The state of New Jersey is enlisting a tiny creature with a long name in its battle against mosquitoes this summer.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is distributing supplies of macrocyclops albidus to mosquito control programs in seven counties, including Gloucester and Atlantic.
DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said the tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans live on mosquito larvae and have been used to control insects in warmer climates for years. Native to New Jersey, they thrive in ditches, clogged gutters and other small bodies of water, the very places where mosquitoes breed.
“These creatures are perfect for small areas where mosquitoes will grow and you may not normally pay much attention to them,” Ragonese said.
Though tiny, they have a healthy appetite. In one lab experiment, they ate an average of 27 mosquito larvae a day.
“You’re not going to get rid of mosquitoes, but the goal is to try to cut their numbers as much as possible,” Ragonese said.
The little crustaceans have been tested in a handful of counties over the past five years to ensure they don’t have any unintended effects on local ecosystems.
New Jersey officials have been using larvae-eating fish as a pesticide-free mosquito control method for 20 years.