How to Get Rid of Backswimmer Bugs in Your Pool

Backswimmer bugs, also known as water bees or water wasps, are predatory pests that bite humans. They can be identified by their body shape, legs, and eyes. To get rid of them in your pool, use a skimmer, shock treatment, scrub, algaecide, and monitor pH levels.

how to get rid of backswimmer bugs in pool

Are bugs deterring you from enjoying your pool to the max? Several types of bugs are drawn to pools, but the worst is the backswimmer bug.

Other names for these pesky pool mates are water bees or water wasps for their sting-like bite. If you identify them as the source of your pain, you’ll want to know how to get rid of backswimmer bugs in pool water.

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How To Identify Backswimmer Bugs

Backswimmer bugs are insects from the family Notonectidae in the Hemiptera order. They are related to stink bugs and intrusive garden pests known as aphids.

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They are considered predators and will bite humans when threatened.

Identifying a backswimmer bug is fairly simple. Here are a few characteristics to look for:

  • Body Shape: Their half-inch-long bodies are shaped like skinny ovals with tiny follicles along the pointed end that help to trap air. Their backs are semi-rounded and are white or clear for camouflage with the water’s surface from below. Their bellies are darker and appear like the bottom of the water from above the surface.
  • Legs: Their back legs protrude out from the belly when floating on their backs. They have tiny hairs along all their legs. Their other four legs resemble roach legs with joints and pointy tips. 
  • Eyes: Their eyes are large and set on either side of their head. They have compound eyes, which means they have multiple lenses.

It is common to mistake them for water boatmen bugs. They are very similar, except backswimmer bugs do not have black stripes along their back.

In addition, the water boatman bugs do not swim on their backs, and their bodies are all black.

Nesting and Preferred Habitats

When asking how to get rid of backswimmer bugs in pool water, it is helpful to know they like to nest in algae.

They prefer water bodies that are relatively still, like ponds and pools, so they can camouflage and have a better chance of getting their prey.

how to get algae off bottom of pool

They will stay at the surface of the water for very long periods of time due to an air bubble they create with the tiny hairs along their body.

Sometimes, they will hold onto an object under the water to stay partially submerged.

Steps to Getting Rid of Backswimmer Bugs

Before you begin with the following steps, ensure you have a bucket with soapy water, a skimmer, chlorine, a pool brush, a shock solution, and algaecide.

The goal is to eliminate them and keep them from returning by getting the pH in the pool to a point where algae cannot grow.

Step 1: Use a Skimmer

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Begin by using your skimmer to scoop the bugs out of the pool. Have a hot, soapy water bucket to discard the bugs immediately to suffocate them.

Step 2: Daily Shock Treatment

To get rid of the nests, you will need to shock the pool daily. If you shock the pool consistently, the scum in the water will break down from oxidation, making it easier to clean up.

Reference your pool filtration system handbook to find out the best way to do this.

Step 3: Scrub and Wash

Immediately after the shock each day, take the time to scrub the pool walls and floor. When you scrub, the algae will come off the surfaces and break down in the oxidized water.

This eliminates any nests and eggs. Any backswimmer bugs still remaining in the pool won’t have any place to lay eggs. This step is crucial to breaking their life cycle.

Step 4: Algaecide Treatments

Now is the time for the algaecide. Now that you’ve scooped, shocked, and scrubbed, you want to keep your pool from getting algae again by putting chemicals called algaecides in the water. 

The most common type of algaecides is polyquaterniums. They are relatively harmless to people but are effective in preventing algae from building up and offer a no-foam solution for pool owners.

If you prefer to use a natural source that is less dangerous to people, copper salts and colloidal silver are both effective. Just beware of staining your liner with the colloidal silver application. 

Step 5: Filter for Several Hours

Run your filter to disperse the shocking chemicals evenly. Even before you run the system, change the filter.It’s advised to give the filtration system at least 8 hours to push the treatment around the pool fully. This will ensure the algaecide will effectively kill off any potential growth.

Step 6: Continuous Monitoring is Key

Consistently check the pH level of the water in the pool. When it gets out of balance, it will become a perfect breeding ground for algae, inviting the backswimmer bug right back into the pool.

These steps should be followed daily for at least a week, if not a little longer.

Although it is time and money-consuming, knowing how to get rid of backswimmer bugs in your pool will save you money over hiring a pool company to do it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even if you know how to get rid of backswimmer bugs in pool water, you might still have questions about what to do after treatment. Here are a few answers to the most commonly asked questions.

How will I know when the backswimmer bugs are gone, and I can stop daily treatments?

Treatment should be executed every day for a week, and then maintaining the pH level will ensure the bugs don’t come back. Additionally, eliminating the food source of a pest will help avoid a return.

What do backswimmer bugs feed on?

Backswimmer bugs mostly consume mosquito larvae and other insects, such as grasshoppers.

Can backswimmer bugs fly?

Yes, they can fly, which is why it is important to maintain a good pH level. Since these bugs can fly, you may need to look at the environment around your pool and consider treating other areas as well.

Should I treat other standing water areas near my pool to avoid breeding?

Yes, you can use Borax for areas of standing water, such as a gravel skirt around the pool.

Of course, when treating anything in the environment, it is of good conscience to use natural products (if possible) to ease the damage to the habitats around it.

Are there natural products to use for shocking?

Yes, natural enzymes have become available at pool and spa stores. Just be aware that natural methods may take longer to be as effective as commercial chemicals.

Especially if you decide to use natural products for shocking and other treatments, you must be extremely vigilant after the treatment process is finished. There are several things to consider doing routinely moving forward.

