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Posted (crates) in biology, Ecology on July-5-2007

      For a long time I have been wanting to start some sort of water garden in two half whisky barrels that I have.  Unfortunately the water always fills up with mosquito larvae.  In fact it’s almost impossible to go outside in the evening at my home for any length of time because of the clouds of mosquitoes.  This has always been the case here even before I got the whisky barrels.  I have gotten more concerned with the problem because West Nile Virus has been reported in the state.  I have emptied all the various buckets and jars, etc. that I have found and now have only the barrels to contend with.

      Back in Texas the mosquito fish, Gambusia affinis, is ideal for controlling mosquitoes and can often be seen just under the surface of the water in almost all bodies of fresh water.  They have a particular distinctive curl to the tail and a silvery triangle on their head (brain?) when view from above.  I see these fish swimming around unconcernedly at the lake where my father lives, and they seem to not be bothered by the various predator fish (sunfish, bass, crappie, etc).  I’m sure this impression can’t be accurate since I can’t think of anything that would give the fish any sort of immunity to this sort of predation.  They are live bearers and can live in extremely brackish water.  I remember doing a project study on them in a Comparative Physology class and found they could tolerate an extremely hypertonic medium. Unfortunately the  species has been introduced worldwide in a mistaken attempt to control mosquitoes when the native fish are perfectly capable of doing this.

     Since there are no Gambusia in this area, I have been trying to figure out what is best to put into the barrels for mosquito control.   I was going to try some guppies since they resemble Gambusia very much, but I balked at their price ($4 apiece).  I finally settled on some feeder goldfish ($.35).  When I introduced the fish to the barrels last week, the barrels were full of mosquito larvae–now there are none.  Not a single solitary one.

It looks as if I shall get no sleep tonight.  I won’t get home until four am, and I have to go to the airport at 5 am.  I’ll try for a few hours in the late morning perhaps.

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