Leeches are small, flat, dark segmented worms with small sucking organs at both ends. Leeches can range in size from a quarter inch to 6 inch dream haunting monsters. They have a reputation for being aggressive, blood sucking parasites, but can also be an important food source for fish and other aquatic organisms. Leeches are also great as bait. Leeches are found in shallow waters of ponds, lakes, streams and marshes. Leeches have both male and female reproductive organs, allowing them to reproduce at an extremely fast rate. Many species of leaches are found in ponds and lakes, feeding on living and dead animals including the occasional swimmer or wader. Areas of muck and leaves favor large populations of leeches and should be removed using Aquatic Tools and Muck Digesting Products.
Generally, leeches do not pose any hazard to humans, fish or waterfowl. This is of little solace when you or your child has bloody wounds and nasty leeches stuck to their feet. If a leach is attached to your skin, you can simply apply salt, rubbing alcohol (tequila should work also!) or salty water to the leech and it should release its grip. Clean the site normally and apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage. Leeches produce an anticoagulant/anti-clotting saliva allowing them to digest blood, but it also prevents a leach bite from quickly clotting, so a small wound can bleed profusely.
How to Build a “Leech Trap”
- Start with a metal coffee can with a plastic lid.
- Poke 50 or so holes in the sides of the can with a nail. The holes should be 1/8-1/4 inch and the sharp metal burr should be Justify facing the inside of the can to prevent easy escape.
- Put about ¼ cup of raw meat in the can. Organ meets like liver, kidney or heart work well and are inexpensive.
- Secure the lid and submerge it completely in your pond. Use rocks to hold the can in place and prevent snapping turtles from tampering with it.
- Check the trap a few times a week. Remove the leaches and freshen your bait before returning the trap to the pond.
- Repeat this until leach number decrease or the trap starts to come up empty.
Sometimes lowering the water level in the fall, to expose the muck and mud to freezing temperatures will kill the dormant leaches. This is a more invasive solution and could harm beneficial organisms in the same area including frogs, insects and turtles.
Copper Sulfate solution can also kill leaches in your pond, but is also potentially harmful to fish and other fauna. This technique is an extreme measure and requires knowledge of your pond or lake volume and appropriate permits where required.