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Is Your Backyard Water Feature A Breeding Ground for West Nile?

A bucketful of minnows helps keep mosquitos in check.

Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Give him a bag of live fatheads—and he prevents West Nile Virus for a season.

The Westchester County Health Department holds its second annual minnow give-away May 2 and 3 to help owners of ornamental ponds prevent their landscape features from becoming mosquito breeding grounds. 

There’s something fishy about West Nile Virus prevention in Westchester County again this year. Back by popular demand, the Health Department will be giving out free fathead minnows to residents on Friday and Saturday that will help prevent their ornamental ponds from becoming breeding sites for mosquitoes that can carry West Nile Virus.

“Last year was our first minnow giveaway, and it was so successful that we are bringing it back for a second year,” said Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD. “I hope that residents with ponds on their properties will once again take advantage of this natural strategy to help us curtail the mosquito population.”

The minnows reduce the mosquito population because they feed on mosquito larvae and pupae before they emerge into adult mosquitoes. They are well suited to ornamental ponds and can help reduce the spread of West Nile Virus because culex pipiens, the mosquito that can be a carrier of West Nile Virus, breeds in standing water, such as ponds and containers.

They should be released in ponds that have a minimum of eight to twelve inches of water.The county has 200 pounds of fathead minnows to distribute Friday, May 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 Residents who want the minnows should go to Loop Road, Building 2 at the Westchester County Airport. The building is the first right from the airport access road.

Residents should bring a hard pail or bucket with them to transport their bag of minnows home.

In other West Nile prevention news: 

To eliminate breeding sites, the health department will begin to apply larvicide to catch basins that need it starting Monday, May 5.  


Health department larviciding teams will start in the northern part of the county and work their way south, evaluating and treating as needed all catch basins on county and municipal roads throughout the county over the next few months. 

To help prevent mosquitoes from breeding, residents should eliminate standing water from around their properties, especially after it rains.  

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.

“Through the combined efforts of residents and county government, we can successfully curb the mosquito population and keep cases of West Nile Virus to a minimum,” Dr. Amler said  “Please survey your property routinely and empty standing water from any discarded tires, unchlorinated swimming pools, outdoor pottery, pails, birdbaths or other containers throughout the spring and summer.”

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