LSU AgCenter Provides Fish To Control Mosquitoes

Mark A. Schexnayder, Romaire, Robert P., Morgan, Johnny W.  |  8/15/2006 9:24:27 PM

News Release Distributed 08/14/06

The LSU AgCenter is providing mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) to the New Orleans area in an effort to suppress mosquito populations in the many abandoned swimming pools in the city.

Experts estimate New Orleans has more than 6,000 abandoned pools, and each has the potential of being a breeding ground for a multitude of mosquitoes.

Mark Schexnayder, the LSU AgCenter’s hurricane recovery coordinator, has been coordinating this effort between Operation Blessing and the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board to ensure that the mosquito numbers don’t get out of hand.

Schexnayder said using the mosquitofish was the idea of Steve Sackett, research entomologist and field superintendent for the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board.

Sackett said he had used fish before to control mosquitoes in the city but never to this magnitude.

"Before Katrina we would use minnow traps to catch a few fish in drainage ditches to use for this purpose, but with the potential for West Nile Virus and other disease problems that we could see from having this many abandoned pools, we had to think bigger," Sackett said.

The combination of resources from the various agencies involved in the project has provided what was needed to be successful.

"We’ve gotten off to a good start with the help of Operation Blessing, which gave us $25,000 to put the fish farm back in operation at the Orleans Parish Prison," Schexnayder said.

Operation Blessing is an international relief organization that has donated a considerable amount of money, manpower and equipment to the New Orleans recovery effort.

With this grant in hand, Schexnayder contacted the LSU AgCenter’s Aquaculture Research Station in Baton Rouge about donating some mosquitofish, and the result is that Orleans Parish now has the world’s largest Gambusia fish breeding facility.

"Dr. [Robert] Romaire and his staff at the Aquaculture Station have been phenomenal in this effort. They have been draining their ponds in Baton Rouge and giving us fish to put in the abandoned swimming pools," he said.

Romaire, LSU AgCenter professor and director of the Aquaculture Research Station, said the mosquitofish are a native species found in just about any water body in Louisiana.

"Many of our experimental ponds at the Aquaculture Research Station that are used in catfish research and crawfish research have large populations of mosquitofish. Although they are not part of our targeted research program at the station, they do add the benefit of controlling mosquito populations at the station," Romaire said.

He said in addition to providing fish to stock the swimming pools, the LSU AgCenter is providing mosquitofish breeding stock to the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board to help in establishing the mosquitofish breeding facility.

Romaire said, "We are also providing technical assistance on rearing/breeding mosquito fish as requested by the New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board and our AgCenter colleagues based in New Orleans."

Many other fish species will consume mosquito larvae and are effective in controlling mosquito populations, but the mosquitofish have some noticeable advantages.

One advantage is that they are tolerant to poor water quality where other mosquito larvae-consuming fish are not. Another advantage is that mosquitofish do not lay eggs. They give birth to live young. Therefore, no special environment is required.

Mosquitofish produce from 50 to 100 young at intervals of about every six weeks. The young are born at about one-fourth inch in length and grow to about 3 inches at maturity.

As soon as they are born they begin to eat mosquito larvae and are able to consume about 100 per day.

The mosquitofish can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and have a life expectancy of about three years.

For additional information on the mosquitofish project in New Orleans, contact Mark Schexnayder at (504) 838-1170 or mschexnayder@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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Contacts:
Mark Schexnayder at (504) 838-1170 or mchexnayder@agcenter.lsu.edu
Robert Romaire at (225) 765-2848 or rromaire@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer:
Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or jmorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu

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