New mosquito fish pavilion gets results for Orange County

The unit works to maintain Central Florida's mosquito population

By Carolina Cardona - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - After noticing his workplace needed a few spruce ups-- Rafael Meléndez grabbed a painting brush. The Orange County employee showing off his skills as a muralist in a place you'd least expect it.
 
"Something like this is almost the first time," Meléndez said.

Meléndez used to paint houses for a living in his native country, Puerto Rico. Today, he works as a lab technician for Orange County's Mosquito Control unit. He’s also the artist behind their brand new mural.
 
"Between him and I, we came up with the idea of actually putting a mural up and that was all Rafael, he kind of designed how it was gonna go," Dave Pelley, program manager for Orange County Mosquito Control said.
 
The mural begins with a painting of a mosquito’s life cycle-- starting as an egg and growing to a full mosquito.
 
"After that you can see an actual Florida ecosystem in places where you might be able to find mosquitoes," Pelley said about the mural.

The artwork also features a house with a pool in the backyard and a hanging tire to  explain areas where mosquitoes breed.

An idea that now serves a double purpose.
 
"I'm so happy because we can teach people and kids about mosquitoes and I'm very grateful to do something like this," Meléndez said.
 
The area which once served as a storage unit, underwent two years of transformation and eventually became a mosquito fish pavilion.
 
"The fish that we use here are for mosquito control,” Pelley said. “By designing it the way that we have, not only does it serve a function as for is keeping the fish but it's also an educational area now.”

Gambusia, tiny ‘mosquitofish’ are also getting results for Orange County. The freshwater fish are a natural way of combating the pesky bugs in Florida. The fish are taken to areas where there's standing water.
 
"We can actually take some of these fish and place them in there and they will eat up the mosquito larvae but they'll continue to go and keep the mosquito larvae down," Pelley said. 

But fish are not the only resources used in the fight against those annoying insects.
 
"Orange County monitors 10 chicken flocks, strategically placed throughout the county where we draw blood from chickens on a weekly basis," Steve Harrison, manager for Orange County Mosquito Control division said. 

"We're looking for viruses like West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis-- anything that can be transmitted to people from the bite of a mosquito."
 
Officials say the core mission for their newly designed pavilion is for it to be a bonus in their educational programs.
 
"It's great to have it because you know, if you want to educate parents you always have to start with the kids," Harrison said.

Pelley echoes Harrison’s statement, saying he hopes to take parts of pavilion on the road.
 
"We are hoping to be able to take this out, take smaller samples of this to schools as well and kind of give this a boost to our education program," Pelley said.
 
The pavilion is open to the public for those who want to learn more about mosquito control. Administrators said they eventually hope to work with Orange County schools to provide tours for students.
 
For help with  mosquitoes in your neighborhood, contact Orange County Mosquito Control (407) 254-9120.
 
 

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