© 2021 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Everything you need to know about the zika virus in South Florida.

Mosquito-Eating Fish Among This Year's Effort To 'Fight the Bite'

Kate Stein
Bowls of gambusia fish, which Miami-Dade and other counties in Florida use in mosquito control. The fish eat mosquito larvae.

This year, Miami-Dade County's arsenal of mosquito-fighting technology includes traps, spraying backpacks -- and mosquito-eating fish. 

The fish, each about the size of a paperclip, are called gambusia.

"The best treatment for any mosquitoes is killing the larvae. Preventing the larvae from emerging as adults," said Bill Petrie, the county's mosquito control director. "These fish, they just love to eat mosquito larvae. They'll eat them all day long."

On Friday, Miami-Dade's Mosquito Control Division spokesman Michael Mut and several representatives of the county's mosquito control efforts manned a table at the Stephen P. Clark Center and showed off the fish.

Credit Kate Stein / WLRN
A page from a mosquito-themed coloring book available from Miami-Dade.

"We're giving residents the opportunity to see what we do up close," said Mut.

Other recent efforts include a family festival and coloring books to help kids help themselves avoid itchy bites from mosquitoes that can also carry diseases.

Read more: Mosquito Season Could Get Longer And More Hazardous To Your Health — Especially In Miami

Petrie said the fish are native to Florida and can be found in canals around Miami-Dade. County employees collect them and put them in abandoned swimming pools and other areas with standing water. That's in addition to traps and trucks that spray an organic, naturally occurring larvicide called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). In January, the county also began releasing mosquitoes infected with a bacteria called Wolbachia, which prevents the mosquitoes' offspring from reaching maturity.

Credit Kate Stein / WLRN
Bill Petrie, director of mosquito control for Miami-Dade County, shows off one of the traps used to catch and collect data on mosquitoes.

So far the county has not done any aerial spraying for adult mosquitoes, a practice that's come under fire from people worried about pesticide exposure.

Petrie said that's thanks in part to efforts that keep mosquito larvae from growing to adulthood.

"You're preventing the problem from occuring in the first place," he said.

Read more: Aerial Naled Spraying: Should Miami Beach Residents Worry About This Anti-Zika Effort?

He added that Miami-Dade residents (and people from other South Florida counties) can help control mosquitoes by draining pools, bromeliads and other places that collect water; and by wearing insect repellent and long-sleeved clothing.