By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Breeding season is underway as the Hillsborough County mosquito fish giveaway continues, with guidance and checklists available to help residents fight the good fight against mosquito infestation and disease.
Mosquito fish giveaways scheduled for this summer include locations in Riveriew, Ruskin, Lithia and Odessa, with sites also set for Tampa, Plant City and Lutz through Sept. 3. The giveaways are open to residents from throughout the county while supplies last. Identification is required.
Meanwhile, control tips posted by Hillsborough County officials include wearing long sleeves and pants, repellant, window and door screens and staying inside at dawn and dusk.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), there are more than 80 species of mosquitoes in Florida, of which nearly a quarter are considered public health threats due to the pathogens they may transmit.”
Of the more than 40 species of mosquitoes that live in Hillsborough County, the Asian tiger and the yellow fever mosquitoes “have become significant pests because they closely associate with humans,” according to county health officials. “In addition to being active at dusk and dawn, they typically fly and feed in the daytime. These mosquitoes can spread dengue fever, chickungnya, Zika, yellow fever viruses and other illnesses.”
By eating mosquito larvae, mosquito fish prevent the bite that can do damage. To breed healthy fish for the giveaways, county officials last year launched a new mosquito fish hatchery, which reportedly has resulted in healthier fish with a great survival rate. Placed in such things as koi ponds, horse troughs or rain barrels, mosquito fish are small enough to hide from predators and more than ready to feed on mosquito larvae, their favorite food.
With or without the fish, however, the guidance is clear and plentiful for fighting the good fight against mosquito infestations throughout the summer. A 2017 video, posted on the county’s YouTube channel, offers a humorous look at the issue from the mosquito’s perspective, with a classroom of mosquitoes learning from a team leader how best to infest.
“It’s not hard to find standing water in a human’s yard,” the leader says. “It’s everywhere.” Noted are discarded tires, leaks in pipes and a home’s foundation, boats and lawn equipment, roof gutters and containers, including trash cans, buckets, drums and wheelbarrows.
“People are supposed to clean those out, but they always forget,” the lead mosquito says. In a nutshell, “We’re going to look for any standing water we can find. If it’s got water, we’re all over it.”
To beat mosquitoes where they breed, the key is to focus on low areas, fountains, bird baths, potted plant saucers, pet water bowls, leaky hoses, tree stumps, rot holes, tire swings, ponds, pools, spas and boats.
The 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 pipes, outdoor faucets and faulty septic systems. Don’t let runoff water from air conditioners collect in shady areas.
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. Be mindful also to maintain the water balance (pool chemistry) of swimming pools and to empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.
According to FDACS, Florida today has more than 60 state-approved mosquito control programs, including the Mosquito Management and Aquatic Weed Unit in Hillsborough County, which offers free on-site inspections to suggest ways to control mosquitoes in neighborhoods. Residents can report online mosquito-related issues, which county officials use “to direct mosquito-control efforts, including application of pesticides at street level or from the air.” The mosquito spraying map available online details both planned sprayings and those completed over the past 28 days. Visit www.HCFLGov.net and search for “mosquitoes” and “mosquito control.” Call customer service at 813-635-5400.
The remaining mosquito fish giveaways are scheduled July 23 at Picnic Island Park, Aug. 6 at Mike E. Sansone Community Park, Aug. 20 at the Oscar Cooler Sports Complex and Sept. 3 at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). The times are 8 a.m. to noon.