How to Get Rid of Water Bugs in a Pool

Written by Michael Dean
June 23, 2023

scooping water bugs from a swimming pool

Bugs are an inevitable part of being outdoors, but some insects are more likely to become a problem when you own a pool. Specifically, water bugs that feed on algae and microorganisms commonly found in water sources.

While water bugs are not poisonous and are not likely to bite, most pool owners do not want to share their water space with these creatures. Luckily, removing an infestation of water bugs from your pool is pretty straightforward. Here’s my guide to getting rid of these annoying bugs from your pool.

Main Takeaways

  • Types of water bugs you’ll find in your pool include water boatmen and backswimmers.
  • Water bugs can get in your pool by flying, as they fly around in search of water bodies like pools .
  • To get rid of water bugs, you should skim, brush, and vacuum the pool, then shock the pool and check the chemical levels before vacuuming again.

Types of Water Bugs Found in Pools

There are two types of water bugs that are common in swimming pools. The first is the water boatman. The most docile of water bugs, these guys are just here to eat some algae and swim in your pool. The second is the backswimmer. Similar in size and shape to the water boatman, backswimmers are more predatory and are likely there to eat the other bugs in your pool.

Both water boatman and backswimmers belong to the order Hemiptera, the same as bugs like cicadas and aphids. Despite a somewhat similar appearance to cockroaches, these water bugs are not roaches.

Water Boatman

The water boatman is a true bug belonging to the Hemiptera order. These bugs have an elongated oval shape, similar to a boat, and both swim and fly. They have oar-shaped hind legs with hairs that equip them to be good swimmers, adapted for their water-loving environment.

Image by jeans_Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Like most water bugs, the water boatmen are darker on top and lighter on the bottom. This is because predators from above are less likely to see the dark color dorsal side of these bugs against dark waters. Similarly, in-water predators coming from below are less likely to see the lightly-colored ventral side of these bugs against the light-reflecting water at the top.

Water boatmen tend to have mottling on their dorsal side to blend with their natural habitat in ponds and swamp areas. While not the intended habitat, a swimming pool that grows algae has become another food source for this water bug.


Unlike the typically docile water boatman, the backswimmer is a predator. It pierces its prey and sucks out all of the bodily fluids. They like to feed on minnows and tadpoles, but in a swimming pool, they are likely there to prey on the water boatman.

Image by Xpda is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The backswimmer has three sets of legs. The front set catches prey. The middle set of legs holds and subdues the prey. And the rear set of legs is for swimming.

As you might guess from the name, the backswimmer’s claim to fame is that it swims upside down. As an upside-down swimmer, the color scheme of a backswimmer is the opposite of most water bugs. Its dorsal side is lighter in color, and the ventral side is darker in color.

How Do Water Bugs Get in a Pool?

Water bugs are pretty good at flying. They can get around and search for bodies of water to take up residence in. Water bugs prefer still waters like ponds and swampy areas. Swimming pools become an area of interest to these critters when algae is present.

Water bugs will collect on the surface of your pool and tend to swim in groups. They can be removed with a net, but they do fly, so removing them is only a temporary solution.

How to Get Rid of Water Bugs in Your Pool

If your pool is attracting a lot of water bugs, the culprit here is algae and microorganisms that exist in your pool. Thorough and regular cleaning and careful monitoring of pH and chemical levels will help make conditions less desirable for water bugs.

To get rid of waterbugs, you need to remove their food source. For boatmen, this means cleaning the pool of algae and maintaining appropriate chlorine levels. And for the considerably more pesky backswimmers, it just means removing the boatmen.

Here are the steps to remove water bugs from your swimming pool:

  1. Skim the Pool
  2. Brush the Pool
  3. Vacuum the Pool
  4. Shock the Pool
  5. Check Chemical Levels
  6. Vacuum the Pool Again
  7. Monitor and Maintain

Let’s review each step in more detail.

Step 1: Skim the Pool with a Net

Most species of water bugs and other undesirable creatures stay on the surface of the water. This means they are easy to remove by skimming the pool with a net. Start the removal process by collecting as many bugs as possible from the pool with a skimmer.

Step 2: Clean with a Scrub Brush

Next, start removing the food source that attracted the water bugs in the first place. Scrub all surfaces to remove algae, including the pool liner and ladders. Even if there is no visible algae growth, there may be other microscopic organisms, so be thorough in cleaning.

Step 3: Manually Vacuum the Pool

Once you have scrubbed the surfaces and loosed any surface particles, it is time to thoroughly vacuum the pool. Do this by hand so that you are sure to cover the entire pool. An automatic vacuum can be a useful tool to maintain cleanliness, but for the sake of a deep clean – go manual.

Step 4: Shock the Pool

A big part of chlorine’s job in a swimming pool is removing bacteria and microorganisms. Low chlorine levels may be why you have water bugs in the first place. The absence of chlorine allows algae to grow in pool water.

Shock the pool to eradicate anything left after a thorough cleaning.

Here’s my most recommended pool shock if you don’t have any.

In The Swim Calcium Hypochlorite Chlorine Granular Pool Shock

In The Swim has a reliable cal hypo shock that is effective and easy to use.

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I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at zero additional cost to you. This in no way impacts my research process or opinions.

Step 5: Check Chemical Levels

As previously mentioned, improper chemical levels are a likely culprit in creating conditions favorable to attract water bugs. After you have put the work into deep cleaning the pool, check your chemistry, and make adjustments as necessary.

Check the pH, alkalinity, and chlorine levels. You can use a pool water test kit to get the proper readings.

Step 6: Vacuum the Pool a Second Time

After the pool has been shocked and particles have had time to settle, complete a second thorough vacuuming of the pool. You might be able to get away with not doing this, but remember that microscopic bits of algae will get stirred up in the water and will eventually settle.

Step 7: Monitor and Maintain Pool Hygiene

The problem will only reoccur unless you step up your weekly pool maintenance. Make sure to regularly check your pool chemistry and practice good cleaning habits to keep the water bugs away. Water bugs are a nuisance, and keeping them out of your pool is as simple as eradicating their food source.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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How to Prevent Water Bugs in a Pool

Good cleaning habits and proper chemistry are the best way to deter water bugs from taking up residence in your swimming pool. These critters only show up when there is food, so taking steps to make conditions less favorable for algae and other microorganisms to grow in your pool is your best line of defense.

Algaecides are not typically necessary, but every environment is different. If you struggle to keep the algae out of your pool, adding an algaecide to your water is a viable option to maintain a bug-free environment.

The Takeaway on Water Bugs

Water bugs are not poisonous, but they are a little bit of a nuisance for swimmers. They come in search of food, and they feed on algae and microorganisms in the water. Regular cleaning and proper chemical balance to remove algae and other microorganisms will remove their food source, effectively removing the water bugs from the pool.

Do you have more questions about water bugs? Let me know; always happy to help.

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