Helpful Resources for How To Get Rid of Backswimmer Bugs in Pool Water

Wildlife Trusts is a great resource for learning more about the backswimmer bug. You can learn about their nesting patterns and times when they are most active so you can use a proactive approach to keeping them out of your pool.

Your local pool and spa business is another great resource to turn to when you need to ask a question. They can point you in the right direction for chemicals and tools if you feel lost about what to use. (If you don’t know where to look or need guidance on what pool chemicals to use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has safety information for public use.)

More FAQs

How do you get rid of backswimmers in your pool?

To get rid of backswimmers in your pool, start by using a pool skimmer to remove any visible bugs from the water. Additionally, apply an algaecide, such as calcium hypochlorite, on a weekly basis to eliminate any remaining algae that may attract backswimmers. Finally, spray Supreme IT to further deter and control these pests.

What eats a backswimmer?

A variety of predators eat backswimmers, which are piercer-predators that feed on the bodily fluids of their prey. These predators include both invertebrates and vertebrates, such as small fish, tadpoles, and even tiny fish fry. However, backswimmers also face competition from small fish for their choice of food. In turn, larger fish prey on backswimmers.

What kills pool parasites?

Pool parasites are killed by chlorine or salt water (sodium chloride), which is commonly used by many pool owners to eliminate bacteria, viruses, and contamination. Both chlorine and salt water are effective in preventing the growth of algae and eliminating other germs and microorganisms through a chemical reaction.

How big do backswimmers get?

Backswimmers typically reach a length of less than 15 mm (0.6 inch) and utilize their elongated bodies and oarlike legs for propulsion.

Does algaecide really work?

Algaecide does work to some extent, although the exact mechanism behind its effectiveness remains uncertain. It is worth mentioning that if you reside in a region with elevated metal levels and have filled your pool with such water, there is a potential risk of oxidation, which can lead to staining of your pool.

Why is there a backswimmer in my pool?

There is a backswimmer in your pool likely due to an algae problem. To address this issue, you can use an algae brush to scrub the pool’s floor and walls, which will help loosen up the algae and make it easier to remove.

Will shocking pool get rid of backswimmers?

Rewritten answer: Shocking the pool will not effectively eliminate backswimmers or control their population. Instead, it is important to understand their way of living and preferred environments in order to effectively get rid of these water bugs. Chlorine and shock treatments are not sufficient for killing or controlling backswimmers.

What keeps water bugs away?

Water bugs can be kept away by taking several steps to prevent them from entering your home or garden. To do this, you should remove any standing water near your home, such as puddles or birdbaths. Additionally, it is important to seal any cracks or crevices around windows and doors. Installing screens on windows and doors can also effectively keep water bugs out.

What is the difference between a backswimmer and a water boatman?

The difference between a backswimmer and a water boatman is that backswimmers have a keeled back that is usually a light color and does not have the crosslines commonly found on water boatmen. Additionally, the front pair of legs on backswimmers is not scoop-shaped. Furthermore, backswimmers swim on their backs, while water boatmen swim with their dorsal side (or “back”) facing upwards.

What is the weird water bug in my pool?

The weird water bug in your pool is likely a water boatman. Water boatmen are oval-shaped bugs that do not bite. They are called water boatmen because of their boat-shaped bodies and oar-like legs. These bugs are usually less than 1/2 inch in length and swim in rapid, plucky movements.

What kills water bugs instantly?

Water bugs can be killed instantly by using boric acid, which acts by dehydrating and eliminating them upon contact.

What kills water bugs fast?

Water bugs can be killed quickly by using food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE), which is a well-known treatment. DE is safe to use around children and pets, as it is all-natural. However, it is important to take precautions and avoid inhaling it. DE is effective in eliminating water bugs, but for even better results, CimeXa is recommended.

What do backswimmers look like?

Backswimmers have a slender, oval shape and a streamlined body, resembling water bugs. They use their long hind legs, which are oarlike and covered in fine hairs, to swim. The back of a backswimmer is keeled like the bottom of a boat and does not have narrow parallel lines. Typically, these creatures swim in a back-downward position, or belly-up.

How do you keep water bugs out?

To keep water bugs out, you can prevent their entry by removing any standing water near your home, such as puddles or birdbaths. Additionally, seal any cracks or crevices around windows and doors, and install screens on windows and doors as a barrier against water bugs. If any water bugs have already entered your home, you can use insecticides to eliminate them.

Are water bugs harmful?

Water bugs are not typically harmful, but they can bite if provoked or accidentally stepped on. While their bites can cause severe pain, experts generally do not consider them medically dangerous.

How do you get rid of water boatmen and backswimmers?

The way to eliminate water boatmen and backswimmers is by shocking the pool. By removing their source of food, which is algae, you can effectively get rid of these aquatic pests.

Where do water bugs in my pool come from?

Water bugs in your pool come from the fact that pools provide a suitable environment and a food source for these insects. Backyard pools often contain white algae, which serves as a primary food source for aquatic insects, attracting both big and small water bugs to your pool.

What fish eat backswimmers?

Trout and other freshwater fish eat backswimmers, and fly fishermen attempt to imitate these insects by using artificial “flies”.

What causes boatman bugs in pool?

Boatman bugs in pools are caused by the presence of algae. The reason you may see water boatmen in your pool is because they are aware of the existence of pool algae before you are. To remove these water bugs from your pool, the most convenient method is to use a skimmer. It is important to note that since water boatmen can fly, they may quickly fly away once you have scooped them out of the water.

What is biting me in my pool?

I will provide a rephrased answer to the question: “What is biting me in my pool?”Answer: Back swimmer bugs are the probable cause if you are experiencing bug bites while swimming in your pool. The bites from these bugs are not highly toxic, but they can feel similar to bee stings depending on their size.

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