horn nosed beetles broke my pool

Horned Nosed Beetles and Above Ground Pools

After building above ground pools for many years, I don’t get many callbacks on my bottoms. Some above grounds are made with bottoms of foam sheeting, happy bottoms (which are thin sheets of hard plastic), vermiculite, pearlite, or concrete. The vast majority of them use only the earth of the yard and maybe some sand for the bottom and that’s usually perfectly OK. An experienced installer can make a nice smooth bottom using just the earth that is there. We usually use only the earth for the pool bottom due to the extra cost of the materials mentioned above. An above ground swimming pool is, after all, a much less expensive alternative to in-grounds. So, for most, keeping the cost down is important.

There are a few drawbacks to having only an earth bottom and one of the drawbacks is horned nosed beetles. I started this blog post saying that I don’t get many callbacks on my bottoms, but I did get three this season because of something sharp poking up from under the liner. Out of the three calls, one was because of a horned nosed beetle. Let me tell you about them.

What Is a Horned Nosed Beetle?

pool liner ruined by horn nosed beetle

Seems like a stupid question, but hey, I have to start somewhere. A horned nosed beetle is a medium-sized dark brown bug that lives just below the surface. He (or she) has a body armored with a super hard dome shaped shell and a separate shelled head. Most of these brown bugs don’t have horns, but a few do. They have three little, but very sharp horns, protruding from (what it appears to me to be) the top of their heads. Useless opinion: I don’t know why they are called horned nosed beetles as the horns are clearly on top of their heads. Maybe the name horned “headed” beetles doesn’t roll off the tongue well or just “horned beetles” wasn’t specific enough. Doesn’t matter much I guess, so never mind. These not so cute little guys burrow under the soil and that’s a problem for above ground pools. It’s a problem for them too if they get caught under one.

I Have Something Sharp Under My Pool Liner. How Do I Tell If It’s a Horned Nosed Beetle?

It can be hard to tell. The last call I got for one under a liner was difficult even for me to determine. Lucky for me, the pool owner clipped off one of the horns sticking through the bottom of his pool before I got there thinking it was a piece of wire. I thought it was a piece of wire too when I dove down to look at it. When he brought out the saved horn piece, I was relieved knowing it wasn’t something I left in the ground and it was, in fact a horned nosed beetle. Not my fault. Whew!

I couldn’t determine then if it were a beetle, but there are two ways you can tell sometimes. One is if you feel three little sharp points that make up a kind of a triangle, it’s probably a beetle. Also, if there is a small rut or trail leading to the sharp spot, it’s probably a beetle. Sometimes the beetle will have only one or two horns and won’t leave any kind of a trail at all so that doesn’t help. Also, beetles don’t usually make it very far before they try to surface so they will poke through the liner only about a foot or so from the pool wall.

OK, So It Is a Horned Nosed Beetle. What Do I Do Now?

So you’ve got this hard shelled bug trapped under your pool liner with his horns making one or two or three small holes in it. What now? Well, first off, if you do yoga, hug trees, and trap spiders inside your house so you can put them outside, cover your ears.  The beetle is dead! By the time you feel his horns, he is long gone. Some of you won’t believe me and will try to save him. That’s cool and good for you. Here are two ways to fix your pool:

For trying to save him (not recommended):vinyl liner repair kit

  1. Run to the store and get an underwater vinyl patch kit.
  2. Using a sharp utility blade, go down to where the beetle is and make a slice in the liner directly over him. Make the slice only big enough to get him out. Don’t worry about cutting the beetle. He has a badass shell.
  3. With the knife or a fork or something, pry him out from under the liner and bring him to the surface.
  4. If he eventually moves around, congratulations. You saved a beetle. Now you can get an I-saved-a-horned-nosed-beetle sticker for your Prius.
  5. Now patch the big hole you just cut following the kit’s directions and you’re done.

The meat eater’s way (recommended):

  1. Get an underwater vinyl patch kit.
  2. Go down with a hammer to where the beetle has made a hole in your liner.
  3. Gently tap the beetle’s protruding body and horns flat so that it is level with the rest of the smooth pool bottom. If gentle taps won’t get him down, hammer him down hard!
  4. Now patch the hole made by the horn and you’re done.

Preventing Horned Nosed Beetles From Getting Under Your Pool Liner

It is really rare for horned nosed beetles to make holes in above ground pool bottoms. Most areas don’t have them and even if your yard has them, it doesn’t mean they will go under your pool. I’d estimate that maybe one in every 500 to a 1000 pools will have this issue so it’s not worth doing anything.

If you know you have these horny beetles in your yard and you are getting a pool, you could get one of the bottom materials I mentioned at the beginning, but I wouldn’t even do that. I would instead wait and see if it’s a problem and just fix it when it happens. It’s no big deal really.

10 thoughts on “Horned Nosed Beetles and Above Ground Pools

  1. Thanks for the info. I have a different repair needed on my new above ground pool. I had it installed in May by a company called Totally Wet. Boy, did they soak me! I didn’t realize until the pool was filled that it was very unlevel.
    Since then, I have tried and tried to get them to come back and fix it, but they won’t even answer me. Do you know what it might cost, or if I have any recourse other than court? Thanks, Kim Fuller,

  2. Hi Kim
    Sorry you aren’t happy with your install. It’s a common story with above ground pool installers unfortunately. Guys just don’t want to go back and fix things. You not being able to get them on the phone is unusual though. I’m not sure how you went about communicating your issue but if it was harsh or accusatory in any way, some guys will just shut down on you. If you were nice and respectful and they didn’t respond, then you may just have a dirtbag on your hands and there’s very little you can do as he has no integrity.

    Court sounds good but in reality will do very little for you. What are the chances he’ll show up in court if he won’t even have a conversation with you? Show up or not, all you get in court if you win is a judgement of monetary award which he won’t pay because he’s a dirtbag.

    I would try to continue to communicate with him. I say “him” because it’s probably just one guy making the decision to not talk to you. Try texting and/or emailing him. Sometimes you can get a dialog that way which is good.

    What cost are you asking about? Cost to fight an installer or cost to repair the faulty work? I’d have to get more info from you to know the cost to fix the install. If you want, you can send me some pics and the size of the pool and I may be able to tell you. I’d love to see how bad your issue is.

    P.S. Totally Wet is a totally stupid name.


  3. Hi Dan, our liner ripped a couple years ago so we had a new one installed. Three months later our pool completely blew out the side. With just buying a pump and filter the year prior our thoughts were to try and save money since we were out the liner so we found somebody that was giving a pool away. We bought the liner from them and now we we’re looking for somebody to put this pool up for us. My question is that the pool wall is in two pieces. Did they unbolt it before giving it to us? Do some pool walls come in two pieces? I dont want to be out another liner again. Thank you for your advise.

    1. Some of the larger sized above grounds will come with two-piece walls but it’s rare unless its a Japanese made pool. Make sure the wall bolt patterns look legit and always be concerned with any rust on the wall anywhere.

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