What are they and how do I make them go away?
The Fishing Spider, due to appearance, is often confused with the Wolf Spider. This diurnal hunter can often be seen skating across the tops of swimming pools and, at times, diving beneath the surface. This aquatic arachnid feeds upon insects, tadpoles and fish. It is not uncommon for the Pool Operator to find one submersed in a skimmer basket. But, how can you tell if its a Wolf or a Six-spotted Fishing? That’s as easy as telling the difference between a ? “Happy Face” and a ☹️ “Sad Face”:
According to Spyderbytes, a blog dedicated to spiders, these predatory scuba divers (The six-spotted fishing spider) are able to “breath underwater” due to fine hairs upon their abdomens which they use to collect bubbles of air.
The backswimmer, as its name suggests, swims on its back. This predatory Hemiptera uses its long paddle-like rear legs to propell it through the water after prey. Its diet includes other aquatic insects, tadpoles, and fish. Sometimes referred to as a “water wasp”, this frequent visitor to swimming pools packs a painful sting. The backswimmer is able to breathe underwater by carrying an air bubble, which it replenishes from the surface from time to time, on its body.
The Toe-biter (giant water bug) is the largest of the Hemiptera. At over two inches long, this predator feeds on fish, frogs small turtles, and snakes. According to Scientific American, Once they seize their prey, they inject their poisonous digestive juices. Occasionally, these aquatic giants will grab hold of a human toe and unleash a powerful bite. The Toe-biter is able to breathe underwater by carrying an air bubble, which it replenishes from the surface from time to time, on its body.
Water Boatmen are primarily herbavores living off of algae and other aquatic vegetation, though some will feed upon mosquito larva. In an interview with Dailymail.com, James Windmill of the University of Strathclyde called the Boatman “the loudest animals on Earth” when referring to the sound they made compared to their small size. They are often confused with Backswimmers, but have no fear – these bugs do not bite people. The Water Boatman are able to breathe underwater by carrying an air bubble, which it replenishes from the surface from time to time, on its body.
Belostomatidae (AKA: Eastern Toe Biters); In Florida we call ’em “Alligator Fleas”
A little dish soap goes a long way. Hydrogen atoms have a bit of a positive charge that kind of makes water “sticky”. The hydrophobic portion of the dish soap forces these H2O molecules apart, reducing surface tension. By reducing surface tension we actually make the water “wetter”. Bugs that normally scurry across the surface suddenly find that they no longer have the ability to float. Bugs that come to the surface for air, suddenly can not breach the very surface. A couple of squirts will do. Dishwashing soaps are phosphate free now a days, so you’ll not create a whole other problem in the process as long as you don’t over do it (stay away from the antibacterial stuff). You’ll find quite a few commercially made products available for this purpose, I suppose putting “Water Bug Repellant” on a label vs. “Palmolive®” has more appeal in a pool store, but the supermarket dish soaps do come at a much lower cost. The dish soaps also make a great degreaser for cleaning your filter elements (though you could opt to kick it old school with some TSP for your filter cleaning).
All diagrams used are with written permission from Sheri Amsel, www.exploringnature.org:
Missouri Department of Conservation
Video credit – Adventures of a Pool Girl