The Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) has enlisted the assistance of mosquito fish in the fight against mosquitoes. Known as Gambusia holbrooki in the scientific world, their common name is the eastern mosquito fish.  This native Florida aquatic species has been the focus of a DOH-Orange Environmental Health Community Initiative.  Introduced into abandoned green swimming pools, the mosquito fish live up to their name by feeding on mosquito larvae.

mosquito fish
Public domain image/Yinan Chen via wikimedia commons

DOH-Orange’s Zoonosis team deployed the first 50 fish into a local green pool in September 2016. Signs were also posted on site to inform the public that mosquito fish were hard at work on the property. After a few days, Zoonosis team members returned and verified the green pool was free of mosquito larvae. Furthermore, staff noted the mosquito fish had reproduced, thus ensuring continued elimination of future mosquitoes.

“Initially, staff were putting ‘mosquito dunks’ into abandoned green pools to kill the mosquito larvae,” said Kari Lara-Murabito, the Zoonosis team leader.  “However, that process requires a staff member to go out to each pool once a month to re-apply the dunks.”

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The concept of using mosquito fish as a mosquito biological control agent is not new. Mosquito control districts and backyard water garden enthusiasts have utilized the species in untreated/abandoned swimming pools as well as artificial ponds, ditches and swales.

However, what is new is a public health department using this method. Employing the mosquito fish not only reduces mosquitoes, but also frees up staff to complete other tasks and saves money spent on mosquito dunks.

Success of the project has been more than promising. Today, the fish have been deployed in eight pools. Two of which were at the request of property-owners because they were unable to maintain the pool properly.