Zebra Mussels in the Berkshires

Learn more about what you can do to prevent the spread and save our lakes and ponds!

What are they?

mZebra and Quagga Mussels are freshwater, bivalve mollusks that typically have a dark and white (zebra-like) pattern on their shells. They are alien to North America but have invaded many of our waters. Both species, Zebra Mussels and Quagga Mussels, in general, are usually about an inch or less long, but may be larger. When healthy, they attach to hard substrates. much like marine (saltwater) mussels but unlike any native freshwater bivalve. They are often found in clusters.

Click Here to watch Zebra Mussels: 'Uninvited Guests' a video put together by local professionals with more information on the Zebra Mussel invasion and its effects on Berkshire County lakes and ponds.

Why are Zebra and Quagga Mussels a Problem?

musselWhen they are present in North American waters, they are usually millions of them. Zebra/Quagga Mussels are biofoulers that occlude pipes in municipal and industrial raw-water systems, requiring millions of dollars annually to treat. Zebra Mussel densities have been reported to be over 700,000 individuals per square meter in some facilities in the Great Lakes area. They produce microscopic larvae that float freely in the water column, and thus can pass by screens installed to exclude them. Monitoring and control of Zebra and Quagga Mussels costs millions of dollars annually.

Zebra/Quagga Mussels also negatively impact aquatic ecosystems, harming native organisms (including already imperiled indigenous mussels). In huge numbers, they out-compete other filter feeders, starving them. They adhere to all hard surfaces, including the shells of native mussels, turtles, and crustaceans. Zebra/Quagga mussels actively feed on green-algae and may increase the proportion of foul-smelling blue-green algae in water systems. Prolonged occupancy of Zebra Mussels can lead to drastic reduction in fish population and can be dangerous to recreational lake users.

Helpful Links:

Zebra Mussel Public Service Announcement from Pittsfield Harbormaster Jim McGrath

State of MA Lakes and Ponds Program website, with information on zebra mussels

Download Latest Brochure Here


Zebra Mussels and Boating  


All Boaters must sign, date and display the clean boat certification form on their dashboard before launching into any Berkshire County Waterbody. Kayaks and canoes included! Forms are always available at the boat launch or they can be downloaded and printed from the state's website here.

Whenever you leave a body of water. . .

  • When transporting a boat, drain all bilge water, live wells, and bait buckets before leaving infested areas. Do not transport leftover bait from infested waterways to other waters.

  • Thoroughly inspect your boat's hull, outdrive, trim plates, trolling plates, prop guards, transducers, trailers, and other parts exposed to infested waters. If surfaces feel grainy, tiny zebra mussels may be attached. These "hitchhiking" mussels should be scraped off.

  • Thoroughly flush hulls, outdrive units, live wells (and pumping systems), bilge, trailer frames, anchors and anchor ropes, bait buckets, raw water engine cooling systems, and other boat parts and accessories that typically get wet - use hot water - 140 degree F  or hotter water. A pressurized steam cleaner or high pressure power washer is also effective and requires less time.

  • Motor flushing instructional video

  • Thoroughly dry boats and trailers in the sun before transporting them to other waterways.

  • On boats that remain in the water, avoid leaving outdrive in the down position. Hulls and drive units should be inspected. Mussels can attach to outdrives and cover or enter water intakes; this leads to clogging, engine overheating, and damage to cooling system parts.

Boat Wash Now Available at 730 West Housatonic Street.

Click here for more information


For more information on Pittsfield Lakes Click Here