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Killing Mussel Pests with Radio Waves

You may have heard news reports about how zebra mussels can cause big problems. Killing Mussel Pests with Radio Waves on today's Moment of Science.

We hear a lot about insect pests, but have you ever heard about the pesky zebra mussel and what it can do to power plants? Zebra mussels are freshwater creatures that sometimes lay their eggs near the intake pipes of electricity generating stations. Their dust-size larvae attach to the interior of the pipes and grow to the size of lima beans. When this happens, the pipes clog and become unusable.

But the zebra mussels aren't just pests to power plants, they can also be pests to their fellow freshwater creatures. These mussels filter large amounts of water a day. In doing so, they clean the water, but they also absorb many nutrients; so many nutrients that little are left behind for their lake dwelling neighbors such as crabs, crayfish, and other species of mussels.

Researchers have recently begun using radio waves to control them. They have used low energy radio waves to, in effect, zap the zebra mussels. This forces them to give up essential minerals like calcium, without which they cannot survive. The radio waves do affect crab, crayfish, and other species of mussels, but to a significantly lesser degree. Fish don't seem to be harmed at all.

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