More than 500,000 mosquito larvae-eating fish are helping to combat N.J.’s mosquito population

    A pumpkinseed

    A pumpkinseed

    New Jersey has expanded resources to “aggressively combat” the threat of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases, state officials announced.

    According to a release from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the 21 county mosquito commissions are receiving $500,000 in grants for mosquito control expenditures, over 20,000 mosquito dunks and traps, and more than 500,000 mosquito larvae-eating fish.

    “While the presence of the mosquito that carries the Zika virus is extremely rare in New Jersey, we are taking every precaution to protect our residents and visitors from this and other disease-carrying mosquitoes,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a release. “The Christie Administration is committed to providing our county mosquito control partners with the best possible means to monitor and reduce mosquito populations throughout the state.”

    To control the state’s mosquito population, the county mosquito control agencies conduct aerial sprays, apply approved insecticides, undertake water management programs, run public awareness campaigns, and employ natural predators, including fish that eat mosquitoes and their larvae, the release said. 

    The use of fish, known as bio-control, is common in New Jersey, where more than 4.4 million mosquitofish have been stocked since 1991. 

    This season, the state’s fish hatchery is raising and distributing more than 500,000 fish — more than double a normal season — in response to concerns about mosquito-transmitted viruses. 

    “Our fish program has been a key component of mosquito control for years and their usefulness is only increasing as the threats increase,” said Division of Fish & Wildlife Director Dave Chanda. “These fish help control the mosquito population by eating their young and preventing them from growing, biting and most importantly, reproducing.”

    Wildlife officials release five types of fish (fathead minnow, freshwater killifish, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill sunfish, and Gambusia affinis, also known as the mosquitofish) in water bodies with no resident fish or natural or man-made water outlets. They are not stocked in lakes or ponds. 

    DEP encourages residents, business owners, and contractors to follow these steps to help reduce mosquito populations on their properties:

    At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans.
    Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out. Downspout elbows can also hold small amounts of water that can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
    Remove discarded tires and other items that could collect water.
    Be sure to check for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.

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