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I’ve been trapping leeches with success. Will the rest die this winter or do I need to continue next spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’ve been trapping leeches with success. Will the rest die this winter or do I need to continue next spring?

Q: I’ve been trapping leeches with success. Will the rest die this winter or do I need to continue next spring?

Bernie – Muskegon, MI

A: Those little bloodsuckers sure steal the fun, don’t they?

Hitching a ride with waterfowl, amphibians, small mammals—even your muck boots—leeches love living in mucky debris at the bottom of your pond. They settle in and wait for worms, snails, insect larvae, small water-loving animals and even humans to cruise by. When something looks tasty, they’ll use their suction cup-like mouths and teeth to latch on and feed on their blood.

Leeches aren’t necessarily bad for your pond or lake—in fact, they’re an important part of the food web. But they can be a nuisance, particularly if you use it for swimming or water sports.

Death by Winter Frost

During the winter, leeches don’t die. They ball up and burrow in the mud just below the frost line, nice and cozy, where they hibernate through the cold temperatures. In the spring, they’ll return to their bloodsucking ways.

If temperatures fall below freezing where you live, one wintertime leech-control trick is to manipulate the water level in your pond. Drop the water level at least 4 feet after ice has started to form on the pond. This will freeze the leeches that were living in the shallow underwater mud. It’s an effective method, but it could also kill other aquatic life burrowed in the mud.

Controlling Leeches

Sure, they’re part of the ecosystem, but no one likes climbing onto the dock with their legs covered in leeches, right? There are several ways to trap and control those bloodsuckers.

  1. Capture them in tiny traps. Punch leech-size holes in a coffee or aluminum can with a lid, bait it with raw chicken or fish heads, and position it in a shallow area of your pond. When the leeches climb in for a meal, they can’t escape because their full bellies will prevent them from exiting. Remove the can once it’s full and repeat until the leeches are gone.
  2. Control them with leech-grubbing fish. Your finned friends will savor the protein-rich treats. Fall is the perfect time to add more fish to your pond—and leech control is a perfect excuse to boost your game fish population. Red-ear sunfish are particularly fond of leeches.
  3. Destroy their habitat. Because leeches live in the muck and detritus in the shallow areas of your pond or lake, keep up with weed maintenance so you’re not creating a hospitable habitat for them. Remove shoreline vegetation with weed removal tools, cut and rake out dead organic debris from the water and add natural bacteria to break down the muck.

Pond Talk: How do you control leeches in your lake?

Cut Through Tough Pond Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28” Weed Cutter

I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Q: I have a lot of leaves blowing into my pond. Will the bacteria still work this time of year?

Austin – Breesport, NY

A: Leaves. There’s really no getting around them. Every fall, those deciduous trees drop their colorful foliage and leave behind a headache for those who have to clean them up.

Natural bacteria will do a great job breaking down the fallen leaves in your pond or lake – but only when water temperatures are above 50° F. Take your pond’s temperature with a pond thermometer; as long as your water is at or above that 50° F mark, keep using MuckAway™ and PondClear™. The microorganisms in those products will continue to work hard to break down organic debris.

Going into winter as temperatures dip below that number, however, the bacteria go on vacation. But there are some things you can do to keep your pond healthy as the cooler weather approaches. Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Rake Up the Leaves: As powerful as natural bacteria are, they will still take a long time to break down fresh leaves that blow into your pond. Help those microorganisms out by raking up and disposing of as many leaves as possible.
  2. Rake Out the Leaves: If they do float into your pond, use a Pond & Beach Rake or Weed Raker to skim and rake those leaves out of your pond. If an abundance of leaves remains in the pond as ice begins to form, this could lead to poor water quality. As the leaves continue to break down, they will release toxic gases that will edge out available oxygen – and if there is ice covering your pond, that’s bad news for your fish.
  3. Aerate All Winter: Unless you plan to use your pond or lake as an ice rink this winter, keep your aeration system running. This will help keep a hole in the ice, circulate the water and keep your oxygen levels higher.
  4. Maintain Your Landscape: In addition to raking up leaves around your pond, keep the foliage around your pond maintained. Prevent that organic debris from getting into the water and turning into algae and pond weed fertilizer.

Bottom line: Yes, bacteria will still work while temperatures are above 50° F, but help them out by removing as much leaf litter and organic debris as possible. There’s no way to fully prevent leaves from falling into your pond – but the fewer that do, the better.

Pond Talk: Have leaves started falling in your neck of the woods yet?

Remove Leaves & Debris - The Pond Guy® Pond & Beach Rake

I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit?

Q: I changed the air filter on my compressor, but it’s still not pumping much air. Is it time for a maintenance kit?

