There’s nothing worse than enjoying a nice dip in the pool, only to be confronted by something big and bug-like swimming next to you. Waterbugs come in many shapes and sizes and can be annoying to deal with. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to keep them out of the pool.
Understanding why water bugs are attracted to your pool is the first step in figuring out how to deter them. By and large, keeping your pool clean, balanced, running, and in good condition will deter most nuisance critters like water bugs. There are also some more targeted approaches that will keep water bugs out of your swimming pool.
Below, we’ll go over several easy tips to keep waterbugs out of your pool. But first, let’s talk about why waterbugs are in your pool.
- Water bugs come in many shapes and sizes and are adept swimmers that can infest your swimming pool.
- Knowing what attracts water bugs to your pool will give you an idea of how to eliminate them and prevent them from coming back.
- Keeping your pool area neat and tidy and keeping up with pool maintenance are easy ways to repel waterbugs.
Here’s Why Waterbugs Are Attracted To Your Swimming Pool
There are a couple of reasons waterbugs are attracted to swimming pools, but the most common reason is to find food.
Algae can attract water bugs to a swimming pool due to the nutrients and shelter it provides. Water bugs, such as backswimmers and water boatmen, are drawn to the presence of algae as it serves as a food source and a habitat for their young.
Algae growth in a swimming pool can create an environment that supports a diverse ecosystem, including insects that thrive in and around water. Additionally, the presence of algae can provide cover and protection for water bugs, making the pool a more attractive environment for them to inhabit.
A few waterbugs are predatory, such as the giant water bug and backswimmer. They may be attracted to your pool because there are other bugs or spiders in the pool that they hunt. Flies are a big food source for these bugs, and are easy prey when they fall into your pool. Check out how to keep flies out of your pool here to remove this valuable food source away from water bugs.
When other insects inadvertently fall into the pool and become trapped, they can serve as a readily available food source for water bugs. The abundance of prey in the pool can act as a strong attractant for water bugs, leading them to frequent the area in search of food.
Mosquitoes are a source of food for water bugs, so make sure to keep them out of your pool! You can read our guide on easy tips to keep mosquitoes out of your pool here.
Lights can attract water bugs to swimming pools due to their phototaxis behavior, or in other words, their attraction to light. Many aquatic insects, including water bugs, are naturally drawn to light sources, exhibiting positive phototaxis, which means they are attracted to light.
When swimming pools are illuminated at night, the artificial light can act as a beacon for water bugs, guiding them toward the pool area. Additionally, the reflection of light on the water’s surface can further enhance the attractiveness of the pool to these insects.
Nearby Water Sources
Waterbugs prefer standing water with plenty of vegetative cover to ambush prey. If you have a pond or puddles of stagnant water nearby, it could attract waterbugs to your pool. The lack of water flow in stagnant areas allows these insects to conserve energy while foraging and mating.
Stagnant water provides a stable and undisturbed environment, which is conducive to the development of algae, bacteria, and other microorganisms that serve as food sources for water bugs. Additionally, stagnant water often accumulates organic debris, such as fallen leaves and decaying plant matter, which can further support the aquatic food web and provide shelter for water bugs.
Debris At the Bottom Of the Pool
Water boatmen will dive into the water, stir up debris, and feed on whatever pops out. If you have dead leaves at the bottom of your pool, it may attract water boatmen. Other water bugs are attracted to debris as well. It provides them with food and hiding spots.
The decaying leaves, dead bugs, and other debris in the pool can be like a buffet for water bugs, giving them plenty of things to eat. These bugs also like to have places to hide and feel safe, and the debris can provide them with good hiding spots. So, if there’s a lot of stuff at the bottom of the pool, it can make the water bugs want to hang out there because it has everything they need to survive and thrive.
Eliminating these attractants is a BIG first step in keeping waterbugs out of your pool. Who wants to share their swimming pool with a bug? No one! Let’s move on to what type of waterbugs are most likely to be in your pool.
3 Common Waterbugs Found In Pools
When it comes to finding a more-legs-than-necessary THING in your pool, you probably care little about what kind of THING it is.
However, knowing what type of bug you’re dealing with can help in the long run to eliminate them from the pool for good. Certain bugs are attracted to certain things, and if you can identify what type of bug you’re dealing with, you’re better equipped to repel them.
The three waterbugs that are most commonly found in pools include:
|Water Bug Type
|What They Eat
|How to Tell Apart
|Giant Water Bug
|Brown or black, elongated body, pincer-like front legs
|1.5 to 4 inches
|Small fish, insects, tadpoles, amphibians
|Largest of the three, distinctive pincer legs
|Dark brown or black, oar-like hind legs for swimming
|0.2 to 0.5 inches
|Small aquatic insects, tadpoles, small fish
|Swim upside down at water surface, distinctive legs
|Brown or olive, long oar-like hind legs for swimming
|0.1 to 0.2 inches
|Small insects, algae, small aquatic organisms
|Swim right-side up, distinctive long hind legs
Let’s check them out in a little more detail so you can properly identify what bug is invading your swimming pool.
