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Swimming pools are an excellent source of entertainment, relaxation, and exercise during the hot summer months. However, they are also a breeding ground for various types of bugs.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of swimming pool bugs that pool owners should be aware of to keep their pools clean and safe. From water boatmen and water striders to giant water bugs and mosquitoes, we will cover everything you need to know about these pesky creatures.
So, if you’re a pool owner looking to protect your pool from bugs, keep reading!
Types of Swimming Pool Bugs
Swimming pools can be a breeding ground for many different types of bugs. Some of these bugs are too small to be seen with the naked eye, while others are larger and more noticeable. Some bugs in swimming pools can even be dangerous, as they have the potential to bite humans.
It’s quite common to notice tiny black bugs in your pool after a rainstorm, and these bugs are just one example of the many types of bugs that can be found in swimming pools.
In the following sections, we will discuss some of the most commonly found bugs in swimming pools. We’ll tell you how to identify them, whether or not they bite, and most importantly, how to get rid of them. Here are the bugs we will cover:
- Water Boatman
- Water Striders
- Water Mites
- Giant Water Bug
- Predaceous Diving Beetle (Dytiscidae)
- Water Scorpion
Why Do Bugs Keep Getting in My Pool?
There are several reasons why you might be getting bugs in your pool. One common reason is that pools provide an excellent breeding ground for many types of bugs, particularly in warm and humid weather. Bugs are attracted to the water in your pool as it provides a source of food and shelter.
Another reason why you might be getting bugs in your pool is due to the surrounding environment. If your pool is located near trees or bushes, bugs may be attracted to the pool as a source of water. Additionally, if you have outdoor lights or bright pool lights, this may attract bugs to your pool.
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And if you have a high concentration of organic matter in your pool, such as leaves or debris, bugs may be more likely to visit and breed in your pool.
How to Identify Water Boatman
- Water boatmen are slender, oval, streamlined water bugs that swim with long, oarlike hind legs that have fine hairs.
- The size of the water boatmen at maturity is 3-11 mm.
- Water boatmen are typically dark brown in color with yellow, close-set stripes.
- The back is flattened and has several narrow, dark, parallel crosslines
- They have a thin, silvery bubble of air trapped against the body, which functions like a scuba tank, allowing them to stay underwater for long periods.
- They only swim right-side up.
- Water boatmen possess mouthparts too blunt to injure a human. They have a one-segmented, short triangular beak.
- They typically hang out near the bottom of the water column, anchor themselves to vegetation to help them evade predators, and must return to the surface to breathe.
Do Water Boatman Bite?
Fortunately, water boatmen are not known to bite humans. They primarily feed on algae and other small insects that can be found in the water. However, some people may be allergic to their excrement, which can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction if they come into contact with it.
How to Get Rid of Water Boatman
- Skim your pool daily
- Use a skimming net to remove water boatmen. Since water boatmen are attracted to debris and algae in the water, removing these items can help reduce their numbers.
- Remove the bugs using a leaf rake or skimmer
- This is another effective way to get rid of water boatmen. Simply scoop them up and remove them from your pool.
- Clean and maintain your pool
- Skim the pool, brush down all pool sides, vacuum, and filter the water to remove water boatmen. Adjusting the water chemistry and applying pool shock can also help eliminate water boatmen.
- Remove their food supply
- The primary food source for water boatmen in a pool is algae. Regularly cleaning and maintaining your pool can prevent the growth of algae and reduce the number of water boatmen.
- Shock your pool
- Manually vacuum your pool, brush its sides, and put your water to the test. Shocking the pool can also help eliminate water boatmen.
How to Identify Water Striders
- Water striders are slender, dark-colored insects that are generally more than 5 mm (0.2 inch) long.
- They have a thin bodies and three sets of legs.
- The legs have tiny hairs that repel water and capture air. By repelling water, the tiny water striders stand on the water’s surface, and the captured air allows them to float and move easily.
- Water striders have shorter front legs that are used for catching and holding onto food.
- Water striders can be seen on the surface of calm or slow-moving water including your pool.
