Zebra mussels and a related species, quagga mussels, are fingernail-sized black-and-white striped bivalve mollusks native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia. They came to North American waters in international shipping ballast water and were discovered in Lake St. Clair near Detroit in 1988. Since then, zebra mussels have spread rapidly.
Zebra mussels can clog power plants, industrial and public drinking water intakes, foul boat hulls, decimate populations of native freshwater mussels, impact fisheries and disrupt aquatic ecosystems. Economic impacts of zebra mussels in North America during the next decade are expected to be in the billions of dollars.
Overland transport on boats, motors, trailers and aquatic plants poses one of the greatest risk for spreading zebra mussels. Larger adult zebra mussels can live several days out of water in moist, shaded areas. Boats that have been moored or stored for more than just a day or two in zebra mussel-infested waters may carry “hitchhiking” mussels attached to their hulls, engine drive units and anchor chains. Boats that have been in infested waters for only a day or two are less likely to transport adult zebra mussels. Microscopic zebra mussel velgers can survive in boat bilge water, livewells, bait buckets and engine cooling water systems, regardless of how long the boat has been in infested waters.However, they will die very quickly when their hiding places are warmed in the sun or when they “blow dry” on the highway on the trip home.
How You Can Help Prevent Zebra Mussels Spread
If you are a water recreationist (boater, angler, water-skier, scuba-diver, sailor or canoeist) there are some important things you can do to prevent the transport of zebra mussels and other harmful exotic species from one lake or river to another.
To report a potential zebra mussel sighting or for additional information, contact your nearest Missouri Conservation Department Office orThe Invasive Species Coordinator at Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180 or Phone: 573-522-4115 ext. 3371
Several Missouri Stream Teams already are helping by monitoring streams for zebra mussels. If you would like to join the effort, call (800) 781-1989 or visit the Stream Team web-site at MO Stream Team.