Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
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Quagga Mussels

In addition to the zebra mussel, there is a relatively new invader, the quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis), which is also impacting the health of our lakes. The two look similar with black stripes on tan bodies, but the quagga mussel has a rounded or oval-shaped shell. By most accounts, both species act similarly, however, while zebras primarily live in warm, shallow water, the quagga also lives in deep, cold water. Whereas the zebra can only colonize on hard surfaces, the quagga has the ability to colonize and thrive on both hard and soft substrates including sand, silt, and pebbles. Additionally, the quagga mussel feeds all year round, even in the winter when its cousin the zebra mussel is dormant. The quagga mussel also has a rapid rate of reproduction with a single mature female producing over one million eggs in a spawning season. These factors mean that the negative impacts from the quagga mussel will be substantially greater to our waters than those of the zebra mussel. While the extent of adverse impacts is still unknown due to the limited amount of time the quagga mussel has been living in the Great Lakes, there is already fear that these little creatures will be much more threatening to the health of our waters.

Once a rare find, quagga mussels are now becoming the dominant invasive mussels. In just a few years, they have completely decimated their cousin the zebra mussel. Recent studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratories prove that quagga mussels are rapidly gaining dominance in our Great Lakes. In a 2000 survey, zebra mussels made up 98.3% of mussels collected in Lake Michigan. By 2005, the quagga mussel population had accounted for up to 97.7%.

What you can do to prevent the spread of this invasive species

  • Learn to identify quagga mussels
  • Inspect and remove aquatic plants and animals from boat, motor and trailer.
  • Drain your livewells, bilge water, and transom wells before leaving the water access area.
  • Rinse boat and equipment with high-pressure hot water (104° F),
    especially if moored for more than a day, or dry everything for at least 5 days
  • Report sightings of zebra mussels to Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
    by calling (231) 347-1181 or by e-mail at info@watershedcouncil.org .


Tiny mussels are invading the Great Lakes, threatening the health of the waterways and the livelihoods of fishermen. Ash-har Quraishi of WTTW Chicago reports.
WTTW, Chicago - November 23, 2011 - Run Time: 8 minutes.
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council • 426 Bay Street, Petoskey, MI 49770
PH: (231) 347-1181 • Fax: (231) 347-5928 • www.watershedcouncil.org
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