Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and the related quagga mussels (D. bugensis) are invasive species that were introduced into U.S. waterways in the late 1980s. These aquatic creatures have infested waters through the careless actions of recreational users of waterways. The devastation they bring isn't just to local ecosystems – zebra mussels also damage boats. Protect your boat from zebra mussels by observing a meticulous maintenance routine designed to lessen their impact on your equipment.
Preventive Measures Against Zebra Mussels
Know your waterways. Check with your state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to find out if zebra mussels are a known problem in any given waterway. Even if there is no known infestation, it's still possible that the mussels have made their way into the water and have yet to be detected.
Because it's possible to transport zebra mussels on a variety of surfaces, it's important to inspect your boat for any obvious signs of infestation. Upon leaving waterways known to be infested, perform a thorough inspection and cleaning of your watercraft. Upon entering waterways suspected to be free from infestation, perform a similar inspection and cleaning to make sure you aren't bringing in any strays with you.
Inspection and cleaning of your boat must be thorough and detail-oriented. Drain all water from your craft, including water from the boat's cooling system. It's the same procedure that you observe to drain water before winter.
Remove all water, mud, plant matter and debris from your boat. This includes inside the engine compartment and the motor itself. Since zebra mussel larvae are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence, they're nearly impossible to detect. When left inside your boat's motor, they grow to adulthood and can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.
Removing Zebra Mussels
If your boat has been in infested waters for 24 hours or more or you're leaving an infested waterway for a clean one, it’s vital to thoroughly clean your watercraft. When cleaning zebra mussels and their larvae, the main ideas to observe are "cook them" and "remove them".
Proper removal is most easily achieved by using a pressurized power washer with water heated to 140 degrees or higher. These temperatures kill the mussels and their young within seconds, while the pressure of a high-powered sprayer removes them from your boat.
When cleaning your boat, do so on land after draining and drying your craft to prevent re-infestation.
Am I Zebra Mussel Free?
It's almost impossible to know for certain if your boat is free from zebra mussels. Take the proper precautions against them. High heat, low humidity and prolonged exposure to these conditions are the best bet at reducing the damage done by zebra mussels. Attention to detail and strict observance of recommended guidelines can reduce the damage done.
Even if all protocol for removing zebra mussels are observed, it's still possible for some to remain in or on your boat. Like any live pest, zebra mussels are tenacious and hardy. If in doubt, contact a qualified professional for assistance.
Keeping your boat safe from zebra mussels is a multi-faceted problem. In addition to these steps, consider preventive measures such as flushing the motor with a motor muff and applying antifouling paints and inline strainers to the cooling system. Additionally, consider removing your boat from the water when not in use or at least lifting the motor out of the water. When in doubt, seek assistance from your local department of natural resources or a qualified removal specialist.
~ VS Glen Community Support