How to Get Rid of Water Bugs

Two of the most common bugs in your pool are the backswimmer and water boatman.  These pests are in the aquatic insect classified under the order Hemiptera.  The bugs generally are not harmful to humans, although the backswimmer in particular can deliver a painful bite. Although most bugs feed on algae, the backswimmer feeds on the water boatman as well as other bugs. None of the bugs can live outside of the water for long periods of time, so getting rid of their food supply and nesting places stops bugs from living in the pool.

How to Get Rid of Water Bugs

To get rid of water bugs; attack their way of living.  Chlorine and shock treatments are not effective at killing them or controlling their population.  In order to eliminate them, one must better understand them and their preferred environments.

Water boatmen: are oval shaped bugs that do not bite, There food source is algae and minute aquatic organisms, they eat mosquito larvae and tend to eat small aquatic animals.


Backswimmers: have a streamlined body shape and DO bite (as painful as a horsefly), the backswimmer will come to the surface for air, a supply of which they carry down with them under their wings and between the fine hairs covering the underside of the body.


  • both water boatmen and backswimmers can fly.
  • both lay eggs in underwater vegetation, in a swim pools case, “algae”
  • both can be found in mud at the bottom of streams, pools and ponds.
  • both NEED to come up for air, if you hold them down under water they will drown
  • both for pools, lay eggs in the algae.
  • Water boatman swim right-side up; back swimmers swim upside down

The only way to get rid of them is to take away their food supply, for water boatmen its algae, for backswimmers its other water bugs such as water boatmen or water beetles. The first step is to balance your water chemistry of course, scrub the algae off of the sides and bottoms of pool, then add bleach or hydrogen peroxide to oxidize the algae.  With no algae in the pool, the bugs cannot and will not lay their eggs!

If you live in an area with irrigation or standing water areas, water bugs can migrate. Not only can they fly, they can crawl.  By adding Borax around the pool decking, it reduce the change of the bugs crawling from a ditch or puddle into your swimming pool.  But remember, they can fly.  This is why proper balance of water chemistry is important.  When they come to your pool and see there’s nothing to eat, they will leave.

If your pool does get away from you and you find waterbugs in your pool, then here is a simple treatment.  At night be sure to turn off all exterior lights surrounding your pool.  Put a spotlight at the deep end shining into your pool.  Add 2 or 3 teaspoons of liquid dish soap into the pool where the spotlight is shining.  The waterbugs will come up for air and be drawn to the light.  With the soap on the surface, they cannot penetrate the surface and will drown.  Just scoop them up the next morning.

Boatmen bugs or water hondjies can be persistent and annoying, but you can practice basic pool care, cover your pool, and also dim the lights.

That’ll not only remove the floating water boatman bugs but also other water bugs on the pool, including the tiny larvae, water hondjies on the pool and the organic debris.

I have read in some forums BioGuard brand Back-Up algaecide tends to work well and is fast acting.  This is not a pesticide by any means.  However, there are reports of buds dying off 24 hours after treatment.

Recap – being proactive and maintaining your water chemistry is the most effective way to keep water bus out of your pool.  When a population is established, one can use a liquid dish soap treatment or the Back-Up algaecide.


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