Westchester County giving out minnows to help fight mosquitoes, prevent West Nile

WHITE PLAINS, New York (WABC) -- Westchester County is detailing its strategy to combat mosquito growth and disease in the coming months, including providing free minnows to residents.

To eliminate mosquito breeding sites and prevent the spread of West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases, the county Health Department says it will offer free minnows, mosquito dunks and "Keep Healthy and Bug Off" brochures to residents on six Mosquito Control Days this month.

With a bucket of fathead minnows, Joe Caruso is ready for mosquito season at his 3,000 gallon Katonah pond.

"If you keep the water going and take some precautions like mosquito dunks and these type of things, it definitely helps," said Caruso.

What really helps are the minnows he is releasing which he says help in controlling mosquito larvae.

"If you want to sit out here in the summertime, you have to take some precautions," he said.

Taking precautions is what Westchester County health officials are stressing by giving away the free minnows.

"Look at all those fish," said Assistant County Health Commissioner Peter DeLucia.

("These will eat a lot of the larvae?", we asked) "Oh, they will eat all of the larvae. Every day. That's what they survive on," he said.

The mosquito dunks can also be placed in birdbaths, rain barrels and unused pools, preventative measures they suggest during the health department's mosquito control days.

"With Zika, we wanted to get out and get ahead of the curve," said DeLucia. "The big thing with that is getting the education. There is some material behind me. We want to talk to our residents about source reduction."

Making sure there is no standing water in your gutters or in buckets and old tires around your property. Bedford resident Jeff Levine was looking for dunks to place in his pool.

"We always check around our property and make sure there is no standing water and we encourage others in our neighborhood to do so," said Levine.

Health officials are hoping to prevent the spread of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

"We are going to have mosquito control days like this throughout May where residents can come, they can learn about what they need to do," said DeLucia.

Gonzalo Gomez got a bag of minnows. "This will help a little. We need to stay on top of it," said Gomez.

Joe Caruso has been using the minnows for several years and sees the benefits. "It definitely helps, for sure," he said.

The health department says residents with ponds who want the minnows should bring a bucket or pail to 2 Loop Road at the Westchester County Airport.

Minnows will be distributed in watertight plastic bags, and residents should plan to bring them straight home and release them into ponds with at least eight inches of water.

--Wednesday - Friday, May 4-6, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
--Thursday - Friday, May 19-20, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
--Saturday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

To eliminate breeding sites, the health department will begin to apply larvicide to catch basins that hold standing water but are clear of debris starting Monday, May 9th.

Larvaciding teams will evaluate and treat as needed, all catch basins on county and municipal roads throughout the county over the next few months.

Large areas of standing water on public property that cannot easily be removed should be reported to the Health Department by calling (914) 813-5000.

"If we use all the available strategies, we can minimize our exposure to mosquito bites and reduce the mosquito population in Westchester, but we need residents to help," said Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD. "Please remove from your yard or turn over anything that could hold standing water and make use of the dunks and minnows we are offering."
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