Massachusetts- Zebra Mussel Continues to Make News

Zebra mussels continue to appear in the news. In July, Massachusetts Fish and Game took emergency action by closing a number of western Mass public access boat ramps for 30 days as well as Quabbin Reservoir and then extending that closing to October 15th for contaminated Laurel Lake.

Here’s a cartoon from the 9/3 issue of a local Worcester Telegram FLASH.

The MPA views zebra mussels and other invasives as extremely serious. Back in 2002, the MPA realized the threat of zebra mussels as already in neighboring states. Our public access boat ramp as well as our three on-lake campgrounds means high boat traffic in and out of Manchaug. So in 2002, an MPA board member wrote and submitted a grant to the then DEM Lakes and Ponds Grant Program asking for matching funds to provide a boat wash station with a trained authority on duty at the public ramp to inspect boats coming on to the lake during the summer season.

Problem – the state wanted Manchaug to serve as a wash station for all the area lakes. Guess we had a good idea but, for this area it would have meant too much traffic, too small a ramp, and perhaps an increased risk to Manchaug. So, the idea was scrapped.

Since 2002 we have been told that the pH of Manchaug would not provide a favorable environment for zebras. Still look at what NOAA has to say:

“The rapid spread of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha ) across the United States is due to their ability to grow and reproduce in a wide range of environmental conditions, coupled with a free-living, planktonic larvae (veliger). When zebra mussels were first discovered in the United States, predictions concerning their habitat requirements were based on the European experience with these bivalves. However, zebra mussel populations in this country have consistently exceeded all expectations and predictions as to how fast they could grow, reproduce, and expand their range. Although many research projects are currently underway to delineate the ecological needs of zebra mussels in the United States, much of these results are not yet published.”

Seems the pH and the calcium content of western Mass lakes are just what these mussels like.

Here’s info from Mass DCR Lakes and Ponds Program:
1.2 Species Ecology

The habitat of the Zebra mussel is freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers. Zebra mussels are the only freshwater mollusk that can attach to solid objects, including rocks, logs, docks, boats and various water intake structures. They can also attach to aquatic plants.

Zebra mussels reach sexual maturity within 1 or 2 years and spawn at water temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (F). They can tolerate water temperatures from 32 – 90F with optimal being 63-74F for growth and reproduction. Zebra mussels require well oxygenated waters (8-10 parts per million (ppm)) with a pH of 7.4 -9.0 and calcium concentrations of 20 – 125 ppm.

The zebra mussel has three distinct life history stages: 1) larval; 2) juvenile; and 3) adult. Any one of these stages can be easily transported from one body of water to another. This is particularly true for the larval stage (veligers) because the larvae are microscopic and therefore not visible to the naked eye. The juveniles measure just a few millimeters in size. Therefore, both larvae and juveniles can be transported in tiny amounts of water on various watercraft including boats/trailers, kayaks, canoes, jet skis, etc. They can also be moved on SCUBA gear, swimwear, and other clothing used in the waters containing zebra mussels. People are not the
only way zebra mussels can be transported. Pets and aquatic wildlife such as waterfowl, turtles, crayfish, beaver, muskrats, and otter are also potential vectors for this species.

Lakes infested with zebra mussels include:

1. Laurel Lake, Lee/Lenox, Massachusetts

2. East/West Twin Lakes, Connecticut

3. Lake Champlain, Vermont

4. Lake George, New York

5. Hudson River, New York

6. Any of the Great Lakes

See the following publication for necessary decontamination measures if you have visited one of these lakes in the past 30 days.