Giant waterbugs are straight from a horror film, and no one can change my mind! They are called giant for a reason, reaching sizes up to 3 inches long, though more commonly they are only one inch (only?!).
They have front legs that appear pincher-like and a flat brown body that’s often confused with a cockroach. Texas A&M University leaves us with the horrifying fact that giant waterbugs can catch prey that is 50 times their size, meaning they can and will catch fish. Yikes!
Unfortunately, giant waterbugs can be found almost anywhere and can survive freezing temperatures by diving deep underwater and using caches of air bubbles they store beneath their wings to breathe.
Oh, and they can fly.
That being said, they typically prey on tadpoles, crabs, frogs, and lizards. Humans are not on the menu!
Most aquatic bugs have a specific coloration that helps them evade predators: a dark top and a light belly. This way, predators looking down can’t see them as well against the dark water, and predators looking up miss them because of their light bellies against the light sky.
Backswimmers are a little backward, having a light top and a dark belly. The reason? They swim upside-down! These strange bugs use flattened legs to paddle as they wade across the surface.
Backswimmers are like giant water bugs in that they are predatory. They will go after tadpoles and small fish and have been known to give a painful bite to those who wander too close.
It is hard to mistake these bugs for other waterbugs because of the backswimmer’s enormous hind legs, which it uses to paddle.
Unlike giant water bugs and backswimmers, water boatmen lack the proper mouthparts to attack prey and suck out the insides. They mostly feed on algae and debris, but they can and will eat solid prey.
Water boatmen are smaller than giant water bugs and backswimmers, making them easy to identify by size alone. They are usually found clinging to vegetation while underwater.
The most likely reason that water boatmen are in your pool is due to algae or debris in the pool.
7 Tips To Keep Waterbugs Out Of Your Swimming Pool
Nobody wants to share their pool with bugs. To keep these creepy crawlers out of your pool, there are a few things you can do.
The first step is identifying what kind of bug is floating in the pool. Then identify why it’s in your pool. The last step is to take measures to deter said bug. Usually, taking away the bug’s source of food is enough to keep it out of the pool. After all, if there’s no food, the bug can’t survive.
Eliminating food sources isn’t a guarantee that waterbugs will stay out of the pool though. In addition to taking away their food, you’ll need to practice some basic yard and pool maintenance to get these pests to buzz off for good.
Let’s get to it!
1. Keep Your Swimming Pool Balanced
Anyone who takes care of a pool knows how much work goes into it. Make sure the water is balanced in terms of PH, alkalinity, and sanitizer (chlorine), among other parameters. When everything’s running smoothly, swimming pools are great, but as soon as the chemicals get out of whack, it’s enough to make you crazy!
To keep your swimming pool balanced, the first step is to test the water. Easytest’s 7-Way Pool Test Strips tests for bromine, total alkalinity, pH, free chlorine, total hardness, cyanuric acid, and total chlorine. Test strips are a great way to monitor if your pool is in tip-top shape and to see what’s missing or what you have too much of.
If your pool already has algae growing, you may need to use an algaecide like Clorox Pool & Spa Green Algae Eliminator. This product can be used as a treatment or as weekly prevention.
2. Cover Your Swimming Pool
A pool cover can go a long way in preventing migrating waterbugs from landing in your swimming pool. This is especially important in the fall when certain kinds of waterbugs migrate from stagnant wetlands to deeper water to overwinter.
An article in the Journal of Ecosystems found that as many as 12,000 tons of water boatmen migrate from wetlands to rivers in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada and the United States every fall. That’s a lot of bugs!
If your pool stays open all year, consider getting a cover that sits over the top of the water. Nighttime is the best time to cover your swimming pool. Waterbugs are more likely to be flying at night when electric lights attract them to the air. Make sure to keep standing water off your pool cover as well, as this could be another attractant.
3. Get Rid Of Standing Water Around The Pool
If you have a low spot in the yard and have been putting off fixing it, now is the time to do it! Anything near the pool that contains stagnant water will attract water bugs.
Giant waterbugs, backswimmers, and water boatmen all prefer stagnant water over fast-moving water.
When it rains, yards are built to feed water to a roadside drainage system or natural waterway. If it’s not, then there are usually a few different things that could be wrong:
- Clogged pipes: check out the drainage pipes near your yard (if you have them) and make sure they are clear of leaves and other debris.
- Sinkholes: Occasionally, pipes underground will burst and create soft spots and sinkholes in the yard. This will need to be fixed by a professional.
- Poor drainage: Sometimes, it’s just too wet for the soil to absorb any more water. If you have a persistent problem area, try building a small drainage ditch that leads to the natural drainage system.