- They prefer ponds, vernal pools, and marshes.
- Water striders detect their ripples and eat insects and larvae on the water’s surface, such as mosquitoes and fallen dragonflies.
Do Water Striders Bite?
Water striders are not known to bite humans and are generally considered harmless. Although they can bite other insects, none of the water strider species are dangerous to humans. Their primary food source is smaller insects and other prey that can be found on the surface of the water.
How to Get Rid of Water Striders
- Use a soapy water mixture
- Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of household soap and water. Shake it well to dissolve the soap. Spray the water striders with soapy water. The soap prevents them from skating across the water and out of reach. Skim the water striders out of the pool with a pool net.
- Remove debris from the pool
- Quickly fish out all the rotten leaves and dirt. Water striders are attracted to bright lights, so set low voltage bulbs near the pool to prevent them from coming near.
- Skim the surface of the pool
- Use a pool rake to remove the dead bugs, including water striders and any other dead insects and foliage.
- Keep the pool clean
- Water striders eat other insects, so keeping the pool clean can prevent their growth. Regularly skimming and vacuuming your pool, and removing any debris, can help reduce the number of bugs attracted to your pool.
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How to Identify Backswimmers
- Backswimmers are slender, oval, streamlined water bugs that swim with long, oar-like hind legs that have fine hairs. They are usually boldly marked with patches of black, yellowish-brown, red, or white.
- The back of a backswimmer is keeled like the bottom of a boat and lacks narrow parallel lines.
- The backswimmer typically has a dark belly and a light-colored back, which makes them less conspicuous to predators as they backstroke around the water.
- Backswimmers can be light brown with large, reddish eyes, and have powerful, oar-like hind legs, which they use as paddles when they swim.
- Backswimmers swim upside-down and are lighter than water, so they rise to the surface after releasing their hold on the bottom vegetation. They may either leap out of the water and fly or get a fresh supply of air, which is stored in a bubble under their wings and around their body, and dive again.
Do Backswimmers Bite?
Backswimmers are known to bite humans if provoked or feel threatened. Their bite can be painful and may cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction in some people. Therefore, it’s important to take precautions when dealing with backswimmers and avoid provoking them.
How to Get Rid of Backswimmers
- Remove the cause
- Backswimmers lay their eggs in algae, so removing algae makes your pool less hospitable for backswimmers. If you can keep your pool algae-free, you’ll take away their food source. If you have a small infestation, use a skimmer to remove them manually.
- Use a pool net or skimming net
- This is an effective way to remove backswimmers from the pool. Simply scoop them up and remove them from your pool.
- Use a pool vacuum or filter
- Use a pool vacuum or filter to remove backswimmers and other insects from the pool.
- Apply insecticides
- Apply insecticides that target water bugs. However, it is important to follow the instructions on the label and use the insecticides safely.
- Keep lights away from the pool
- Backswimmers are attracted to bright lights, so keeping lights away from the pool can help reduce their numbers.
How to Identify Water Mites
- Water mites are small carnivorous arachnids that are fully adapted as adults to water. They are diverse aquatic invertebrates that provide potentially important ecosystem and economic services as bioindicators and mosquito control agents.
- Water mites are present in a wide range of freshwater habitats, but prefer to live in still waters, such as ponds, slow-moving rivers, and streams. They are found exclusively in freshwater habitats, meaning that they are only capable of living in places like streams, lakes, ponds, or rivers.
- Water mites are among the most abundant, diverse, and ecologically important arthropod groups in freshwater habitats like streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes.
- Water mites are more closely related to land-dwelling spiders, ticks, scorpions, and mites than they are to other aquatic macroinvertebrates.
- Water mites have a complex life cycle in which the larvae of most water mite species parasitize adult aquatic insects, such as mosquitoes, as the insect adult emerges from its aquatic pupal stage.
- Water mites have a similar way of feeding to other arachnids, such as spiders and ticks, which is by external digestion that results in a liquefied meal.
Do Water Mites Bite?
Water mites can bite humans, but it is not common. Water mites are carnivorous and feed on small aquatic animals, such as insect larvae and other small invertebrates. They may bite humans if they feel threatened or if they are accidentally touched or grabbed.
