On the lookout for pesticide-free ways to reduce mosquito populations and thus the spread of West Nile virus, researchers from the University of Waterloo are one step closer thanks to an unlikely weapon: minnows.
By adding hungry minnows into bodies of water that are attractive to mosquitos for breeding purposes, Waterloo researcher Brad Fedy found that the minnows will feed on mosquito larvae, drastically reducing the number of mosquitos that will carry the disease.
"The best strategies to limit mosquitoes start at the larval stage. Unfortunately, in North America, control efforts are largely limited to larvicides, which require a repeated application and have potentially negative ecological impacts," said Fedy. "Addressing the problem with minnows provides many benefits in that it is low-maintenance, cost-effective, better for the environment in many cases, and our health."
Analyzing the response in treatment ponds over the course of three years, the team determined that the ponds experienced stifled levels of mosquito larvae from season-to-season when compared with non-treated ponds.
"There are many potential advantages to using indigenous fish species as an alternative for larval control including lowered environmental impact, decreased costs regarding time and financial inputs, and the potential for the establishment of self-sustaining fish populations," said Fedy. "This isn't a complete solution to the dangers of West Nile, but it should be considered as part of any plan to protect the health of vulnerable populations."
The research appears in the journal PLOS One.