GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — Every morning Michael Saba heads out to feed his fish — all 75,000 of them.
Known as “The King Fish,” Saba is a marine biologist with the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District, where he rules over an army of tiny silvery creatures.
“I think they’re the most beautiful organisms on the planet,” he said.
What You Need To Know
- Mosquitofish are nature’s best weapon against pesky blood suckers
- Once they reach adulthood, the fish are delivered to backyard fountains and ponds all over Orange County, where they’ll gobble up mosquito larvae
- This year has seen an unprecedented invasion of the Aedes mosquito, a relatively new Asian species nicknamed “the ankle biter" for its sneak attacks
- Each female mosquito can lay about 1,000 eggs in her short lifetime
His fish are not all that different than the kind you’d buy at a pet store — except for one thing.
“This is one of that family of fishes that just happens to eat mosquito larvae in abundance when it’s present,” he said.
Called mosquitofish, they’re nature’s best weapon against pesky blood suckers. Once they reach adulthood, the fish are delivered to backyard fountains and ponds all over Orange County, where they’ll gobble up little mosquito larvae.
Saba has been raising these fish for more than a decade. But this year, they’re a hot commodity.
The Orange County mosquito police have been swarmed with calls by itchy residents who say the last few months have been a living hell, with more bugs than ever before.
"People, as they have been at home more enjoying their backyards, they’ve been planting gardens over irrigating, having a lot more potted plants, which allows for more breeding sources for these mosquitoes," said Lora Young, the department’s director of communications.
This year has also seen an unprecedented invasion of the Aedes mosquito, a relatively new Asian species nicknamed “the ankle biter” for its sneak attacks. Each female mosquito can lay about 1,000 eggs in her short lifetime, which means Saba’s fish need to have a healthy appetitive.
Ankle biters are more than just a nuisance — they can carry diseases like the Dengue Fever and Zika. Making matters worse, recent record-breaking temperatures have meant more mosquitoes year-round.
For Saba, it means trying to keep up with the growing demand for mosquitofish as best he can.
"You really have to love it," he said. "You can’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and just do what’s necessary to make sure the fish are healthy and in the buckets of the staff who need to use them every day."