Scientists are testing a new pesticide to kill off invasive zebra mussels in a small Minneapolis-area lake.
As of Monday, Christmas Lake became the first in the nation to use the new product, the Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/Zfo2Lg ). It marks the first time Zequanox, a product that uses dead bacterial cells to kill the aquatic pests that eat it, has been used outside of small experiments or power plant water pipes.
U.S. Geological Survey researchers will next test various applications and concentrations of the biological pesticide on nearby Lake Minnetonka.
The federal government approved Zequanox for use in lakes in July. Zebra mussels have been found in 29 states.
The invasive species can damage the habitat of native fish and insects. They crowd out native mussels and compete with other animals for food. They're also a nuisance to boaters and swimmers.
Zebra mussels spread quickly after they've been introduced to a lake. Nearly 200 water ways in Minnesota are infected with zebra mussels
Researchers chose Christmas Lake because officials detected the infestation early and prevented it from spreading throughout the lake. The bay next to the boat launch was sectioned off and closed to the public to prevent the spread of the invasive species.
"If it had been on the whole lake, we probably would have said, 'Good luck, you got them,'" said Craig Dawson, the aquatic invasive species director for the Watershed District. But "it's been well worth the effort. The information will be valuable for others."
The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District bought $2,500 in equipment for the Christmas Lake effort, while the state Department of Natural Resources paid $6,800 for the Zequanox.
"This is the best chance we have of removing zebra mussels from lakes," Dawson said. "We know there's no 100 percent guarantee with the product, but it's the best we can do."
Minnesota has ramped up education and prevention efforts to slow the spread of numerous invasive species in recent years.