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A natural product to fight zebra mussels!

Biologists fear, zebra mussels have the potential to alter the habitat in lakes and disrupt the entire food chain of the lakes.

Scientists may have found a new weapon to protect aquatic ecosystems from zebra mussel infestations!

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) along with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and New York State Museum's Field Research Lab, are testing the safety and efficacy of a bacterium, called Zequanox to combat zebra mussels in open water.

Zequanox has already shown promise in controlling zebra mussels in closed industrial water systems such as power plant pipes.

Nathan Olson, DNR aquatic invasive species specialist stated, "This is probably the best product we have right now that's really selective for zebra mussels."

"And they've tested it on a number of fish species and other native mussels and some other invertebrates and insects and so you know compared to some of the really corrosive options that we have, such as chlorine or copper sulfate, things like that. This is probably the best product that's out there right now."

The zebra mussels treat Zequanox as food, which is a sly poison that gradually destroys their digestive system.

Biggest threat to local waters
According to experts, zebra mussels have infested inland lakes, sections of Lake Superior, the St. Croix River and the Mississippi River, including Lake Pepin.

The pests feed on plankton and carpet the bottom of the underwater surfaces with razor-sharp shells that cut swimmers' feet.

Biologists fear, zebra mussels have the potential to alter the habitat in lakes and disrupt the entire food chain of the lakes.

Experiment at Lake Carlos
In order to see if the bacterium is toxic to the invasive pests, researchers are using water from Lake Carlos in central Minnesota to ape a natural environment for zebra mussels.

The experiment began last fall, when scientists placed thousands of mussels into holding cages and submerged them in various parts of Alexandria’s Lake Carlos. They were allowed to sit for nine months and the zebra mussels attached to the mesh trays in the cages over the winter.

The mussels were removed from the lake and then immersed in a bath of zequanox and lake water for twelve hours. The pests treat Zequanox as food, which is a sly poison that gradually destroys their digestive system.

The zebra mussels will be placed back in Lake Carlos and removed after four weeks for a post-treatment evaluation to see how quickly they perish in their natural habitat.

"We're still doing it in a research setting, in a research trailer, there's no Zequanox being put into the lake," Olson said. "But they're actually still using lake water to at least mimic as much as possible what it would be like in a natural environment if you use this product."