Mosquitofish project working in abandoned pools

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News 12 at 11 o'clock/ Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Richmond county mosquito control's newest project is being considered a success.

Two months ago, the county teamed up with the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy looking for a way to fix some of the worst mosquito problems in abandoned pools.

After months of testing, they've found that mosquitofish may be their answer.

"We've been here pretty close to an hour nobody has swatted themselves yet," said Fred Koehle as he stands next to an abandoned pool.

Koehle is the Richmond County Mosquito Control Operations Manager and says that's a big change from just two months ago

"The initial count that was done on July 11th, this pool produced 180 mosquitoes overnight in a CDC light trap," he said.

Check that trap again today and you get a very different result. "We went from 180 down to 14 in a matter of 5 weeks and the only thing we did different is introduce the fish," said Koehle.

Twenty five mosquitofish were dumped into five pools. The fish feed on mosquito larvae.

"They're very tough fish. I mean they live in a swamp so they can tolerate hot water, low dissolved oxygen conditions in the water and they eat one of the things we hate the most; mosquito's," said Jason Moak.

Moak is the Senior Research Scientist at the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy. He and Koehle have been working on the project for months now.

"We never know what to expect," explained Moak. "Sometimes things work the way we want them to, sometimes they don't. This time it worked out well."

Tuesday they planned to shock the pool, temporarily bringing the fish to the top to see how they were reproducing.

"We tried to electrofish for mosquitofish to try to get an idea of how many are in the pool. The pool here is a little bit deep for electrofishing to be effective," said Moak.

Even though the shock didn't work Koehle says it's obvious it's still a success. "The success is in the fact that the fish are breeding, the mosquito counts are down. This is what we were looking for."

Dozens of baby mosquitofish swimming in the pool give Koehle a little peace of mind.

"We can actually walk away from this place now and know that we're not gonna produce many mosquitoes in here anymore," he said.

A big change for a pool that used to produce around three quarters of a million mosquitoes per season.

"That's gonna be a big boost to the neighborhood. It cuts down on your potential for disease, it cuts down on your potential for bites and infections," he said.

Neighbors say they've already noticed a difference.

Now that the project has proven to be a success they plan to add them to six more pools in the next week and possibly more after that. It should save them around 150 dollars per pool.

Richmond county has a little more than 200 pools in their pool program. They've taken care of more than 150 of those already but say there could be hundreds more throughout the county that they don't know about yet.

They are the only county in the state that has a pool program. It began in 2009.

Mosquito season peaks from April 1st until October 15th.

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