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Spiny water flea spread concerns scientists

August 3, 2012
By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

INDIAN LAKE - The discovery of spiny water flea in Lake George and two feeder canals to Lake Champlain has scientists concerned that it may continue to spread.

"This is the poster child of Adirondack exotic animals that we're worried about," said Meghan Johnstone, an invasive species expert.

Johnstone is the aquatic invasive species project coordinator for the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program. On Thursday, she was leading a seminar at Byron Park in Indian Lake about preventing the spread of invasive animals. It was attended by about 20 people, many of them from lake associations or organizations that are working to fight invasive species.

The spiny water flea was just one of many invasive species that she addressed that day.

The spiny water flea is a crustacean that is native to Eurasia. It is about half an inch in length, with much of that being its spiny tail. Despite its small size, it's much larger than native water fleas and is believed to outcompete other zooplankton.

Spiny water fleas are also known to be a major hinderance to anglers because they collect on fishing line. This is how they were discovered in Lake George. On July 27, an angler was fishing when he noticed a mass of something on his line. He reported this to a lake steward, who took a sample and passed it on to a scientist at Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing, who confirmed it was spiny water fleas.

The spiny water flea was previously confirmed in the Great Sacandaga Lake in 2008, Peck Lake in 2009, Stewarts Bridge Reservoir in 2010, Sacandaga Lake in 2010, and the Glens Falls Feeder Canal and Champlain Canal just weeks ago.

One of the concerns is that it could spread easily because of its resiliency.

"Spiny water flea is going to be very easily spread If you've got a couple of ounces of water and you move from one water body to the next," said Mark Malchoff, aquatic resources specialist with the Lake Champlain Sea Grant.

To prevent the spread of this aquatic invasive species, Johnstone says there are several steps boaters should always take when they leave a lake, pond or river.

"The big thing is to always remember to clean, drain and dry your boat," Johnstone said.

She recommends cleaning areas that are potentially carrying the invasive with bleach, Fantastic or Formula 409. And definitely have a dry boat when traveling across land.

"Make sure that if you have standing water when you're coming out of Lake Champlain, for example, that you get rid of it there and that you're not dragging it from one water body to another," Johnstone said.

She also noted that it takes about five days of drying to kill most invasives in the summertime when the temperature is hot. Conditions such as humidity could lengthen that amount of time.

The effects spiny water fleas will have when introduced to Adirondack water bodies are still to be determined. Malchoff said scientists need to do more research.

"The ecological impacts - that's a lot tougher question," he said. "It very much depends on which lake you're talking about, what sort of ecological community was in that lake to start with, what other invasives are already in that lake."

People that have questions about the spiny water flea or who think they may have spotted it locally may contact Johnstone at or 518-576-2082 ext. 119.



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