Everyone knows the old adage "April showers bring May flowers." However, New Jersey state entomologists are expecting this year's wet spring to come with a far less lovely side effect: an unusually brutal summer onslaught of mosquitoes. Usually the bad mosquito seasons are fought with spraying and increasing awareness of the importance of bug spray and keeping fully clothed. However, this time, state entomologists have come up with a plan to hopefully prevent the season's mosquito blitz: shrimp-like crustaceans that like to eat mosquito larvae for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
According to the Star Ledger, the crustaceans, Macrocyclops albidus
, are native to New Jersey and "feed on larvae
in roadside ditches, small water pools, clogged downspouts and other, smaller wet areas where mosquitoes live." These creatures have no weapons aside from their "voracious appetites."
I know it is disconcerting to all when walking around to see a standing pool of water, such as pond, with obvious mosquito activity on the surface. Luckily, according to Jennifer DeSio at the State Department of Agriculture, the crustaceans "can devour up to 90 percent of larvae in a given area." DeSio works at the state laboratory where the crustaceans are raised.
This year marks the first time that the state will employ the crustacean-mosquito control method. "The DEP and state Department of Agriculture have been exploring this mosquito-battling tool for several years, conducting field trials in Hunterdon, Morris, Monmouth, Ocean and Cumberland counties since 2006," according to the Star Ledger.
The state is also determined to use other environmentally-friendly methods for mosquito control this year as well, including fish which can be deployed into bodies of water to eat the larval forms of the bugs. According to Department of Environmental Protection officer Bob Kent, "using the mosquito-eating fish is the most efficient way to defeat the pests, because it is environmentally friendly, and once a body of water is stocked with the fish it does not need to be maintained."
There are several species of mosquito-devouring fish, including Gambusia, fathead minnows, freshwater killifish and pumpkinseed sunfish. The species of fish utilized depends on the habitat. According to the New Jersey DEP, they will distribute between 100,000 and 300,000 fish this year.
Mosquito larvae, which are spawned in stagnant water, take about 10 days to go from egg to adult, according to Deepak Matadha, an entomologist with the Middlesex County Mosquito Commission. This underscores the need to take action immediately, according to Matadha, who went on to say that mosquito levels will rise each time a new batch grows, which occurs a week or so after water has accumulated from rain.
Obviously, these methods will not completely control mosquitoes this summer. There are still many good habitats that are critical to keeping mosquitoes to a minimum in and around your home, according to Matadha. He recommends "using repellents with DEET and following application directions carefully; emptying all standing water from vases and birdbaths to eliminate potential breeding sites; and being careful about exposed skin during dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active."