The reason stagnant water is such an attractant is that it mimics water bugs’ natural habitat. If there are ponds and puddles in the yard, they may fly off at night and find their way into your swimming pool.
4. Use Borax Traps For Crawling Waterbugs
Not only do waterbugs swim and fly, but they can also crawl around on the ground. This happens most often in large parking lots where the bugs are attracted to electric lights. This can happen on the pool deck too!
Dusk and dawn are the most likely times when waterbugs will crawl on the ground. This is when they are climbing out of the pool to get ready to take flight or coming back from a night of scaring the life out of people as they fly by. Either way, they may crawl in or out of the pool and be on the pool deck. This is when borax comes into play.
You can create an enclosed borax trap that will attract waterbugs but keep the borax contained so that it never enters the pool. Place the traps on the pool deck at night and remove them in the morning. Repeat this until the waterbug problem is gone.
How To Make A Borax Trap
To make a borax trap, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Place a light source in a plastic container such as a battery-operated candle or flashlight. Leave the container open at the top so that waterbugs can fly inside.
- Step 2: Sprinkle powdered borax or boric acid inside the container. Make sure the light source can still be seen.
- Step 3: Place the trap on the pool deck in the evening. Try to eliminate other sources of light, such as the pool light or deck lights. We want waterbugs to be attracted to the plastic container, not your porch or pool!
- Step 4: Check and remove the traps in the morning.
The waterbugs will be attracted to the light, crawl in the container, and probably ingest at least a bit of borax, which is all it takes to rid yourself of water bugs.
As an alternative to powdered borax, you can use products such as Zap-A-Roach 2pk, Boric Acid, which are rated to eliminate water bugs as well.
5. Use Soapy Water To Keep Water Bugs Out Of The Pool
This option is great to try if you already have water bugs in the pool and you want to get them out. This is not the best option if you do not yet have a problem with pesky water bugs.
Soapy water is an all-around bug eliminator. It can be used on almost any insect with instant results. Using soapy water on water bugs is a bit more difficult since you can’t just pour a bunch of dish soap into your swimming pool! Instead, we’ll have to get a bit creative.
To use soapy water, you’ll need a pool light or a way to shine light onto the pool’s surface. You want to shine a light in a small circle of water no larger than 1 foot in diameter if possible. Pour a bit of dish soap on the surface of the water where the light is shining. The idea is to attract the water bugs to the surface of the water with the light and then let the soapy water do its thing.
This tactic is best done at night when the light will be the most attractive.
6. Remove Sources Of Light Around The Pool
We mentioned a few times now that water bugs are attracted to light. In fact, giant water bugs are just as often called ‘electric light’ bugs because of their attraction to light. We can use this to our advantage!
We talked about using lights to attract water bugs to traps, but we can also eliminate lights to make our swimming pools less attractive to water bugs. If you have a pool light but are not using the pool at night, switch the light off. Turn off any lights on the deck if they are not in use and avoid bright lights in the pool’s vicinity.
Alternatively, you can use lights that are less attractive to flying insects like water bugs. An article in the Journal of Ecology and Evolution found that amber lights were less disruptive to nighttime fliers than bright white LED lights that are typically used in outdoor lighting.
Yellow and amber lighting are just as affordable and are available online. Feit Electric A19/BUG/LED 60W EQ Non DM LED Light Bulb can replace any normal 60W outdoor light.
7. Keep Your Swimming Pool Clean
A clean pool means there’s no algae or debris to attract water boatmen. As a bonus, if you can keep water boatmen out of the pool, this will help deter giant water bugs and backswimmers as well since these predatory water bugs hunt water boatmen!
To keep your pool clean and free of debris, be sure to sweep it once a week, run the pool, and empty the skimmer often to keep it free of old leaves and other materials.
What To Do If You Find Waterbugs In Your Swimming Pool
Finding anything in the pool that doesn’t belong can be a nuisance, not to mention a headache. But when they have six legs and are actively swimming, it can be downright unsettling. Who knew bugs could swim?!
If you happen upon a water bug in your swimming pool, you can fish it out with a net that you probably have to remove leaves. Most water bugs are big enough that they will not fall through the net and you can simply dump them over the side or place them in soapy water.
If you scoop it out and realize it’s not a water bug but a beetle, you can read about some easy ways to keep beetles out of your swimming pool here.
That’s A Wrap!
Water bugs can be annoying pests, terrible swimming partners, and something you certainly don’t want in your swimming pool.
Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to repel those pesky aquatic bugs and keep them out of your swimming pool for good.
To recap, here are a few tips to keep waterbugs out of the swimming pool:
- Keep pool chemicals balanced
- Cover pool when not in use
- Eliminate pools of stagnant water around the swimming pool
- Use borax traps around pool decking
- Place soap on water and shine light at night
- Avoid lights around the pool at night
- Eliminate pool debris
If your pool is swarming with waterbugs, you may have to consult a professional to get it figured out. Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a professional near you.
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