For the last 30 years, controlling Swimmer’s Itch used to be more simple – one duck, one snail, one parasite. Break the life cycle of the parasite that uses Common Mergansers and Stagnicola snails and you’re on your way to having a respectable lake-wide control of Swimmer’s Itch.
Unfortunately, based on last summer’s outbreak of itch despite our efforts, we now fear that itch on Glen Lake it is no longer that simple.
– Are other ducks, geese or swans contributing to the itch by serving as hosts to multiple species of itch causing worms?
– Are migrant waterfowl in the spring and fall contributing to the itch that undermines the effort of trapping and relocating resident merganser broods?
In order to unravel the mystery of the complex issues surrounding Swimmer’s Itch, we need to conduct weekly waterfowl surveys on Big and Little Glen lakes.
Waterfowl Survey Defined:
What does a waterfowl survey entail? Our surveys include weekly boat rides around the shoreline where we record the numbers and locations of any ducks, geese, and swans. Also, we attempt to collect fresh fecal samples of the waterfowl on docks, analyze the samples in the lab, and determine which parasite is in what bird (there are at least five different parasites that cause itch in our lake).
Three surveys have been completed so far. The surveys will continue throughout the summer and end the first week in November. GLA has developed a three-member waterfowl survey team that includes Rob Karner, Watershed Biologist along with our summer intern Cecelia Denton and our GLA assistant for water quality studies Laura Wiesen.
It is our hope that the waterfowl survey, together with the water sampling program that was mentioned in the last email blast, along with the help and expertise of Freshwater Solutions, the mysteries of Swimmer’s Itch will be solved. Stay tuned in December of 2019 for a full report of our findings and what it may all mean for managing Swimmer’s Itch in the future.
For more information, contact Rob Karner at email@example.com.
Cecelia Denton and Laura Wiesen are part of survey team.
With much enthusiasm the GLA shares the news that Tom Porter of the Sleeping Bear Dunes
Gateway Council/Citizens Council of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, will speak at the by invitation Legends* event on June 27. Tom will speak and take questions on the topic of gateway communities
such as Empire and Glen Arbor, in relation to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
As a founder of the Michigan Climate Action Network, Tom has been a leader in the push for clean energy solutions that promote climate sustainability. We hope Legends will mark their calendars and join us to hear this
Last summer something very unexpected happened on Glen Lake. The number of Swimmer’s Itch cases far exceeded what was suppose to be a banner year for mostly a itch-free swimming experience.
Using a federal and state permit, in 2017 the GLA removed all broods of mergansers.That should have resulted in a significant reduction in Swimmer’s Itch in 2018. Granted, the very warm, sunny summer resulted in increased swim hours and may have contributed to increased itch. Consequently, a lake-wide increase in itch has prompted a scientific study to find out what is going on.
Glen Lake Association in conjunction with Lake Leelanau and Walloon Lake Associations are the three locations for a major Swimmer’s Itch research project that will be conducted by Freshwater Solutions, Inc.
Each lake association is staffed to have 5 volunteers from each lake collect 10 different water samples on the same day (Tuesdays) and the same timeframe (between 8 a.m. to 12 noon) May 21 to November 5, and from the same locations on the lake. Quick math indicates that is 15 volunteers working for 25 Tuesdays collecting 750 water samples.
The volunteers for GLA include Cecelia Denton, Shelly Water, Edward Gergosian, Andy Dupont, Dale DeJager, and Bill Meserve. Joe Blondia, Bruce Hood, and Rob Karner will serve as the back-up support for the water sampling.
Each water sample will be analyzed for the number of parasites in the water sample, noting the number of species of itch causing worms in the water and their relative abundance for each species. Our ability to analyze water samples in this way is new technology and all analysis of parasites is under the direct supervision of Dr. Hanington and his team at the University of Alberta, Canada.
The final results of this study will help us better understand the impact that migrating waterfowl have on itch severity, along with gaining a better understanding of what additional species of waterfowl besides the Common Mergansers are harboring itch-causing parasites and perhaps unknowingly contributing to increased Swimmer’s Itch risk.
Having removed all Common Merganser broods last summer, we are hoping for lake-wide reduction in itch this summer.
GLA will be sharing a summary report of this study for all three lakes by the beginning of 2020.
