What are these tiny beasts called copepods?
They are pretty creepy looking, crablike crustaceans. And what does that have to do with mosquito kill? . . . Plenty!
They may hold a lot of promise as a natural weapon in the war on mosquitoes.
They are common in South Florida fresh waters, are microscopic crustaceans that may be a significant potential mosquito eater.
Copepods are not new to the arena of mosquito control, having been used in this way in Vietnam and Australia so far. Research into their mosquito killing capacity is ongoing not only in Florida, but in Thailand as well.
The most promising species is Macrocyclops albidns. Part of their name comes from the fact that they have only one eye. This copepod holds great promise as a superlative bio-control.
These aggressive little creatures will attack mosquito larvae, even when they are not in mood to eat them. The attack leaves the mosquito larvae weakened and then they die.
In field tests, the hungry crustaceans reduced the mosquito population by almost 90%.
Their habitat requirements are very simple. Any standing water without chlorine will suffice. They can be cheaply bred in small containers, like kiddy pools and garbage cans and they reproduce at a phenomenal rate.
They are native not only to Florida, but in water sources around the world, which lessens concerns about disrupting eco-systems by the introduction of new species.
These crablike little creatures inhabit both fresh and sea waters and are an important food source for many fish and even some whales. In fresh waters, their habitat varies widely. They can be found in streams in temperate to tropical regions, and in lakes high in the Himalayas.
While they often float in the water waiting on food, they are capable of quite rapid propulsion. Many are particle feeders, but some species, like the ones being studied in Florida, are quite predatory.
They have very powerful jaws, which they use to tear pieces of flesh from their prey, like mosquito larvae and small fish.
Oddly enough, they are not killed by the pesticides used to kill mosquitoes. While not advocating the use of pesticides, it shows just how hardy these tiny predators really are.
Commercial production has not yet begun, but rapid advances are being made. They can be used by governmental vector control agencies for treatment of large areas, like swamps, marshes, and large freshwater ponds.
They can withstand refrigeration, and can tolerate dry conditions, so shipping should not be a problem. And, it appears that they can be disbursed over large areas with minor modifications to regular sprayers.
All in all, it appears that copepods hold great promise as a potential mosquito predator, and rapid progress is being made to advance their use. Until then, if you have any desire to raise your own, here’s how.