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Mosquitofish, Bred At The Hackettstown Fish Hatchery, Help Battle West Nile Virus

Mosquitofish (Credit: CBS 2)

Mosquitofish (Credit: CBS 2)

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HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - It’s peak season for West Nile Virus.

Bug spray and long sleeves are a must, but there are also other ways to battle those bloodsuckers.

Mosquito-eating fish work for people in exchange for food. They are the lowest paid New Jersey state employees. Gambusia affinis — more commonly called mosquitofish — are bred at the Hackettstown Fish Hatchery.

“We raise 3,000,000 big fish and we raise 150,000 guppies, and they’re the rock stars,” Craig Lemon, the superintendent of the Hackettstown Fish Hatchery, told CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock.

They work for human beings, playing a big part in managing the pesky and potentially deadly mosquito population.

“These fish make up a good portion, maybe 20 percent of what we do across the state,” Bob Kent of the Office of Mosquito Control Coordination said.

They spend summers in fish paradise, and they multiply by the thousands. From there, the mosquitofish go off to dine on their favorite food — mosquito larvae. Just one fish can eat up to a couple of hundred larvae per hour.

They’re transferred to trucks that used to carry pesticides, and are delivered to mosquito hot spots.

“(They are delivered to) shallow, stagnant, sometimes putrid bodies of water,” Kent said. “Dirty water. There’s a lot of that around, and this is where these fish excel.”

And it’s where female mosquitos love to lay their eggs.

“There’s dinner waiting for the mosquitofish,” Kent explained.

They can be used in abandoned pools and even storm drains.

“Some of these storm drains will hold water all year round, and if mosquitofish are appropriate — as opposed to an insecticide or something else — we’ll put them in there,” Kent said. “Once they’re in there on the job, there are no more pesticides.”

The mosquitofish eat their fill and its payday for people, as it means less scratching and less spraying to deal with.

Microscopic crustaceans are other mosquito-eaters out there. Their effectiveness is currently being tested in New Jersey.

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