A 3-primer PCR system was developed to discriminate invasive zebra (Dreissena polymorpha) and quagga (Dreissena bugensis) mussel. The system is based on: 1) universal primers that amplifies a region of the nuclear 28s rDNA gene from both species and 2) a species-specific primer complementary to either zebra or quagga mussel. The species-specific primers bind to sequences between the binding sites for the universal primers resulting in the amplification of two products from the target species and one product from the nontarget species. Therefore, nontarget products are positive amplification controls. The 3-primer system accurately discriminated zebra and quagga mussels from seven geographically distinct populations.