TAMPA — Mosquito season is approaching and Hillsborough County wants to help fight the blood sucking menaces by providing a natural solution: mosquito fish.
The dull-grey gambusia or mosquito fish, which grow to three inches, feed on mosquito larvae in fresh bodies of water, said Donald Hayes with Hillsborough County Public Works.
They'll be handed out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, 440 N Falkenburg Road.
After mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, the larvae that develop need to breathe oxygen. They head to the surface. The mosquito fish, with upward facing mouths, eat the larvae once they get there.
"It's a match made in heaven," Hayes said"
The fish will eat the larvae that collect in people's fountains, ornamental ponds, bird feeders, swimming pools and any other water containers that attract mosquitoes. One fish will consume the larvae in a 20 square foot area.
"Wetland? Pond? We're just looking at what type of environment they have," Hayes said. "If it's a fountain — small and spritzing out and birds use it — only about five are fish are needed. As the environment goes up, so will the amount of fish."
Shared community lakes already are home to many natural predators so they don't need mosquito fish added, Hayes said. But the fish can help in retention ponds and other bodies of water that lack year-round aquatic life. If the body of water dries up, the fish fall back into the food chain and become a meal for birds.
"They won't go to waste," Hayes said.
There's also no fear the mosquito fish will become pests themselves, he said, because they're native to Florida and can be found in roadside ditches.
Hillsborough County gave out several hundred fish to 50 or 60 people when it made them available to the public for the first time last year. This year, the county bought 1,600 mosquito fish for about $200 from a local vendor for the distribution.
Saturday is the first of five or six giveaways expected during the season, which corresponds with the months of steady rainfall in Florida.