Last Updated: February 28, 2021

How to Get Rid of Water Bugs in Your Pool

Written By: Pool Care Guide

When pool owners have trouble with water bugs, those water bugs will almost always be either water boatmen or backswimmers. Many times, it will be both. If you want to get rid of these bugs permanently, you need to know why they are interested in your pool.

Solution - Break The Food Chain

The “circle of life” that we sing about is tied together by a giant food chain. One piece of the chain eats the next part of the chain. In your pool, you are seeing a prime example of this. If there are a lot of water bugs in your pool, those water bugs are a major indication that algae are also in your pool. 

Food Chain

Backswimmers EAT > Water Boatmen EAT > Algae 

Water boatmen are drawn to the pool because they eat algae. Backswimmers are drawn to the pool because they eat Water Boatmen. If you can treat the algae, it will break the first link in this part of the food chain and the water bugs will likely leave your pool alone.

Step 1: The Purge - Manually Remove the Bugs

This step, scooping the water bugs out of the pool, can be uncomfortable for some people. These insects might be called water bugs, but they do have wings. If the population is out of control, that can be a lot of flying bugs to confront.

There is a potential moral issue regarding how you dispose of these bugs. Some people will scoop the water bugs out of the pool and dump them into a bucket of water and oil. Other people will just scoop them out and toss them out somewhere away from the pool.

The oil will suffocate and kill the water bugs. It’s a permanent but effective solution. Setting them free, while humane, could allow a number of them to return to your pool.

Step 2: Manually Vacuum the Pool

There isn’t much to it, but you should do it manually. If you want to rid your pool of those tiny particles of algae, you need to treat the water and the surface. To that effect, manually vacuuming the surface is necessary to ensure that the entire pool is treated.

Step 3: Scrub the Surfaces

You’ve removed what you can with the vacuum. Now you need to scrub the surfaces, floors, walls, steps, and ladders, within the pool to release any algae that have managed to remain. This will expose most of the algae to the cleansing power of the upcoming pool shock. 

Step 4: Test if the Water is Chemically Balanced

If you want to get rid of water bugs that are in your pool, you will need to shock the pool. However, before we shock the pool, we will need to test the chemical balance of the pool. If there are water bugs, it is a strong indication that the chemical balance of your pool is out of whack. 

We want to pay special attention to the pH. If the pH is too high, it will disrupt the chlorine’s ability to do its job of attacking the particles of algae.

Step 5: Double Shock the Pool at Night

If you are a pool owner, you are likely very familiar with pool shocks. If you’re not, here’s a link to our guide on How to Shock a Pool. They should be a part of your weekly pool maintenance. This pool shock will be a bit different. Normal pool shocks are used as a preventative measure, but this pool shock’s purpose is to uproot an already present algae infestation. For this reason, we want to double the amount of pool shock that the product label prescribes. If the pool is heavily algae-infested, colored, and cloudy, you will likely need to triple or quadruple the pool shock.

You should perform this pool shock at night to get the full effect of the Chlorine for as long as possible. If unstabilized, Chlorine evaporates in minutes to hours in direct sunlight. Normally, when we add Chlorine to a pool, we use a Chlorine stabilizer. Those stabilizers impede evaporation, but they have the unfortunate downside of reducing the cleansing power of chlorine. We want the full effect of the Chlorine, so we don’t use Chlorine stabilizers for pool shocks.

Step 6: Run the Pool Pump. Stay out of the Pool

Turn on the pool pump to start disseminating the chlorine throughout the pool. Because Chlorine evaporates so quickly, you will probably be able to swim by noon the next day. However, play it safe and test the chlorine levels if you plan on swimming within 24 hours of performing a pool shock.

More Information on the Water Bugs

You know everything that you need in order to deal with the water bugs. If you want to know more about these water bugs, we invite you to continue reading. It can be useful to have a more complete grasp of the details of what they are, how to identify them, and the reasons why they are choosing to live in your pool. 

Water Boatmen

Common NamesWater Boatmen, Corixids
Scientific Family NameCorixidae
DietDetritivore, Omnivore (Algae, Detritus, Insect Fluids, Small Insects, Dead Insect Parts)
Native HabitatsFreshwater, Worldwide
Mating SeasonSpring, Mid-fall
Average Lifespan1 Year
Average Size2.5 - 15 mm (0.1 - 0.6 inches)
More InformationWikipedia

Water Boatmen belong to the family of aquatic insects called Corixidaes. They are extremely common and can be found pretty much everywhere around the world. They typically congregate around bodies of fresh water, but some species of Corixidae can also be found near salt water. If you live near water, you will need to stay on top of your pool chemical balancing. Otherwise, things can quickly get out of hand and your filters will clog from countless water bugs.

If you are looking at your pool right now and thinking, “I don’t have an algae problem. I have a bug problem.” you should definitely still test how balanced your pool chemicals are. The human eye, while useful, isn’t even close to being able to detect the small particles of algae to the same degree that these insects can detect. What might look like a clean pool to a human might look like a feast to Water Boatmen. Algae also happen to be used as a breeding ground where water boatmen can lay their eggs on the algae. Those eggs will hatch in one to two weeks, so this problem can multiply rapidly.

What Do Water Boatmen Look Like?

These aptly-named bugs have flattened shells that are shaped like boats with hind legs that act like oars. Their overall length is typically less than 13 mm long. That’s roughly ½” for American readers.

A set of wings upon the backs of these insects creates a small pocket of space between the wings and the shell. That small pocket can hold oxygen that can be breathed when the water boatmen submerge themselves. It’s a pretty neat design that unfortunately helps them to survive within the conditions of your pool.

What Do Water Boatmen Eat?

In addition to algae, water boatmen will feast upon microorganisms, plant debris, and mosquito larvae. If they didn’t clog up the filters and multiply so quickly, they might actually be nice to have around.

Do Water Boatmen Bite?

No, they do not bite.

Backswimmers

Common NamesBackswimmers
Scientific Family NameNotonectidae
DietAquatic Insects, Small Fish, Tadpoles
Native HabitatsFreshwater, Worldwide
Mating SeasonSpring, Summer
Average Lifespan2 to 6 Months
Average Size1.5 cm (0.6 inches)
More InformationWikipedia

These bugs are called Backswimmers, and they are from the family of Notonectidea (Backswimmers). They are predators and water boatmen are one of their favorite prey to hunt. That’s why these two water bugs tend to show up together. However, that’s not always the case. Water boatmen will colonize both fresh water and saltwater environments. Backswimmers only make homes in fresh water. 

What Do Backswimmers Look Like?

As you can probably see from the pictures, Backswimmers look a lot like water boatmen. They share similar capabilities and sizes. Their key differences are in coloration and shell shape. Backswimmers are often lighter in color. Their shells are oval in shape and convexly curved which is noticeably different from the flattened shells of the water boatmen.

As you might expect from the name, these crazy insects swim upside down on their backs. Looking at the picture, you should notice the two long hind legs that stick out from their center mass. Those legs are fringed with tiny little hairs that help to catch the water and propel the insect forward. 

What Do Backswimmers Eat?

Backswimmers are predators that eat both insects and other small aquatic life such as tadpoles and small fish.

Do Backswimmers Bite?

Yes, they will bite insects, animals, and humans. Those bites can be a bit more painful than a typical insect bite because those bites inject a digestive enzyme that paralyzes the victim. Fortunately, their design is optimized for small targets, so they can do very little to humans. The pain has been commonly compared to a bee sting.

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