Doug – Hamilton, KY

A: Regular maintenance will extend the life of your compressor, but an air compressor can lose its pumping power for a number of reasons. To help deduce what the problem could be, start with a quick evaluation:

  • Is your air filter cleaned or replaced? (Check!)
  • Is your intake filter and aeration cabinet clean?
  • Have you checked the diffusers for clean membrane sticks?
  • Have you checked your airline for any loose connections?

If you’ve checked off these chores and your compressor is still low on the air flow, it might be time for a maintenance kit – especially if it’s been a while since you’ve installed one.

Maintenance kits are available for both shallow water (diaphragm) and deep water (piston) compressors. They include replaceable parts like O-rings, seals and hardware that’ll get your compressor humming again. You’ll need some basic tools, like a screw driver and Allen wrench, but they’re fairly easy to install. Simply watch one of our kit installation maintenance videos and follow the included step-by-step instructions.

If you need specific replacement parts, like an air filter, diffuser stick or extra air line, be sure to check our inventory. Chances are good we’ll have just what you need.

Waiting too long to install a maintenance kit could cause the device to become too warm, which will hasten the breakdown of those replaceable parts. Before long, you’ll need to replace the compressor. Save your money: Take the time to maintain your current compressor instead of spending a pretty penny on a new one!

Plus, if you plan on running your aeration system this coming winter, do your maintenance now so you don’t have to chip your system out of the ice in the middle of a cold snap.

Pond Talk: How often do you do basic maintenance on your air compressor?

Restore Aeration to Full Potential - Piston Compressor Maintenance Kits

I have a lot of cattail growth. Should I spray it now or just wait until spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of cattail growth. Should I spray it now or just wait until spring?

Q: I have a lot of cattail growth. Should I spray it now or just wait until spring?

Thomas – Afton, MN

A: As long as those cattails are green and growing, you should spray them. Fall is actually an ideal time to treat pesky pond weeds because that’s when the matured plants soak up nutrients through their leaves to prepare for the coming winter. They’ll do the same thing with the herbicide—but it will cause their demise!

If you don’t spray the cattails, they won’t dry up and die. No, that would be too easy! When the weather gets cold, the leaves and stems will turn brown and dry up while the tuberous root systems in the soil below the surface lie dormant. Those tubers, having stored up energy all winter, will explode with new shoots and growth in the spring.

Plus, all that dead and dried up foliage will fall into your pond, adding decaying organics to the mix. That detritus—which is like fertilizer to pond weeds and algae—will cause an even bigger headache next year.

Spraying cattails now when they’re still green is your best bet. Here’s how we recommend you do it.

  1. Spray Growth: Using your tank sprayer, treat the cattails with Shoreline Defense® with Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Apply the herbicide, which has no usage restrictions, directly to all above-water foliage. The plant will draw it in through its leaves and die—roots and all.
  2. Spray Again: Wait about two weeks for the herbicide to kick in, and then repeat the process again to be sure you get that weed under control. This will be necessary in ponds with thick, abundant cattail growth.
  3. Remove Dead Foliage: As the cattails die, cut and rake out dead debris with your weed removal tools, like a weed cutter and pond rake. This will cut down on decomposing organics left in the pond, making it easier to get on top of any new growth in the spring.

Take some time during this late summer and fall to treat cattails. You’ll be glad you did!

Pond Talk: How do you manage cattails in your pond or lake?

Broad Spectrum Emergent Weed Killer - Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS

I’ve tried sprays and other types of bug control. Is there anything else I can do to reduce the mosquitoes by my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’ve tried sprays and other types of bug control. Is there anything else I can do to reduce the mosquitoes by my pond?

Q: I’ve tried sprays and other types of bug control. Is there anything else I can do to reduce the mosquitoes by my pond?

Nancy – Lima, OH

A: Nothing ruins a pondside shindig faster than a swarm of blood-thirsty mosquitoes. The buzzing, biting, irritating bugs are the bane of pond owners. Besides causing itchy welts, these little pests can transmit dangerous and deadly diseases, like malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus, dog heartworm and equine encephalitis.

Yep, they’re a nuisance—but their population can be controlled. Here’s what we recommend.

Remove Food Source

Ponds with lots of plant matter and algae are perfect for feeding baby mosquitoes. Those little wigglers and tumblers (technical terms for developing mosquito larvae and pupae) gobble through the greens, but you can minimize their feeding frenzy by maintaining your pond and eliminating their food source.

Move the Water

A female mosquito prefers to lay her eggs in stagnant water that’s full of algae, plankton, fungi and bacteria, so your next plan of attack should be to churn the water with a fountain, like our AquaStream™ Fountain, or an Airmax® Aeration System near the area where you sit. The waves will make her think twice about calling that part of your pond home.

