By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Mosquito, meet your match because the Hillsborough County mosquito fish giveaway is back.
Scheduled through Sept. 25 are nine dates and locations for drive-through pickup service, with mosquito fish billed as an “effective, natural way for residents to control the spread of mosquito-borne disease.”
Saturday giveaway dates include May 22 at Mosquito Management Services in Tampa (6527 Eureka Springs Road), June 19 at the Providence Skate Park in Riverview (5720 Providence Road) and July 24 at the SouthShore Library in Ruskin (15816 Beth Shields Way).
At these and other locations through September, the County’s Mosquito Ninja and Gambuzi-San Mobile Lab Truck is set to be parked 8 a.m. through noon. Upon showing proof of residency, motorists can drive off with free mosquito fish, while supplies last.
Mosquito fish are described as small, native freshwater fish that eat mosquito larvae. To effectively and naturally manage mosquito populations, these fish should be placed in standing water, such as backyard ponds, fountains, animal troughs and unused swimming pools, according to County officials.
The fish do not require feeding, and care should be taken to protect them from garden sprays, chlorine and other cleaning chemicals. Mosquito fish do not lay eggs and do not require a special environment for breeding.
“Homegrown fish are more likely to be healthier than fish transported from farms,” County officials report, noting that 100 percent of Hillsborough’s mosquito fish supply has been raised at Mosquito Management Services headquarters, which makes the operation more sustainable.
Mosquitoes are a nuisance at best and killers at worst.
According to an online report, “mosquitoes have bedeviled humans for centuries, spreading disease and death to millions,” through such major human diseases as yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever and the Zika virus.
“Mosquitos spread disease-causing agents, not the disease,” said Dr. Lyle Peterson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the same HealthLine.com report. “They bite people to consume blood. Feeding allows the mosquito to produce eggs. When feeding, a mosquito pierces the skin like a needle and injects saliva into a person’s skin. This allows the disease-causing agent, for example, the Zika virus, into the site.”
Long sleeves, repellant, window and door screens, staying inside at dawn and dusk, all are measures to reduce the chances of being bitten by mosquitoes, according to mosquito control tips posted on the Hillsborough County web site.
Most important is to deprive mosquitoes of water, beating them where they breed: rain gutters, low areas, fountains and bird baths, potted plant saucers, pet water bowls, leaky hoses, tree stumps and rot holes, trash bins, old tires and tire swings, open containers, ponds, pools, spas and boats.
Best advice is to cover boats with a tight-fitting tarp; to keep gutters clear of leaves and debris; to keep ponds free and clear of excess vegetation; to avoid over-watered lawns and gardens; to cover or store open containers upside down in sheltered areas; and to replace damaged hoses; and, if necessary, fix leaky faucets and pipes.
Also suggested is to clean and hose out fountains and bird baths weekly; to rinse pet water bowls once or twice weekly before refilling with fresh water; to shut tight trash bins after removing water that collects inside; to remove standing water from the tops of pool and spa covers; to drill tire swings for drainage; to recycle or store used tires in a covered area; to flush out potted plant saucers with a hose, then drill holes in their bottoms for drainage.
Should the problem persist, Hillsborough County offers free, on-site inspections through its Mosquito Management and Aquatic Weed Unit. The aim is to determine mosquito-control solutions for specific neighborhoods and to schedule treatments as necessary.
County officials monitor mosquito population complaints to help better direct mosquito- control efforts, including application of pesticides at street level or from the air. A spraying map is available online for both planned and completed treatments over the prior 28 days.
With these tips and initiatives in mind, key among them is the County’s offer to provide free mosquito fish. Rounding out the drive-through giveaway dates are June 5 at Northdale Park in Tampa (15550 Spring Pine Drive), July 10 at Keystone Recreation Center in Odessa (17928 Gunn Highway), Aug. 7 at Mike E. Sansone Community Park in Plant City (1702 North Park Road), Aug. 21 at Temple Terrace Public Library (202 Bullard Parkway) and Sept. 11 at Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park in Plant City (100 Alderman Ford Parks Drive).
To receive free mosquito fish, residents must present photo identification to prove Hillsborough County residency. Identification information will be scanned into the County’s mosquito database.
For more information, call: 813-635-5400, or visit: www.HillsboroughCounty.org and search for “mosquito control.”