Water mite bites can cause skin irritation, itching, and redness, similar to other insect bites. However, water mites are not considered a significant health risk to humans, and their bites usually do not require medical attention.
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How to Get Rid of Water Mites
- Vacuum them up
- Use a siphon hose to vacuum up the water mites and their eggs from the aquarium. You can also use a net to remove them from the aquarium.
- Install a proper water filter
- Install a water filter in the fish tank or pool. If it’s powerful enough, it can effectively combat water mites.
- Raise the temperature and add salt
- Raise the temperature of the water in the aquarium or pool to 86°F and add aquarium salt until 1 tsp per gallon is reached. This can help kill the water mites.
- Use medicinal tablets and water changes
- Use medicinal tablets and complete water changes to get rid of mite infestations quickly.
- Shock the pool with chemicals
- Shock the pool with chemicals to kill the larvae and organic materials in it. Always skim the pool water before and after using chemicals.
- Use chlorine
- Use chlorine to kill water mites. Regular cleaning and replacing water can also help prevent and control water mite infestations.
Giant Water Bug
How to Identify Giant Water Bugs
- Giant water bugs are oval-shaped and quite large, reaching up to 2 to 4 inches in length.
- They have a pincer-like front appendage that captures and holds prey, and their rear legs are specially flattened and have tiny hairs (cilia) to help propel them through the water.
- Their body is mostly flat and oval-shaped with dark brown, ‘dead leaf’ coloring.
- They are typically tan or dark brown in color with oval, flat bodies, and have a short, pointed beak on the underside of their heads that is used for injecting prey with enzymes to digest their tissues.
- Giant water bugs are the largest members of the order Hemiptera and are altogether different from any cockroach.
How to Get Rid of Giant Water Bugs
- Use a flyswatter
- Use a flyswatter to kill the giant water bug if it’s inside your home.
- Remove the bugs
- Remove the bugs from the pool using a leaf rake or skimmer. Install a proper water filter in the pool. If it’s powerful enough, it can effectively combat water bugs.
- Eliminate their food source
- Eliminate water bugs by removing their food source in the pool, such as algae and microorganisms.
- Use a bug repellent
- Pour a few drops of liquid detergent into a spray bottle, mix it with water, and spray over the waterbugs and their nests. Alternatively, use a bug repellent to fix the problem of waterbugs. Prevent waterbugs from entering your home by getting rid of standing water.
- Use baking soda and sugar
- Use a 50/50 mix of baking soda and sugar to kill waterbugs. Waterbugs find the smell of this concoction unpleasant so they die when they come into contact with it.
How to Identify Springtails
- Springtails are not typically found in pools, but they are found in areas of high moisture and organic debris, such as damp soil or decaying logs.
- Springtails are not water bugs and do not swim or fly.
- Springtails are very small, typically only about 1/16″ long, and are typically black, dark brown, or dark grey. However, some species may be white or even brightly colored.
- They have a unique means of locomotion called the “springtail,” which involves a fork-like structure attached to the end of their abdomen that they use to jump up to several inches when disturbed.
- Most springtails are slender, elongated insects, but there is a group that is round and stout.
Do Springtails Bite?
If you find springtails in your swimming pool, there’s no need to panic as these insects do not bite or sting. However, it’s still best to remove them from the pool to maintain cleanliness and prevent their presence from attracting other pests.
Since springtails are not water bugs and do not swim, they may have entered the pool from surrounding areas of high moisture and organic debris, such as damp soil or decaying logs. So while springtails may be an unexpected sight in a swimming pool, they do not pose a threat to the health and safety of swimmers.
How to Get Rid of Springtails
- Soapy water
- Use a solution of water and detergent or dish soap to spray the edges of the pool and add a few squirts into the pool water. Soapy water will kill springtails instantly.
- Skim the pool
- Use a pool skimmer to manually remove springtails from the pool.
- Reduce vegetation
- Limit lush vegetation and mulch around the edge of the pool to reduce recurring springtail problems.
