We have two wild life ponds behind our house, both are being over grown with lily pads. I would like to get rid of most of them but not hurt the fish and other little creatures that live around the ponds. Do you have an economical solution to this problem?
Livingston County Michigan
Thank you for contacting eXtension at MSU with your pond question. Lily pads can over take a pond pretty quickly. Unless you are swimming or boating they are pretty much a natural part of the pond. Fish and other wildlife are fairly unbothered with lily pads. Their leaves and roots provide food for beaver, moose, muskrat, porcupine, and deer. Their seeds provide food for waterfowl, and their leaves provide protective coverage for fish, insects, and frogs. However, when they become so numerous that they become a problem then removal may be necessary.
First check that you are not overloading your pond with nutrients from farming or landscaping practices. Over fertilization of the water often results in excessive plant growth. The decaying vegetation left also cycles back into the water as nutrients. Avoid fertilizing lawns and gardens within 10-20 feet of your ponds.
Next you can try one or more of these methods:
1. Mechanical removal: Hand pulling or raking the plant roots out
2. Shade: Floating a sheet of plastic anchored with floats (these can be made from empty detergent bottles) to kill the plants (move as needed), or
3. Chemical removal: Use an herbicide rated for use on water plants. Use with caution and follow the package directions exactly as chemicals can disrupt the delicate ecosystem balance of your pond.
When plants are dead or dying rake them out of the water to prevent decay in the water further feeding more plants. In the spring follow up with more shade or a pond dye to reduce the amount of sunlight getting to the plant as they re-emerge after winter, and slowing its growth rates.
Note: If your pond is connected to a larger body of water or stream, or is equal to more than 5 acres in size you may need a DEQ permit to chemically treat.