Dont Move A Mussell

Zebra mussel cluster. Photo taken by D. Jude, Univ. of Michigan.


zebra mussel

Zebra mussels are a related species to the quagga mussels, native to the Caspian Sea. They were transported to North American waters during international shipping and were first discovered in Lake St. Clair near Detroit in 1988. Since then, zebra mussels have rapidly spread throughout the Great Lakes and connecting waterways. As of now, zebra mussels have invaded the Mississippi, Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers along with recently being spotted in Texas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and California.

Female zebra mussels can produce as many as 1 million eggs per year; developing into free-swimming, sand-grain-sized larvae that promptly begin to form shells, then attach to any firm surface such as a rock, metal, rubber, wood, docks, boat hulls, native mussels, and aquatic plants. Zebra mussels impose such a problem due to the fact that they clog power plants and drinking water intakes, also having an impact on the freshwater aquatic ecosystem of native mussels and fish.

Fully developed zebra mussels can live for several days out of water in moist, shaded areas; presenting a great risk for spreading with the overland transport of boats with hitchhiking mussels attached to hulls, motors, trailers, and anchor chains. Boats in infested waters for less than a couple days are less likely to transport zebra mussels. However, microscopic zebra mussel larval can survive in bilge water, live wells, bait buckets, and engine cooling water systems, regardless of how long the boat was in infested waters.


It is illegal to transport harmful exotic species in some states and provinces. If you are a water recreationist there are some important tips to prevent the transport of zebra mussels and other exotic species from one body of water to another.

-Inspect all areas of your boat: trailer, rollers, bunks, axel, hull, prop, motor, anchor, dock lines, live wells, and bilge. Scrape off any suspected mussel & remove all weeds hanging from the boat or trailer before leaving any body of water.
-Drain all water from your boat while on land before leaving any body of water.
-Discard unused bait on land; leftover live aquatic bait that has been in contact with infested waters should not be taken to uninfected waters.

Close-up view of a split section of pipe clogged by an infestation of zebra mussels, May 1990. The hands belong to fishery biologist Don W. Schloesser with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the mussels are an invasive species first detected in the Great Lakes two previously. (Photo by Peter Yates/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

-When you arrive home thoroughly rinse all parts of the boat that got wet while in infested waters with a high-pressure sprayer if attached mussels are found use hot water.
-Dry the boat thoroughly in the sun for at least five days before taking out again.
-If you have a boat in a slip, run the boat frequently to keep a hull mussel-free; periodically inspect hull and drive unit and scrap off mussels. Leave motors in the up position if possible. Pump hot water through the engine’s intake regularly to prevent mussel growth.
-Learn what these organisms look like and report new infestations to your natural resource agency.

For more information on zebra mussels, a real-time map of sightings, or to report a sighting
visit U.S. Geological Survey



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