It goes without saying that leeches are not for the faint of heart, to say the least. These tiny segmented worms are bloodsuckers and are actually a relative of earthworms. They use their cup-like, suction mouths and teeth to latch on to invertebrate and vertebrate animals, to feed on their blood.
Most leeches thrive in environments that have freshwater. Some types can be found in the sea and land as well. There are about seven hundred different leech species. Five hundred ten prefer pond or lake habitats, ninety are terrestrial and prefer land, and one hundred varieties are marine.
In North America, one of the more usual types of leech is the North American or the Freshwater leech. These worms have red spots on their brownish green bodies and grow a couple of inches in length. These types live in slow-moving streams, marshes, and lakes.
Food For The Fish
Fish love gobbling down leech after leech. In most cases, a healthy population of fish will keep the numbers of leeches limited. Among lake and game fish, one fish that does a good job of eating leeches is called the red ear sunfish. Other natural predators for leeches include water fowl, crayfish and turtles.
In your pond, the leeches most likely hitch hiked rides from plants you have bought and arranged around your pond. The leeches can also come from birds that have hitched rides and made your pond their home. Leeches tend to attach themselves to hosts such as herons and ducks as they take their fill of blood. Once they are satisfied, they will establish themselves and drop themselves off their new home. Also, leeches will hide in the roots of plants and pot bottoms when you arrange these around your pond; they will be more than glad to make it their new home.
Here’s To Your Health
Throughout history, leeches have been used on humans medically for improving and restoring the circulation of blood. This practice is called leech therapy or leeching and can be traced all the way back to Greece and India. Leeching or leech therapy has also been done in both North America and Europe until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There was a wane in this practice for quite some time. This could be a combination of the emergence of modern medicine or the yuck factor. However, more and more practitioners are beginning to bring back this practice in modern day alternative therapy.
Removing Leeches From Your Pond and Preventive Measures
There are a few things you can try to get rid of leeches in your pond, aside from using fish to help control their population, that is.
Get rid of phragmites, cattails, and debris from your pond’s shallow areas. Remember that leeches lay eggs and spend a lot of time in your pond muck, found in the bottom of your pond. You can thus try and control pond muck using recommended products that work for this. You can try and set a trap for leeches. Punch holes the size of leeches in an aluminum can or coffee can. Use raw chicken as bait and position the can in your pond’s shallow areas. When the worms find their way to the chicken, they will able to get into the can but will be unable to escape. The hole punch burrs will not let them escape. Once the can is full, you can use this method again and again until you will have no more leeches. Adding more fish that specifically eat leeches will also work.
Leeches In The Winter
Believe it or not, leeches do not exactly die in the winter. They burrow themselves in the mud after rolling themselves in a ball just before the line of frost, cozy and nice. This is where they will hibernate when the temperatures are cold. They will then return to their bloodsucking ways in the spring.
If temperatures, where you live, fall below zero, there is one trick you can do in the winter that will help control leeches. What you can do is control your pond’s level of water. Drop the level of water a minimum of four feet after the ice has begun to form on the pond. This will cause the leeches that were once living in shallow muddy water to freeze. This method is effective but might also kill other aqua life hidden in the mud, so be careful in utilizing this technique.
They Love the Bottom Of Your Pond
As mentioned earlier, leeches tend to use the debris and muck accumulated on your pond bottom as a kind of home. They love to find sources of food among the debris and also use this to hide from any predator that may be passing above them. To free your pond of leeches, the best way is to get rid of their home. You can do this by adding bacteria to digest any remaining muck after you get rid of the muck. When there is nowhere for leeches to hide, the fish population will be sure to pick up the leeches.
You can help leeches move away from your pond by physically removing them as well. There are methods mentioned above and also plastic folded into an accordion or thin metal able to pull up any leech that gets into the folded areas. If you often refresh your bait and check your traps, you will be sure to find a few of these. As water temperature drops beginning in the fall, leeches tend to be less and less active. This gives you more luck trapping them in areas that are shallower compared to having to find them in the deeper areas.
Salt Is Your Best Friend
When you go wading into your pond and find that there are leeches in other animals or on your body, you can use sea salt to get rid of leeches. When salt gets in contact with the skin of the leech, it sucks the moisture out of the leech and leaves them dehydrated. They then fall off your skin. You can also find the head of the leech and break the suction. Leeches tend to drop off by themselves after twenty minutes, in the event there is no salt.