- Diatomaceous earth or neem oil
- Use diatomaceous earth or contact sprays made with neem oil as better solutions to get rid of springtails.
- Use a shop-vac
- Use a wet-dry shop-vac with a small amount of soapy water in its collection tank to vacuum up springtails inside or out. Use fans to dry the area and reduce moisture.
Predaceous Diving Beetle (Dytiscidae)
How to Identify Predaceous Diving Beetles
- Predaceous diving beetles have streamlined, oval-shaped body that is usually dark black, brown, olive, or greenish in color.
- Predaceous diving beetles can grow up to about 1½ inches in length (varies with species).
- They have a pair of thin antennae and three pairs of legs.
- Their hindlegs are fringed with hairs and flattened, useful for paddling and propelling the beetle forward in the water.
- They trap air between their wings and body before diving, prolonging their time underwater.
- They are strong fliers and can fly away to new water sources if the pond they are in dries up.
- They are attracted to light and are most active at night.
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Do Predaceous Diving Beetles Bite?
Predaceous diving beetles are not typically dangerous to humans, but they do have the ability to bite if carelessly handled. The bite of a diving beetle may cause a slight pinch or nip, but is not harmful to humans and does not typically result in any serious injury or illness.
Both adult diving beetles and larvae, also known as “water tigers,” are capable of biting people. However, their primary prey is other aquatic insects, small fish, tadpoles, and frogs.
While they may bite if provoked or feel threatened, they are not typically a threat to humans in or around swimming pools.
How to Get Rid of Predaceous Diving Beetles
- Collect them with a net
- Collecting them in nature using a sturdy, fine-mesh net is one effective method for removing them from a pool.
- Use an algaecide
- Use a swimming pool algaecide that contains non-ionic ethoxylate. This breaks the surface tension of the water, which allows diving beetles to sink and drown.
- Remove plants
- Predaceous diving beetles lay their eggs on and in plants above the waterline in early spring. Removing these plants can help control their population.
- Reduce water flow or aeration
- Predaceous diving beetles prefer quiet water at the edges of ponds and streams, so reducing the water flow or aeration in a pool can help discourage them from entering.
How to Identify Water Scorpions
- Water scorpions are aquatic invertebrates belonging to the family Nepidae.
- They are typically dark brown or black in color and measure about 25 to 52 millimeters (1 to 2 inches) in length.
- They have large, scythe-like front legs that are adapted for seizing prey.
- They have a long, thin, whiplike structure at their posterior end that resembles a tail.
- Water scorpions are able to swim by moving their front legs up and down and kicking the middle and hind pairs.
- They are ambush predators that feed primarily on other invertebrates, such as insects, spiders, and worms.
- They tend to hang out, usually head-down, on aquatic vegetation and in the detritus just off-shore.
Do Water Scorpions Bite?
Water scorpions are not typically found in swimming pools, and the chances of encountering one in a swimming pool are relatively low. However, if a water scorpion is present in a swimming pool, it is possible for it to bite a person if the person accidentally steps on it or handles it roughly.
Water scorpions have a short beak that is capable of piercing human skin, which can result in a painful sting. If you notice any unusual creatures in your swimming pool, it is best to avoid handling them and contact a pest control professional for assistance.
How to Get Rid of Water Scorpions
- Improve water quality
- Installing a good filtration system can help improve the quality of water and reduce the number of water scorpions in the water body. The ideal filtration can be done with the help of a sponge, under gravel, and corner filters.
- Use Pesticides
- Applying synthetic pesticide dust and wettable powder can help kill water scorpions before they enter the pool or other water bodies.
- Use natural remedies
- Some essential oils like lavender, cinnamon, peppermint, and cedar are said to deter scorpions and can be diluted with carrier oil to make a natural repellent.
- Remove habitat
- Removing aquatic vegetation and debris can reduce the number of hiding places for water scorpions. It is important to keep the area around the pool or other water bodies clean and dry.
How to Identify Thrips
- Thrips are relatively small, ranging from 0.5 to 5 mm in length, with most being 1 to 2 mm.
