Aug. 9, 2010, 10:08 a.m.
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) - A team of bluegill fish has been charged with helping control the Twin Falls County mosquito population, in what has become the latest chapter of animal-on-animal warfare in southern Idaho.
The Twin Falls Pest Abatement District teamed up with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game this month to carry out the first phase of the plan - scooping up 200 fish from Dierkes Lake.
The team released the fish in ponds throughout the south-central Idaho county last week, hoping the bluegills will gobble up mosquito larvae in areas where the pests are most prevalent and near people.
Mosquitoes, along with their annoying bites, can carry West Nile virus and other diseases.
While other states have long used mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis or Gambusia holbrooki) to control mosquito populations, the Twin Falls County abatement district was concerned this particular type of fish would compete with native minnows, district manager Kirk Tubbs said.
"Bluegills eat larvae, and they're native," Tubbs told the Times-News.
Tubbs believes his team is the first to test this method of mosquito control in Idaho, although using one animal to control another animal population is nothing new to the state.
In April, state wildlife managers pitted badgers and skunks against pelicans blamed for eating too many trout on a southeastern Idaho island in the Blackfoot Reservoir.
While the state was somewhat disappointed with the results of that endeavor after two of the three badgers bailed and one of the two skunks disappeared, Tubbs is hopeful that fish will prove successful at keeping the county's burgeoning mosquito population down.
And if it doesn't work, the district is only out a couple hundred dollars on a plan that took only a day to implement.
"It's an experiment," Tubbs said. "But if they do their job, we'll be catching fewer mosquitoes."