10 Tips to Prevent the Spread of Zebra Mussels throughout Missouri
Zebra mussels, one of the most notorious unwanted hitchhikers, have already
made their way into the Missouri , Mississippi , and Meramec Rivers . It is
up to every Missouri resident and tourist to keep from spreading these harmful
mussels throughout the rest of the state. Steve McMurray, mussel biologists
with the Resource Science Division of MDC states, “Aquatic nuisance species
such as the zebra mussel represent the next ecological and socio-economic threat
facing our natural aquatic ecosystems. While it is illegal to introduce new
aquatic nuisance species into Missouri waters, preventing the spread of zebra
mussels will require vigilance from all of us, citizens and tourists alike”.
Why are zebra mussels on the unwanted list?
- The fast multiplying zebra mussels attach and colonize on hard surfaces,
such as water intake structures used for power and municipal water treatment
plants. Unprotected docks, break walls, boat bottoms, engine outdrives, and
native freshwater mussels are also targets of zebra mussels.
- Zebra mussels consume considerable amounts of beneficial microscopic organisms
and this creates less food for larval and juvenile fishes that support native
fisheries and native freshwater mussels.
- Beaches are also affected by zebra mussels. The sharp-edged shells along
swimming beaches can be a hazard to unprotected feet.
- The potential for zebra mussels to spread is very high. These hitchhikers
can spread to other inland waters either in their immature form known as veligers
transported in water or as adults attached to boat hulls, engines, aquatic
weeds, or other surfaces. Veligers are small, about the size of the period
at the end of this sentence, and may be able to survive in any residual water
source. Adults are very hardy and can survive out of water for extended periods
depending upon temperature, humidity, wind, and sunlight. Maximum out-of-water
survival time in ideal conditions is about 10 days for adults and 3 days for
- Originally brought to North American waters in international shipping ballast
water and discovered in Lake St. Clair near Detroit in 1988, zebra mussels
have spread rapidly throughout the Great Lakes and connected waterways.
- Female zebra mussels can produce as many as one million eggs per year.
- The negative economic impacts of zebra mussels in North America during the
next decade are expected to be in the billions of dollars.
What can you do to Stop this Aquatic Hitchhiker?
The following are 10 tips to help protect your pocket book and Missouri waters.
For more information on stopping aquatic hitchhikers, go to www.protectyourwaters.net
or contact the Missouri Department of Conservation.
- Inspect. Thoroughly inspect your boat's hull, drive unit, trim plates, trolling
plates, prop guards, transducers, anchor, anchor rope and your trailers centerboards,
axles and rollers.
- Remove. Remove any visible zebra mussels, however small. If zebra mussels
are found, scrape off and trash suspected individuals. Also remove weeds and
mud, even the smallest of amounts.
- Properly Dispose. Left over bait or any thing unwanted items removed from
the boat should be properly disposed of in the trash and not thrown back into
- Drain. While on land and before leaving any body of water, drain water from
all parts of your boat and equipment such as the motor, live well, bilge,
transom wells, and bait buckets.
- Clean. Thoroughly rinse your boat, trailer and equipment. If you were in
known zebra mussel infested waters, use 104 ° F hot water and/or use the
high pressure hot water from do-it-yourself car washes to “de-zebra” your
- Dry. All parts of the boat should be dry before entering another body of
water. If you were in known infested waters, boats, motors and trailers should
be allowed to dry thoroughly in the hot sun for at least five days before
boating in another body of water.
- Run. If your boat is kept in infested waters, the best way to keep a hull
zebra mussel-free is to run the boat frequently. Juvenile zebra mussels are
quite soft and are scoured off the hull at high speeds.
- Up/Pump. When in zebra mussel infested waters, leave outboards or outdrives
in the up position and pump hot water through your engine's intake on a regular
basis to prevent growth inside the engine's cooling system.
- Identify the enemy. Learn what these organisms look like (at least those
you can see). If you suspect any new infestations of an exotic plant or animal,
report it to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
- Pass the word. If you know people who recreate on Missouri waters (particularly
those who boat in out of state waters or in the big rivers of Missouri ),
talk to them about the importance of following these procedures to protect