and Helen Jacques with bags of mosquito fish.