We asked landscaping professional, Laurel Voran, left, to share her insight to help make your spring planting choices carefree and fruitful. Voran, who has enjoyed gardening her entire life, has worked in the field professionally for 21 years. She worked at two public gardens near Philadelphia including Longwood Gardens, where she studied and graduated from their two-year professional gardener training program, and Chanticleer gardens as a section horticulturist for 13 years. She has seven years running her own local business after relocating to northern Michigan. Her business includes work in garden maintenance and design, and invasive species monitoring and control. Voran also especially enjoys working with and “saving” our endangered species, like the Michigan Monkey Flower. Although working primarily with private clients, Voran also does work at the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park. She loves the artistic and creative nature of her environmentally-focused job that keeps her active outside.
Here’s her advice for spring planting:
To develop a natural, northern feel to your property, start by working with what plants are already present. Edit out the non-native competitors, encouraging already present natives to multiply. If you can’t wait for them to multiply on their own, plant more of whatever is already naturally occurring. If there are non-native plants you feel you can’t live without, choose ones that are adaptable to our soils and conditions and that are “well behaved.” Remember, plants spread not just by roots or by flowers going to seed, but also by berries or other fruits eaten by birds, digested and then the seed eliminated elsewhere- perhaps quite far from the original plant. Also, seed pods hitch-hike to new places in animal fur – and on human feet!
Reconsider the urge to clean up every leaf. Look for areas where you can mulch-mow leaves in place before the perennials emerge. Or lightly rake only the largest wads off. Perhaps there are areas you can allow to return to woods – first step: just let the leaves accumulate. It’s free organic matter that feeds the soil, and ultimately the plants, and helps keep roots cool, retains moisture in the soil, and helps keep weeds down.
Keep the water clean! Plant species that will thrive without fertilizer. Choose plants with extensive roots that will help stabilize soil along the water’s edge. Create a “no mow” zone directly next to the water rather than mulched beds or mowed lawn to the water’s edge. This will help slow and filter run-off prior to entering the open water, as mulch in beds close to open water could wash in during storms.
Educate yourself on what plants are considered non-native invasives. Search your property for any existing populations and remove them, as they out-compete our native species critical for supporting our native critters. Be aware that non-native invasive plants are, unfortunately, still for sale. Educate yourself so as to not accidentally introduce invasives to your property by purchasing them at nurseries.
As for plants, here are some of Laurel’s top choices for varying sun/shade locations and moisture conditions.
Dry Sun: Coreopsis lanceolata (sand coreopsis); Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa); Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium); Spotted beebalm ( Monarda punctata). These will attract many pollinators!
Wet sun: Brown Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoides); Marsh marigold, at right, (Caltha palustris); Sandbar willow (Salix exigua) and Pussy willow (Salix discolor), which have good roots for stabilizing soil. Can keep low by cutting to ground. Also, Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum).
Dry shade: Spring ephemerals: Trillium, (Trillium grandiflorum); Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria); Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica; Bluestem goldenrod (Solidago caesia); Big leaf aster (Eurybia macrophylla); Ivory sedge (Carex eburnea).
Wet shade: Purple Joe Pye Weed (Eupartorium purpureum); Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica); Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii); Winterberry (Ilex verticillata).
The Swimmer’s Itch season will soon be here and you can help the GLA during the weeks of mid-May to mid-July.
In the next two months, an unknown number of individual female mergansers will be bringing newly hatched chicks from their tree cavity nests near the shoreline to our lake to form a “merganser brood.”
Last year, we had nearly a dozen broods of mergansers and thankfully, they were all live trapped and relocated in an effort to reduce Swimmer’s Itch lakewide. This activity is regulated by the DNR and special permits are needed to live trap.
Please DO NOT HARASS the broods and help us educate any neighbors who may decide to harass. This makes live trapping them extremely difficult, increases the cost of trapping, and only increases the chances that Swimmer’s Itch will increase – not decrease.
You can help by keeping watch along the shoreline and reporting any sightings of merganser broods. The best way to communicate your findings is to report how may chicks are with the hen and the location you observed them. The broods come on the lake over a period of a month or so and typically vary in brood size. The reports of brood size helps us know how many broods are on the lake at a given time.
You can report a sighting of a brood by emailing the association glenlakeassociation.com or call in the sighting to 231.883.2776.
