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How to Prevent Water Bugs in a Swimming Pool

There are few summertime pleasures that beat time spent in the water. Surprise — there is any number of spiders, beetles, and bugs that agree. Even bees can hone in on your swimming pool and invite their buddies to join them. If the sight of bugs sharing your pool isn’t bad enough, some of the culprits actually bite. Convince unwanted swimming pool water bugs, and other insects as well, that your pool is closed for the season. Like any unwanted guest, it takes denying them food and making the place unlivable to them, but ideal for you.

Two Likely Suspects

From ladybugs to caterpillars and every bee, spider, fly or bug between, most any insect can end up in your swimming pool water. After all, it’s outside, in the open, where there are millions of insects both seen and unseen. All of them see your pool as a source of water. But there are a handful of bugs that target your pool specifically. They live, eat, breed and die in your water if allowed. Of these, two are notorious: water boatmen and backswimmers.

The Life of a Water Bug

The aptly named water boatman is only about 1/4 inch long with a thin, grayish-brown body. Long, flattened legs on the rear of his body rapidly propel him through the water where he lives. Usually seen underwater, the water boatman feeds on algae, dead organic matter, mosquito larvae, and other microscopic life. You may almost consider boatmen beneficial, and in fact, they make excellent fish food or bait and are even a delicacy in parts of Mexico. Backswimmers seem to agree. Slightly larger, with beetle-like legs and front mandibles designed to pierce their prey and suck out their insides, backswimmers eat boatmen and other small organisms such as tadpoles. You can always tell a backswimmer by the way he zips, upside down, across your pool surface — and bites you, feeling almost like a bee.

Kicking the Bugs Out

The best way to get rid of water bugs is to eliminate what they eat. Since water boatmen eat algae, and backswimmers eat boatmen, attacking the algae is the place to start. Wiping down the pool walls will eliminate slimy algae growths. Skimming and vacuuming will gather more. Finally, shocking the pool repeatedly or using a double shock treatment — 2 to 3 pounds of calcium hypochlorite for every 10,000 gallons of water — will kill the rest of the algae and likely many bugs, too. Another brush down and vacuum job and thorough skimming and filtration should remove dead algae and bugs. Adding shock during the night prevents the sun from dissipating it too quickly.

Keeping the Bugs Away

After killing the food source, several steps will help keep backswimmers and water boatmen away. An algaecide, used as directed, will inhibit algae growth. Without boatmen, backswimmers — the worst of the lot — have no reason to stay. Using swimming pool covers, spraying invading insects with a soapy water mixture to kill them — and in the case of bees, prevent them from bringing back a crowd — and other tactics will help. The most important thing, however, is to keep your water balanced with proper pH and chlorine levels. A quality pool water test kit used constantly, is essential.

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