Just because you have a gorgeous, sparkling pool doesn’t mean just anyone can come over for a dip without an invitation (I’m talking to you, nosey neighbors!).
But it’s also important to see that big body of water for what it is: a big body of water, which many insects and animals might take for a massive drinking bowl, or even a home. Your water can draw in all kinds of critters including waterbugs, which are well-known to hang out in swimming pools.
What’s lesser known about waterbugs is that their presence in your pool signals a big problem: algae. And some of them are actually dangerous to humans. I’ll explain the two major types of waterbugs you might find in your pool, why they’re there, and how to get them out—and keep them gone.
Get Briefed on These Bugs
It’s in their name: these bugs love water. And while they might prefer natural bodies of water, such as ponds and lakes, your pool is a solid alternative for at least two waterbug types: water boatmen and backswimmers. And under the right conditions, these bugs can infest to the point of making your pool completely uninviting for human swimmers.
Our job today is to make sure that doesn’t happen, and nip the problem in the buggy bud. Because if these bugs are infesting your pool, it’s actually a sign that your pool is about to face a big problem.
But first, let’s break down the two main types of waterbugs you might find at your next pool party.
Boatmen are also known as corixids, and of the family Corixidae. They’re usually under half of an inch long, oval-shaped, have large eyes, and are brown or greenish-brown in color. Their rear legs are extra-long and hairy (cute, right?) which allows them to paddle on the surface of your pool water. It’s because of this paddling that boatmen have their name. In fact, their back legs can extend beyond their front legs to swim. Imagine having that kind of flexibility during your pool laps!
They also have wings and can fly—so watch out! Just kidding. Water boatmen can fly, but they’re not dangerous to humans. Their biggest use for pool owners is as a signal that their pool is facing some maintenance issues, namely, an algae infestation.
Backswimmers, on the other hand, are nasty sons of guns. They’re light-to-medium brown, long, and thin. Other than their color and shape, their anatomy is similar to that of boatmen. In fact, they’re mistaken for boatmen fairly often—and that’s not a mistake you want to make, since backswimmers can actually be dangerous to humans. The easiest way to tell if you’re dealing with a backswimmer or a boatman is whether the buggy bug is swimming upside down or right side up. If it’s swimming upside down, you’ve got (you guessed it!) a backswimmer on your hands.
These bugs can fly—and you should watch out for them. They bite humans, and those bites hurt. Some unfortunate victims compare backswimmer bites to bee stings. Thankfully, these bites aren’t poisonous, but you still don’t want them.
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Why Are Waterbugs in My Pool?
Scratching your head and wondering why waterbugs chose your pool in the first place? The answer is a little more nuanced than “they like water.” It all comes down to food source.
Boatmen eat algae, plant detritus, and mosquito larvae. Usually if they’ve found a home in your pool, it means you have an algae infestation. Sorry about that. In fact, they might even know that you have an algae problem before it starts to show—so props to them! It makes your job easier to handle algae in your pool before it goes into a full bloom.
You might not have algae because of a maintenance problem—sometimes it just springs up. But if you allow the algae (and the waterbugs!) to live in your pool for much longer, it will exhaust your sanitizer, throw your chemical balance out of whack, and generally make your pool less safe to be swimming in.
Meanwhile, backswimmers are nasty little predators. While they don’t eat algae, they lay their eggs in it. What they do eat is, sigh, our nice boatmen. And other bugs, too.
Are Bugs in the Pool a Bad Thing?
Sometimes it’s good not to disrupt the natural ecosystems that form in our backyard. It would be silly, for example, to try to evict spiders from the garden. Their food source includes the bugs that destroy our plants. They’re the good guys.
Waterbugs are different, but it’s not the boatmen’s fault. Boatmen are considered beneficial insects, just like the spider. But they attract backswimmers to your pool, and backswimmers can prove dangerous to humans. After all, they bite!
The presence of waterbugs is also unfortunate because of the algae problem they signal. You don’t want algae in your pool, and that’s the reason waterbugs come around. Unfortunately, these are just bugs you don’t want to see in your pool, ever. So let’s get them out.
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How to Get Waterbugs Out of The Pool—In Five Steps
Other than the initial eviction of waterbugs from your pool, this process follows the same steps for removing algae from your pool. That’s not a mistake. After you get rid of the waterbugs themselves, it’s important to remove their food source—which not only keeps them away, but also keeps your pool algae-free and safe to swim in.
1. Get Rid of the Bugs!
I’m not going to explain a very common method for killing waterbugs involving oil in a bucket, because it’s messy and gives them a slow, painful death. Instead, it’s better to simply use a skimmer on a telescopic pole to remove them from your pool and relocate them elsewhere. This applies especially if you’re dealing with boatmen, and not backswimmers. Once you get rid of their food source, they won’t be coming back.
2. Get Brushing
Next, it’s time to get all that algae, whether it’s visible or not, up and off of your pool walls and floors. Because algae is often microscopic, it’s important to brush every single surface area in your pool. The easiest and fastest way to do this is with the patented 360-degree bristles pool brush, which was designed by longtime pool professionals tired of the aches and pains associated with brushing hard-to-reach spots.
3. Manually Vacuum Your Pool
Because we’re dealing with algae here, this isn’t the time to use your robotic vacuum. And that’s unfortunate, because a robotic vacuum usually does the job for you! But when it comes to algae, using a robotic vacuum could potentially recirculate spores back out into your water. Use a manual vacuum on waste to remove all the algae material that you just brushed up in your pool.
4. Put Your Water to the Test
Next, it’s important to test your water to see if it musters up to the ideal chemical balance—but just pH and alkalinity. It’s important to get these two specific chemicals right, because that’ll help make sure this next step works. The ideal pH level is between 7.4 and 7.6, and the ideal alkalinity level is between 100 and 150 parts per million.
5. One Shocking Finish!
By shocking I don’t mean you’re going to catch your pool totally off guard. What I’m referring to here is pool shock, which you should be using every single week. But getting algae out of your pool is no routine shock job. You’re going to want to double your usual dose to two pounds for every 10,000 gallons of water your pool contains (you have calculated the size of your pool, right?). If you see algae or your pool has some ominously dark water, you can also triple the dose—so that would be three pounds for every 10,000 gallons of water in your pool.
Be sure to shock your pool at dusk or at night, since sun rays can break down its chemical compound and stop it from working. And don’t swim in your pool until the cloudiness your pool shock created is all cleared up. In fact, don’t swim in your pool until you have clear water and you’ve tested it using water test strips to make sure it’s safe again for swimming.
Need a Quick Fix?
It’s pretty rare that I can give you a quick fix to a pool problem, so better mention it when I can. While this won’t remove your previously undetected algae infestation, one way to keep waterbugs out in the short term is to use a solar pool cover. Not only will it warm up your pool, but it’ll keep waterbugs from floating on your water.
Be careful with this one. Because a solar cover increases the temperature of your water, it also makes your pool more inviting for algae. It’s better to get rid of the bugs and algae, and then use the solar cover as a prevention tool. Guess I didn’t really have a quick fix, after all! It’s better to do it right.
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Bugs be gone. From now on, it’s just you and your loved ones—and okay, maybe a neighbor or two—enjoying the clean waters of your pool. And you got a preemptive algae infestation out of the way! Now you can stop worrying about nasty bug bites and appreciate your pool. Once again, it’s all yours. Enjoy.