Swimmer’s Itch Control

Swimmer’s Itch Solutions That Work!

We offer ecological and environmentally-friendly SOLUTIONS 
Until recently the only option available to lake associations and government agencies was to treat lakes with large quantities of copper sulfate, a chemical that indiscriminately kills a wide variety of plant and animal species, including the snails which harbor the itch-causing parasites.

Concerned with the potential negative long-term environmental effects of using copper sulfate, the Swimmer’s Itch Solutions, LLC Team developed an alternative control program which has been used successfully on several lakes in Michigan and Maine since 1991 (Journal of Parasitology 87(2): 424-426). Our control programs involve capturing and treating infected ducks with the same drug that veterinarians use to kill dog and cat parasites. After treatment the ducks are released unharmed near the point of capture, but on a lake where the snail intermediate hosts are not present.

Higgins Lake: A recent success story
In 2014 the Higgins Lake Swimmer’s Itch Organization (HLSIO) asked us to design and implement a comprehensive swimmer’s itch control program for Higgins Lake. One of the first thing we did was assess the level of swimmer’s itch on the lake by examining the lake-wide snail infection levels. Based on decades of professional experience working on swimmer’s itch on numerous lakes in the USA we’ve determined that any snail infection level greater than 2% corresponds to swimmer’s itch being at an epidemic level. If you combine all the data from 2015 (BEFORE Our Control Program tab), the lake-wide snail infection rate on Higgins Lake in 2015 was 3.0%. Not surprisingly, the number and severity of swimmer’s itch reports we received that year were at an epidemic level.

If you click on the 2016 data (AFTER Year 1 of Our Control Program tab), you will see that we were able to significantly and dramatically decrease the lake-wide snail infection levels to 0.28%. As expected, swimmer’s itch case reports were also significantly lower than in 2015. In fact, numerous people who used Higgins Lake in 2016 commented on how nice it was not to have to worry about getting hammered with swimmer’s itch.

The outlook for 2017 is even better (AFTER Year 2 of Our Control Program tab)! Our control program further significantly reduced the lake-wide snail infection levels, as we examined over 8000 snails and found only 4 to be infected with the swimmer’s itch parasite. That translates to a snail infection level of less than 0.05%. While we’ll never be able to totally eradicate swimmer’s itch from Higgins Lake, even those who initially had doubts about the effectiveness of our program are once again swimming and using the lake without fear.

BEFORE Our Control Program

                          Summer of 2015

Snail Infection Prevalences on Higgins Lake in 2015. The percentage of Stagnicola emarginata snails infected with swimmer’s itch at ten different locations and at 4 different times during the summer. The number in parenthesis indicates the total number of snails examined. Color of cell indicates infection level (Green = Ideal (<0.24%), Light Green = Tolerable (0.25-0.49%), Yellow = Moderate (0.5-0.9%), Orange = Severe (1.0-1.9%), Red = Epidemic (>2.0%)).

AFTER Year 1 of Our Control Program

                          Summer of 2015                                                          Summer of 2016

     

Snail Infection Prevalences on Higgins Lake in 2015-16. The percentage of Stagnicola emarginata snails infected with swimmer’s itch at ten different locations and at 4 different times during the summer. The number in parenthesis indicates the total number of snails examined. Color of cell indicates infection level (Green = Ideal (<0.24%), Light Green = Tolerable (0.25-0.49%), Yellow = Moderate (0.5-0.9%), Orange = Severe (1.0-1.9%), Red = Epidemic (>2.0%)).

AFTER Year 2 of Our Control Program

                          Summer of 2015                                                          Summer of 2016                                                          Summer of 2017

            

Snail Infection Prevalences on Higgins Lake in 2015-17. The percentage of Stagnicola emarginata snails infected with swimmer’s itch at ten different locations and at 4 different times during the summer. The number in parenthesis indicates the total number of snails examined. Color of cell indicates infection level (Green = Ideal (<0.24%), Light Green = Tolerable (0.25-0.49%), Yellow = Moderate (0.5-0.9%), Orange = Severe (1.0-1.9%), Red = Epidemic (>2.0%)).

Our results on Higgins Lake only repeats the success we’ve had on other lakes with similar SWIMMER’S ITCH control programs in the past (Glen Lake, MI and Great Pond, ME)