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'Mosquitofish' offered free to Collier residents to control pests

Collier County residents can receive free mosquitofish this week
Collier Mosquito Control District
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Collier County residents can receive free "mosquitofish" this week

Collier Mosquito Control District is giving county residents two-inch, guppy-like fish to place in flooded yards, swales, and other small areas of standing freshwater left behind by Hurricane Ian to eat mosquito larvae before they grow up and start bothering everyone.

Mosquitofish are native to Southwest Florida and love to gorge themselves on mosquito larvae, which live in standing fresh water. Each fish can eat approximately 100 larvae a day. Residents should put the fish in watery holes, flooded yards, a fountain that is no longer working, or pools that have gone neglected.

“Anywhere there is not already fish and the water is not moving,” said Robin King, spokeswoman for the Collier Mosquito Control District. “These are freshwater fish so don’t put them in freshwater or other fish will eat them up, and don’t put them in saltwater because they won’t survive.”

Once the water recedes or dries up, the mosquitofish won’t be long for Collier County.

“There are waterways that are interconnected they could make there way to, but otherwise they will just dry up,” King said. “There is no delicate way to say it.”

But the demise of the fish after a job well done is worth it. They may also consume mosquito larvae destined to carry West Nile or Dengue fever, which King said is becoming a problem in Cuba right now.

On Aug. 31, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed a 2-year-old quarter horse stallion in Collier County positive for West Nile virus. The horse later died.

The Florida Department of Health in Collier County also advised residents there has been an increase in mosquito-borne disease activity in areas of Collier County. A human case of locally-acquired dengue fever has been confirmed and there is a heightened concern additional residents will become ill.

“We’re going to give a resident a quantity of fish in a container and it is important to get them home and put them where they need to go, “ King said. “Don’t plan on running errands before you get home because they fish wont make it. But the fish really are effective in eating up the larvae."

The fish are being handed out mainly to try and keep the overall number of mosquitos down, but can also control those that can transmit heartworm.

Mosquitofish are free to Collier County residents, and they can be picked up from the district’s offices at 600 North Road in Naples between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday. No appointment is necessary, and fish will be distributed until the district’s tanks are emptied.

King reminds people who will be spending time outside during Southwest Florida’s recovery and rebuilding from Hurricane Ian to wear mosquito repellent not only to protect against itchy mosquito bites but to reduce the likelihood of contracting a mosquito-borne disease.

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. 

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