How to Get Rid of Water Bugs in Your Pool and Keep Them Out

It’s a gloriously warm day – you know, the kind that’s perfect for spending hours doing nothing but lounging about in the pool and soaking in the sun. So you head to your pool, only to find out that you’re not the first one there – several uninvited guests are already having a pool party!

Water bugs will be a problem for most people at some point – they are unavoidable to a large degree. But there are some things we can do to get rid of water bugs and to prevent water bugs becoming a problem in the first place.

Bugs can be a serious problem in the pool for a range of reasons. If these critters are taking up precious pool time, here’s all that you need to know about water bugs and getting rid of any in your pool!

water bugs in swimming pool

What Are Water Bugs?

The chlorine, pool stabilizer and other chemicals in your pool do a pretty good job of keeping your pool water clean but when it comes to bugs you need some other techniques.

However, you know what they say about trash and treasure – what may throw off some things may attract others. Water bugs, unfortunately, belong to the latter category, chilling, eating and recreating in your pool.

As the name suggests, water bugs live in not just pools, but all bodies of water, such as ponds and other natural water bodies. Two types of water bugs especially, seem to love swimming pools, thriving in them – water boatmen and backswimmers.

Needless to say, these bugs breeding in your pool is not only gross but also unhealthy; therefore, eviction is a must.

I have a series of article aimed at getting rid of or keeping different pests out of your swimming pool:

Some might appear quite funny – an article about peeing in a pool being dangerous at first forces a smile. But in reality these things can be unhygienic at best and often pose a threat to your health! On with the water bugs!

Water Boatmen

Slim and oval in shape, these bugs, also known as corixidae, have a bark that’s much worse than their bite – in fact, they don’t even have a bite, so to speak!

Generally brown or greenish-brown in color, with large eyes, these bugs grow to be around half an inch long and get their name from their rear hair-fringed legs that help them paddle and stay afloat.

These bugs can also fly, but again, don’t let that freak you out, as these bugs are neither poisonous nor given to biting.

Though these bugs aren’t really harmful, having them around is just gross. Water boatmen can turn out to be beneficial since they feast on stuff that you try to keep out of your pool (such mosquito larvae, algae and water microorganisms), but that doesn’t lessen the gross factor!


Earning their name from the fact that they swim on their backs, these bugs have oar-like legs, similar to water boatmen, except that they’re longer.

Backswimmers are the bad guys – though they do feed on other insects (including water boatmen) and can keep your pool clean-ish, they will bite you any chance that they get. Though their bite isn’t poisonous, it can really hurt, much like a bee sting.

Backswimmers are long and thin, generally growing no more than half an inch long and like water boatmen, can fly.

Since they look extremely similar to water boatmen, many folks confuse the two – unless you know your bugs really well, the only way to distinguish is to see whether they’re swimming upside down. If they are, it’s an attack of the nasty backswimmers!

Getting Rid of Waterbugs

Fortunately, getting rid of water bugs isn’t all that hard. The most obvious solution to any pest nuisance is to remove their source of food and make the pool inhospitable for them. In this case that means getting rid of algae and maintaining the pool.

The following steps will help you get rid of water bugs:

Skimming the Pool: Neither of the bugs live in the depths; since they hang out on the surface, a net skimmer will help get rid of them.

Brushing the Pool: Algae and scum, as we’ve established already, are the foods of choice for water bugs. These can form on the surfaces of your pool, so ensure that you regularly scrub down these surfaces to prevent the formation of any algae spores waiting to bloom. After skimming your pool, brush the surfaces.

Vacuuming the Pool: If you’ve already skimmed and brushed the pool to get rid of debris and algae, use a vacuum and gather up anything loose that’s left behind on the surfaces.

Shocking the Pool: If you’re shocking your pool, this means that you’re adding chlorine / non-chlorine chemicals to the pool to increase the level of ‘free chlorine’ in the pool, to kill or prevent the formation and growth of contaminants such as bacteria, chloramine and algae which can cause green pool water.

Using calcium hypochlorite to give your pool a shock will complete the process of killing anything left behind from the previous pool-cleaning steps.

Balancing Pool Chemistry: 24 hours after the shock, check your pool’s pH, alkaline and chlorine levels. All three need to be in balance and a pool chemistry kit will help you test and set this balance right, if required.

Using Sodium bisulfate is one way of keeping your Ph levels in check.

Vacuuming the Pool Again: Though this isn’t necessary, you can vacuum the pool again to ensure that there’s absolutely nothing left behind for water bugs to feed on. Vacuuming the pool again also helps in case the shocking process killed anything that you hadn’t managed to kill.

Keeping Water Bugs Out of Your Pool

When it comes to keeping your pool in top condition a good pool maintenance program is almost always the answer to any problem! Prevention is always easier than a cure so follow these good practices and help prevent waterbugs becoming a problem in your swimming pool:

Maintaining the Right Chemistry Levels: The most important thing to do to keep away water bugs is to maintain the right chemistry levels in the pool. This discourages the growth of algae and eliminates the bugs’ main food source.

The pH level should be between 7.4 and 7.6, chlorine between 1.0 and 3.0 ppm and alkalinity between 80 and 140 ppm.

Daily Pool Skimming: With a pool skimming net, skimming your pool daily gets much easier. This removes any debris and algae spores from the pool surface and prevents water bugs from breeding.

Liquid Dish Detergent: This may sound a little incredulous, but a combination of dish detergent and water is an excellent way to repel and even kills bugs naturally. The soap changes the water’s surface tension, making it hard for bugs to float on the water. You can also spray a little around the pool area for extra efficiency.

Algaecide Use: Like a pesticide, algaecide keeps away algae and bugs.

Keeping Your Pool Covered: When you aren’t using your pool, keep it covered. This is one of the most effective ways to keep out unwanted visitors and their food source.

Maintaining the Pool Pump: If your pool has been seeming quite murky, or if the chemistry in the pool refuses to stay balanced, the problem may lie in your pump. Check for any buildup or mechanical problems in the pump and clean the filters regularly, too.

Keep the Pool Lights Off: Just as porch lights attract tons of insects, pool lights underwater attract insects.

In Summary

Water bugs can be all kinds of annoying, unhealthy, dangerous (at least in the case of the backswimmers) and just plain gross. The key to keeping your pool clean of these bugs is to keep it free of algae and you can achieve this by keeping your pool clean.

Keep the pool chemistry in balance, too. Try to skim your pool daily, if nothing else and you’re sure to see the bug-free results that you want!

michael keenan author

Author - Michael Keenan

I'm Michael Keenan the owner and creator of the Outdoor Care Guide. I'm a trained horticulturist with over 30 years experience in pool care, plant care and landscape care! Seemed like a good idea to share - I think I can make your life easier and save you some time and money!