Invasives from Beyond: Attack of the Mussels

An animated GIF showing a black and white clip of Frankenstein’s monster turning his head.
Frankenstein’s Monster. Giphy.
Horror villain Michael Myers relaxes in a hammock on a fall day
Michael Myers. Pinterest.
Harry Potter characters screaming. Ron Weasley screams and throws down his Halloween treats, Neville Longbottom screams, and Draco Malfoy gets up from the table, screaming.
Dustin from the Netflix show Stranger Things screams and sprays hairspray at something off camera.
Left: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001). Tenor. Right: Dustin, Stranger Things Season 3 (2019). Giphy.
Eight adult zebra mussels are shown in comparison to the size of a penny. All eight mussels together are roughly the same size as the penny.
Photo by Sam Stukel, USFWS. Courtesy of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
Zebra mussels cover the entire top half of a red rock.
Photo by Schaeppi, National Park Service
A map of the continental US, showing the range of zebra and quagga mussels. Red dots across the eastern US indicate the spread of zebra mussels, the most dense areas in the Great Lakes & Midwest. Green dots in the Great Lakes region & southwest US show the spread of quagga mussels. Yellow dots in the Great Lakes region and sporadically in the western U.S. show where both invasive mussels have been identified. Purple squares show a few successful eradication efforts along the east coast & Texas
Zebra and Quagga Mussel Sightings Distribution (2021). Map produced by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Small but Mighty

A pile of larval quagga mussels
an animated GIF of the Mogwai known as Gizmo in the movie Gremlins 2, looking adorable.
Sure, they look cute, but have you seen Gremlins? Mogwai can bat those eyes like the best of us, but don’t fall for it — invasive mussels are as disastrous as gremlins on a rampage! Left: Photo courtesy of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. Right: Gremlins 2 (1990). Giphy.
an animated GIF of actor Zach Galifianakis thinking in the movie The Hangover. Superimposed over his face are complicated math equations.
Left: Math, The Hangover (2009). Giphy.
a population of zebra mussels completely cover a boat propeller. Only small parts of the propeller are visible under the mussels.
a population of invasive mussels cover the side of a shopping cart.
Left: Zebra mussels on a boat propeller. Photo by Sam Stukel, USFWS. Right: Photo courtesy of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

But Wait! Not All Mussels Are Monsters!

An animated GIF showing a black and white clip of Frankenstein’s monster reaching out and looking around. The word “Friend” appears on the bottom.
Frankenstein’s monster just wants a friend. Tenor.
Jimmy Fallon falls over as he attempts to drink out of a 5-gallon water cooler jug.
Thirsty Jimmy Fallon. Tenor.
A hand reaches into a bag of small mussels.
Bag of golden riffleshell mussels. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

How Can You Help?

Enter the hero of our story. How can one aspire to be the Sidney Prescott, Van Helsing, Ash Williams, or Lorie Strode of this terrible tale? Just like our favorite horror icons, anyone can be the hero of their own story — just, maybe, don’t be the first one to investigate that mysterious sound in the basement.

An animated GIF of characters Ash Williams, Pablo Simon Bolivar, Kelly Maxwel, and Ruby Knowby standing together in the show Ash versus the Evil Dead. The words “Let’s go save the world” appear at the bottom.
Ash Versus the Evil Dead (2016). Giphy.
  • Limit or cease pesticide use to conserve soil and prevent runoff into nearby lakes and streams.
  • Help control soil erosion by planting trees and plants to avoid runoff of soil into freshwater areas.
  • Clean, drain, dry! Remove aquatic weeds from boat trailers and motors again to prevent the spread of invasive mussels. Don’t throw weeds back into the water!
  • Support and follow invasive mussel quarantine, inspection, and decontamination programs.
  • Inspect aquatic store purchases like moss balls! In 2021, zebra mussels were found in moss balls sold at aquarium and pet supply stores, garden centers, florist shops, and online retailers. Live mussels from moss balls could be released into a storm drain or flushed into a waterway and cause significant damage. Destroy, dispose, drain!
  • Report sightings of invasive mussels and other non-indigenous aquatic species with the USGS sighting report form.
  • Share what you know!
A shot of actor Jesse Eisenberg in the movie Zombieland. Next to Jesse’s face are the words “Rule #17 Be a Hero”
Be a hero! Zombieland (2009). Tenor.



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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

We’re dedicated to the conservation, protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats.