Why Are Water Bugs in Pools?

Water Bugs Quick Answers:

  1. What kind of bugs live in swimming pools?
  2. How do you get rid of water bugs in your pool?
  3. How do I keep bugs out of my pool?
  4. Keep Testing for a Clean Pool

When planning a pool party, the more the merrier! Unless your guests are water bugs, that is. These cute little critters are an occasional side effect of having a pool – and a good incentive to keep your pool clean. There are two main types of pool pests to look out for, and a few different prevention steps you can take during your routine pool maintenance.

What kind of bugs live in swimming pools?

The two main types of water bugs in pools are as different as can be, but the way to remove them (and the reason they take up residence in your pool) are the same. 

Water boatmen

a water boatman bug underwater eating algae
A close up of a water boatman eating algae in a pool that you wish you never saw.

Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

Boatmen bugs skim across the surface of your water and feed on the algae in your pool. If boatmen are showing up, you almost certainly have algae in your pool somewhere – even if you don’t see it. Boatmen are vegetarians, and the only reason they have to visit your pool is to eat the algae, which is a main food source in their diet. 

These bugs are beetle-like and might be mistaken for cockroaches. Water boatmen have flat, oval-shaped bodies and antennae. They are very dark brown or black, but that’s where the similarities end. The boatman’s antennae are not as large as cockroaches, but their bodies are three times larger than cockroaches. 

Water boatmen are not venomous and do not bite, so the only risk to you or your pool is an aesthetic one. You might even see them as a helpful indicator that you’re dealing with an algae issue and it’s time to clean your pool.

Backswimmers

a backswimmer bug swimming in dirty green water
The one good thing about these bugs is that they will eat the other bugs in your pool. However, if you didn’t have other bugs, then you wouldn’t have these bugs either. Keep your pool clean!

Backswimmers are the other swimming bugs that might turn up in your pool. These bugs are the boatmen’s main adversary. Backswimmers are carnivores, and their diet consists mainly of boatmen and other small bugs such as mosquito larvae. 

These bugs are long, thin, and a light- to medium-brown color. Their back legs are longer than their other legs, and they also have wings to fly. Backswimmers don’t grow larger than ½ inch long, and the primary way to identify them is their swimming style – they swim upside-down, floating on their backs, like a boat!

We also suggest avoiding the use of high-wattage light bulbs near the pool area at night. If you live in a place that has lots of insects during the warmer months, then these lights will only attract more bugs, including water striders and mosquitoes.

three strider bugs striding across the surface of water
We don’t know about you, but we definitely don’t want to see these bugs taking over our pools at night. 

How do you get rid of water bugs in your pool?

Even knowing that boatmen don’t bite, you may not want to keep them around in your pool. Both water boatmen and backswimmers can breed, meaning if you don’t take care of them, their numbers could start growing quickly. Algae is the main reason for both of these bugs. Backswimmers may not eat the algae, but they do lay their eggs in the algae, as do boatmen. 

That’s why getting rid of the algae should be your main focus when looking to ward off these bugs. The process of removing algae is simple, but it does take time and effort.

1. Skim and scrub

The first step you should take is to remove all the bugs, algae, and debris you can with a pool skimmer. After you remove everything from the top of your pool, use a vacuum to pick up as much sediment and debris from the floor and walls of your pool. Lastly, using an algae brush, you should scrub all the surfaces of your pool to loosen any algae that has stuck there. There may be sediment in your pool water after this process, but the next step will kill it.

2. Test the Water

If you’ve read any of our other posts, you’ll know how much we recommend testing your water. Our handy pool calculator app on iOS or Android will help you find the right amounts of chlorine, alkalinity, pH levels, and more before shocking your pool. 

3. Shock your Pool

Shocking your pool with chlorine will kill any remaining algae that are in your pool at this point. To keep your pool clean and healthy, we recommend shocking your pool with chlorine once a week with 1 pound of calcium hypochlorite shock per 10,000 gallons of water. In fact, whenever your chlorine drops below 3ppm, it’s a good time to shock your pool. 

When you’re trying to get rid of algae and bugs, you will need more calcium hypochlorite to take care of the algae and bugs that have invaded your pool. When fighting algae, we recommend doubling the amount of shock you add to the pool. If your pool is very green, you may want to add three or four times the amount you usually would. Another tip to remember when shocking your pool is to add the shock at night, so you’re not fighting the sun’s UV rays that limit the power of your chlorine.

4. Remove the Algae

Water bugs love to eat algae. After you shock your pool, run your filter pump overnight for 8 hours to clean out the algae. Once you wake up, you may need to brush and vacuum the pool to remove any remaining algae. Remember, both of these bugs rely on algae to survive, so the quicker you kill and remove the algae, the better chance you have of eliminating the bugs. 

How do I keep bugs out of my pool?

Now that you’ve cleaned any live or dead bugs and algae out of your pool, we want to avoid having to repeat the process, if possible. This is where testing your pool and cleaning it regularly is essential. Weekly chlorine shocks should already be added to your schedule, and skimming the top of your pool for extra debris and algae are critical first steps. 

Your chlorine level should be testing at 5, but UV rays and rain can lower the effectiveness of chlorine. So again, anytime your chlorine drops below 3, it’s time to shock your pool. Chlorine tablets can help keep these levels up as well. 

Some people may recommend using algaecide or even trying the Magic Eraser in pool skimmers trick to remove the algae in your pool. While these hacks may seem like an easy fix, keeping your pool clean is always the best option to keep the bugs away. 

Keep Testing for a Clean Pool

Testing is a crucial part of pool cleaning. If daily testing doesn’t work with your schedule, make sure to test each time your pool changes. You should always be testing your pool water chemistry after rain showers, cleaning your pool, or adding any chemicals. It’s also a good time after the pool sees a lot of activity – like a pool party or the kids’ friends coming over. 

To make pool maintenance a breeze, try the Pool Calculator app – available for desktop, and as a mobile app for iOS and Android. We’ll help you stay on top of pH, alkaline, chlorine, cyanuric acid, borate, salt, calcium, and other crucial pool chemistry levels. Some of these are more important than others, but knowing the levels of chemicals in your pool, and how they are interacting with each other, is the best way to keep your pool healthy and clean. 

Sources:

https://poolonomics.com/water-bugs/

www.poolcalculator.com/how-to-shock-a-swimming-pool-or-hot-tub/

www.swimuniversity.com/water-bugs-in-pool/

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