Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
We’re in our Spring Fundraiser and you can help! Support KSMU programming today!

Boaters and Anglers Beware: Zebra Mussel Infestation a Growing Problem in Missouri

Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation
Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

The Missouri Department of Conservation is offering tips on how to stop the spread of an invasive species in several lakes around the Ozarks. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe has the details.

Zebra mussels are a relatively new invasive species in Missouri, but they are already causing headaches for the boaters and anglers who frequent certain lakes. Tim Banek is the Invasive Species Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“They can attach to motors that are left in the water and clog up screens for the water intakes and cause motors to overheat. They plug pipes and intakes of municipal and public water treatment facilities, reservoir dams. So they are responsible for billions of costs annually just to address the effects of zebra mussels in waters throughout the United States,” he said.

Banek said zebra mussels also filter up to a liter of water a day…and when they consume that water, they ingest the food that fish and other water creatures rely on for survival.  They weigh down marine equipment like docks and buoys, and they create drag on boat hulls, which means boat owners have to pay more for fuel and maintenance.  

Banek says the only option is to prevent the spread of the zebra mussels.

“Our main focus in Missouri right now is to try and contain them into the few places that we have them in Missouri,” he said.

As of now, those places are Lake of the Ozarks, the Upper Bull Shoals, Lake Taneycomo, and Lake Lotawana near Kansas City.  Banek said the mussels arrived in the interior waters of Missouri from the Mississippi River, which carried the mussels from the Great Lakes. The mussels arrived in the U.S. in the 1980s from Eurasia after they were  brought here by ocean ships. Banek offered three simple steps to boaters and anglers to contain the spread of zebra mussels.

“Clean, drain, and dry,” he said.

He said to first inspect the boat, then clean it with hot water and a pressure washer.  After draining the water, allow the boat to dry in the sun for at least five days. This will kill off any zebra mussel larvae or veligers, which are noticeable only under a microscope. Female zebra mussels can produce a million offspring a year, making it hard for researchers and scientists like Banek to combat the spread of the zebra mussels.

“You can unknowingly have zebra mussels veligers in your live wells or any time you get water into your boat and transfer that water to another lake and unknowingly be transferring zebra mussel larvae,” he said. 

Banek said that more information about zebra mussels is available at He encourages lake-goers to inform themselves and take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of this troublesome creature. For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.