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Help keep Lake George free of Zebra Mussels
ęDave Brenner/Michigan Sea Grant
ęDave Brenner
Michigan Sea Grant
Help keep Lake George free of Zebra Mussels

Zebra mussels are a nuisance species. In infested waters, they clog water intake pipes, cling in crusty masses to boat docks and buoys. They steal food from native mollusks, disrupt the fragile ecosystem and much more.

The mission of LakeGeorge.net in preparing this information is to help prevent the spread of zebra mussels into beautiful Lake George.


Nearby Glen Lake has an established growth of zebra mussels, and to the north Lake Champlain has a healthy population of them also. The closeness of these lakes and the ease of trailering small fishing and pleasure boats makes the spread of zebra mussels into Lake George a real danger.


Zebra Mussel
What Are Zebra Mussels?

The zebra mussel is a small freshwater mollusk, native to the Caspian and Black sea region of Eurasia. In the late 1980's, the Zebra Mussel was first identified in the United States in the Great Lakes region. Two species of zebra mussels have been introduced to North America. "Dreissena polymorpha", otherwise known as the "zebra mussel," and "Dreissena bugensis", also known as the "quagga mussel". Minimal to no differences exist between the two mussels concerning impact or control, however the quagga mussel can occupy colder, deeper water. It is believed that the emptying of ballast water from commercial transatlantic ships introduced the mussel into the Great Lakes. Since then, zebra mussels have spread throughout the interconnected waterways in the eastern U.S. and were confirmed in Lake Champlain during the summer of 1993.

How do I identify a Zebra Mussel?

Zebra mussels are 2 inches or smaller (usually no larger than 1 inch), with elongated shells marked with alternating light and dark bands. Markings can range from entirely white to nearly all black.

The Zebra Mussel attaches to any hard surface and native fauna such as crayfish and clams, and these native fauna many die.

Click on an image for a larger version.

Zebra Mussel

Zebra Mussels
attached to clam
Zebra Mussel's Life Cycle:

Zebra mussels may live from 2 to 5 years. Sexual maturity is reached after approximately one year, with a shell length roughly one half inch. The rapid spread and abundance of zebra mussels can be partly attributed to their reproductive cycle. An adult female zebra mussel may produce up to one million eggs per year. Egg release begins when water temperature warms to about 54░F, peaks around 74░F, and continues until water temperature cools below 54░F. Veligers are planktonic (suspended in the water column), are about 40 microns in length, and can be carried great distances by water currents. Within 2-5 weeks the veligers become too heavy to remain planktonic, therefore settling out of the water column.

At this stage they must attach to a firm surface. Zebra mussels will attach to any nontoxic hard surface including wood, vinyl, glass, rubber, fiberglass, rooted aquatic plants, paper, concrete, iron, steel, even native clams. Zebra mussels attach to these surfaces by a tuft of strong, elastic, known as a byssus, or byssal threads. Byssal threads are secreted from a gland in the foot, protrude through the two halves of the shell, and a sticky "glue" at the end helps anchor the mussel to hard surfaces.Veligers that don't settle on firm surfaces at this time will die.

Water Supply Impacts:

Zebra mussels can clog the intake pipes of industrial/water facilities such as the water supply plants along Lake Champlain. Similar effects can occur in small lakeside residential water systems and agricultural irrigation systems.

Recreational Impacts:

Zebra mussels attach themselves to the hulls, engines and other submerged parts of moored boats. Popular swimming areas become abandoned when storm driven waves wash decaying mussels onto beaches, causing horrendous odor and litter problems. Historic sunken ships and other artifacts can become completely obscured by colonies of zebra mussels growing on them. Native species are negatively affected by the Zebra Mussel invasion.

How You Can Help Prevent The Spread of Zebra Mussels:
  1. Zebra mussel prevention and control is up to the boating community. Learn about the mussel, how it spreads, how to identify it, and the threat it poses, and share this information with others.
  2. Drain bilge water, live wells, engine cooling systems, bait buckets, and any other water from your boat and equipment.
  3. Inspect your boat's hull, drive unit, trim and trolling plates, prop guards, anchor, and trailer; scrape off and trash any suspected mussels, and vegetation.
  4. Trash leftover bait at the launch site; leftover live bait should not be taken from infested to uninfected waters.
  5. Before launching into unaffected waters, thoroughly flush the hull, drive unit, live wells, bilge, trailer, bait buckets, engine cooling water system, and other boat parts that got wet in infested waters, using a hard spray from a garden hose. Use hot water if your boat was in infested waters for a long period of time (Temperatures above 130°F are lethal to zebra mussels). DO NOT use chlorine bleach.
  6. Adult zebra mussels can live several days out of water if they are sheltered in moist, shaded areas; kept wet, they may survive for more than a week! Dry the boat in the sun for at least four or five days before launching into uninfected waters.

What if I find Zebra Mussels?

If you find the thumb-nail sized zebra mussel, remove a sample, try to save it in a zip lock bag or crush resistant sealed container with water. Write down the exact location, date and time that it was found, and bring your specimen to a marina or mail it to:

Darrin Freshwater Institute
5060 Lakeshore Drive
Bolton Landing, NY 12814.

You may also report any Zebra Mussel sightings in Lake George to the LGA at 518-668-3558 or the Darrin Freshwater Institute at 518-644-3541.


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