ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Ascension Parish will soon have a new weapon in the fight against mosquitoes. The parish has been awarded a $7,000 gr ant to start a program that will become a first for Louisiana.
Mosquitoes are everywhere. In south Louisiana, they are a way of life. After a while, southerners just learn to deal with them. David Matassa, the director of Ascension Parish Mosquito Control, has been fighting them professionally for nearly 20 years.
"To our parents and grandparents, mosquitoes were just a nuisance, but now we know it can give us diseases like West Nile Virus and, more recently, the Zika virus," Matassa said.
Pesticides keep the mosquito population at bay, but that solution can be expensive. Matassa said small fish, known as Gambusia minnows, are the answer.
"It's a win-win situation, nature against nature. Mosquitoes breed in water. Minnows live in water. It's no pesticides involved. So economy-wise it's very sufficient," Matassa said.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has committed to supplying the parish with several hundred thousand minnows. Once they multiply, Matassa said, parish workers will strategically place them where mosquitoes breed.
"Let's just say there is a road where a ditch is breeding mosquitoes, 1,000 a day. We put minnows in there, and I guarantee they reduce to a few hundred a day," Matassa said.
Once the minnows breed, residents will have complete access to them. They can go to Roger J. Cloutre Park on Stringer Bridge Road to pick them up and bring them home. Matassa suggests they release the minnows in ditches near their homes and in abandoned swimming pools.
"This is just one step above turning up our recipe of what to use to eliminate mosquitoes," Matassa said.
Matassa believes that this, combined with routine pesticide treatments, is one way to save time and money while fighting what has become a more than just a pesky problem.
The minnows will be available to the public before the end of the summer.
Matassa said residents should begin to notice a difference next mosquito season.
Similar projects done in California, New York, North Carolina, and Jamaica have seen great success.