Please DO NOT call and report non-brooding mergansers (single adults). We have no permit to live trap them and they are impossible to trap anyway.
Our highly skilled GLA Swimmer’s Itch crew will be in their third year of live trapping all the broods on Glen Lake. If you see them setting up nets near your dock or boat hoist, please DO NOT interfere with their operations by going out on your dock to investigate. Please stay inside. Whenever possible, they will try to let you know what is going on and to stay away from the traps until they are done. The total time for trapping one brood takes about two to three hours.
With your help, we can have another successful live trapping season. Remember that because of the biology of this parasite, the live trapping we do this summer helps reduce Swimmer’s Itch next summer. Likewise, last year’s live trapping program is what will have reduced this summer’s Swimmer’s Itch.
Finally, if you swim in Glen Lake during the swim season and get Swimmer’s Itch, please go the GLA website to report your case. These reports are tabulated each year and help us to better understand Swimmer’s Itch and evaluate the success of our program.
If you have any questions, please contact the GLA.
This summer, GLA intends to have the Crystal River undergo a “checkup” to understand how it measures up as a healthy river ecosystem. During the summer of 2017 the lower reaches of the river were studied and found to be in good shape. In the coming summer, the same rubric for determining the health of the river will be conducted on the middle and upper reaches of the river.
To determine the “health index” of the river, the aquatic insects that live there will be sampled and studied. The presence (or absence) of certain aquatic insects can be used to interpret how the river is doing. Typically, the more fragile insect species that are intolerant of environmental stress and pollution will show up in the sampling if the river is healthy. Another indicator of river health is species diversity. Healthy river ecosystems have high species diversity while unhealthy rivers are absent of fragile species and have low species diversity.
Why study the Crystal River? The GLA is all about the water and the river is part of our watershed. In fact, the official name of our watershed is the “Glen Lake/ Crystal River Watershed.” We care about the quality of water whether it is underground, at the surface, or even flowing downhill ever so slowly into the pristine Sleeping Bear Bay in Lake Michigan. We like to think that the water from our watershed is actually improving the water quality in Sleeping Bear Bay – and that is really setting the bar high on what we so passionately care about!!
For more information on healthy rivers, click here.
GLA’s Boat Wash has operated for close to 25 years, beginning in 1994
Over 2,000 boats were washed in 2018
It is a free service and employs 5 people
Hours during the boating season – 6 am to 7 pm, 7 days a week
Empire and Glen Arbor townships in Leelanau County have boat wash ordinances. Crystal Lake, Lake and Benzonia townships and the village of Beulah all have boat wash ordinances in place.
Our main goal is to educate people about protecting our watershed
Boats come from all over the U.S. to Glen Lake
The boat coming the furthest was from Hawaii
This valuable resource is available to all boaters, with aims to keep our waters clean and free from invasive aquatic species. Be sure to take this information to heart –after all, it’s all about the water!
For all the great reasons that make the Glen Lake/ Crystal River Watershed so beautiful and unique, we do need to set the record straight – our watershed is NOT free of invasive species.
Invasive species are those living things that are often introduced and spread through recreational boating and angling activities with long
lasting negative impacts. They often out-compete our native species for space and resources.
Some of the invasive species the Glen Lake Association is aware of include shoreline plants; Coltsfoot, Purple Loosestrife, Yellow Iris, Phragmites, and Thin Leaf Cattail. Animal species include Mute Swan, Japanese Coi, European Starlings, and Zebra Mussels. Aquatic species include Curly-Leaf Pondweed.
For each species listed above, the GLA has a working plan to eradicate and/or control the species so they do not spread and evolve into costly
control programs. The Yellow Iris is aggressively taking hold in the Fisher Lakes and has the GLA concerned that riparians see it as a
beautiful plant and tend to not want to remove it. People who see the Mute Swan also are enamored by their grace and beauty, not aware of
their aggressive behavior to humans and other native species, such as the Trumpeter Swan.
In addition, the Japanese Coi –a pet fish that likely came from someone’s artificial pond– was first discovered in Little Glen three years
ago. Now it’s been spotted on several occasions in Big Glen this past year.
The GLA Boat Wash is the best management plan to prevent invasive species from entering our watershed. If you have seen any of the
above species or have encountered invasives not on this list, please contact the GLA to come and validate your findings.