Grasses Be Gone

Because adult mosquitoes live among the debris surrounding your pond, you want to keep those grasses cleared out. Use some herbicide, like Shoreline Defense®, to kill aquatic weeds and grasses. And pull out your weed removal tools, like your weed cutter, rake and debris skimmer, and remove the dead plants, overgrowth and other potential hiding spots – at least in the area where you hang out most often.

Help from Finned Friends

Mosquito-eating pond life, like tadpoles, minnow, bass, bluegill and catfish, love noshing on the little larvae and pupae. If you don’t already have a fish population living in your lake, consider adding some! The American Mosquito Control Association, in fact, recommends adding predacious minnows or native fish to lakes and ponds for biological control of the insects.

Use Mosquito Dunks or Bits

Mosquito dunks or bits are a lifesaver for folks with still ponds and other standing water pools on their property. These handy little disks or bits contain Bt-israelensis (Bt-i), a specially formulated biological pesticide designed to kill mosquito larvae. You simply toss them in your pond or lake and they’ll provide relief for up to 30 days. Plus, they’re safe for use around wildlife, pets and humans.

Unfortunately, mosquitoes are part of life with a lake or pond. With some pond and landscape maintenance, aeration, water movement, biological control and, if necessary, chemical control, however, you can keep the buzzing swarms at bay.

Pond Talk: What are some other ways you’ve tried to control lakeside mosquitos?

Control Mosquitos Up To 30 Days - Summit® Mosquito Bits® & Dunks®

If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work?

Q: If I treat my pond for weeds and it rains, will the treatment still work?

Amy – Linn Grove, IN

A: That all depends! Because you’re applying chemicals to water, you’d think that rain would have no affect on the herbicide—but it actually might. How long it rains, how heavily it rains and how soon it rained after you applied the treatment could impact its quality and effectiveness.

If wet stuff from the sky is a threat and you’re thinking about spraying algaecides or herbicides to control nuisance plants in your pond or lake, here are four general guidelines to follow:

  1. Check the Weather: Is steady rain forecast for the day? If so, postpone any treatment of emergent weeds. Many treatments need to be absorbed by the plant’s leaves to be effective. A day-long stint of rain will rinse the chemical off the weed before it can be fully absorbed.
  2. Check the Weather, Part II: If you’re expecting heavy precipitation, definitely put off treatment to another day. The applied chemical could rinse off the plants and overflow from the pond before being taken up by the target weed.
  3. Reapply If Necessary: A light sprinkle will generally not affect the chemical’s potency in a pond that’s already been treated. If a downpour occurs within a few hours of application, however, plan to reapply the herbicide in a few days to fully control that target plant.
  4. Make Your Treatment Count: Use a pond sprayer to apply the chemical as close to target weeds as possible, and use a sticky surfactant to help the chemical absorb into the plant like Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Treatment Booster™ PLUS breaks down the surface of the weed or algae and allows the active ingredient to penetrate.

Even though you’re treating aquatic weeds, wet weather can still impact the chemical’s effectiveness. Check the short- and long-term forecast and plan accordingly – because you don’t want all that hard work (and costly treatments) to be for nothing!

Pond Talk: How has the weather affected your pond or lake so far this summer?

Kill Persistent Weeds & Grasses - Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS

My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Q: My pond is about a quarter acre, and I have ducks so I don’t want to use chemicals. Can I use barley straw?

Katie – Johnson, VT

A: More and more people are using barley straw as an all-natural (and duck friendly) way to control pond scum—and for good reason. Barley straw is a safe, natural alternative to manufactured chemicals and one of the compounds produced by submerged, decomposing barley straw may actually help keep your pond clear.

You need a lot of it to be effective.

In your quarter-acre pond, you’d need between 25 and 50 pounds (1 to 2 standard bales) of barley straw, depending on your pond’s condition. That straw would then need to be broken up, divided among several permeable bags and placed around the perimeter of the pond with weights in water no deeper than 6 feet.

That’s a lot of work!

And if you don’t replace the barley straw as it decomposes, it just turns into more decaying organic debris in the pond.

So what are your options?

Focus on the health of your pond. Reduce the decomposing plant matter, fish waste and other nutrients by adding a stout aeration system and wildlife-safe beneficial bacteria.

Reconsider manufactured chemicals, like Algae Defense®. The algaecide has no water use restrictions, and it’s safe to use around ducks and other wildlife. And because it only needs to be used when algae growth is occurs, you could use it as a one-time algae bomb. Not all chemicals are bad!

But if you want to give barley straw a try, check out this “fact sheet,” provided by The Ohio State University Extension. It details everything you need to know about using barley straw.

Pond Talk: Have you ever used barley straw? How did it work in your pond or lake?

Promote A Healthy Ecosystem - Pond Logic® PondClear™ Natural Bacteria

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