- They have a slender, cigar-shaped body.
- Thrips can range in color from pale yellow to black, and some predaceous species are brightly colored.
- Their wings may be present or absent, and when present, they are unique among insects, being long and narrow with fringe-like edges.
- Thrips are generally weak fliers, but they can be dispersed by wind and the transport of infested plant material.
- They are attracted to bright colors and may fly to human skin and clothing.
Do Thrips Bite?
Thrips can be attracted to swimming pools, especially if the pool is near plants that they feed on. While thrips are not generally identified as a biting pests, they are readily attracted to humans and can bite in search of moisture on the skin.
Thrips have piercing-sucking mouthparts that can cause slight irritation to the toes and feet if one walks through grass infested with them. However, thrips are not typically a concern for swimmers in a pool, as they do not pose a significant threat to human health.
How to Get Rid of Thrips
- Shock chlorination
- Use a shock treatment to eliminate thrips from the pool. This involves adding a large amount of chlorine to the pool to kill the thrips.
- Brush the pool floors
- Brushing the entire pool floors can help dislodge thrips and make them more vulnerable to chemicals and other treatments.
- Regular cleaning
- Regularly cleaning the pool and its surrounding area can help reduce the number of thrips in the pool.
- Vinegar can be used to get rid of thrips in pools, but it works better on other pool bugs such as gnats than on thrips
- Dish soap
- A solution of a couple of drops of dish soap with a cup of water can be sprayed onto thrips to eliminate them.
- Fly swatter
- A fly swatter can be used to physically remove thrips from the pool.
Swimming pool bugs are a common occurrence in water areas such as swimming pools and ponds. While some of these bugs can bite humans, most of them are harmless and do not pose a significant threat to human health.
It’s important not to panic if you see these bugs in the water and to remember that proper maintenance of pools can help prevent their presence. Regular cleaning, reducing vegetation and organic debris, and using insecticides or natural remedies can help control the population of these bugs and prevent further damage to plants and harm to swimmers.
Before getting into the swimming pool, it’s also a good idea to do a quick check of the pool for any signs of bugs or other pests. You can also use scents such as citronella or lavender to help repel bugs and make your swimming experience more enjoyable. If using public pools, taking a shower before getting in and avoiding swallowing pool water can also help reduce the risk of encountering these bugs.
By taking these simple steps, you can ensure that your swimming experience is safe, enjoyable, and free from the presence of swimming pool bugs.
What are the bugs swimming in my pool?
The bugs swimming in your pool can vary, but some common ones include water boatmen, backswimmers, water striders, water mites, giant water bugs and predaceous diving beetles.
Are water bugs in pool dangerous?
Water bugs in the pool are generally not dangerous to humans, although some species can bite if provoked.
Do backswimmer bites hurt?
Yes, backswimmer bites can be painful and may cause swelling and irritation.
What are the bugs in my pool that look like roaches?
The bugs in your pool that look like roaches are likely water boatmen and backswimmers.
How long can backswimmers stay underwater?
The time that backswimmers can stay underwater depends on the water temperature and oxygen levels, but generally, backswimmers can stay underwater for up to six hours.
How can I tell the difference between water boatmen and backswimmers?
Water boatmen have a flattened back, while backswimmers have a keeled back. Water boatmen swim with the dorsal side up and have a thin, silvery bubble of air, while backswimmers swim on their backs and have a four-segmented beak.
What is a pool mite?
A pool mite is a small arachnid that can sometimes be found in swimming pools. They are generally not harmful to humans but can be a nuisance.
Can baking soda get rid of water bugs?
Baking soda is not an effective way to get rid of water bugs in a pool.
Does vinegar keep water bugs away?
Using vinegar is not a good way to keep water bugs away from your pool.
Does apple cider vinegar repel water bugs?
Although apple cider vinegar can repel some insects, it is not an effective way to keep water bugs away from your pool. Proper maintenance and cleaning are the best ways to prevent their presence.
Resources – (for further reading)
Utah State University – Water Bugs – USU Extension
University of Maine – Water Striders Home and Garden IPM from Cooperative Extension