Survival

How to Deal with Leeches

If you’re at all squeamish, one of the worst pests in your homestead pond isn’t a snake, turtle or aggressive goose, but a slimy, thick black leech. Why do leeches gross us out so much – and how can we get rid of them? We’re looking at leeches in a whole new way and coming up with some preventative medicine for your freshwater pond.

Where are they coming from?

Leeches in the United States stick to freshwater ponds; you need to head to Australia to find land-loving leeches. Most leeches are aquatic and attach themselves to a host when the host enters the water. The leeches in your pond are likely one of two varieties – the Freshwater Leech or the North American Leech; both varieties love lakes, ponds and slow flowing streams. Both latch on in a similar way.

The Bite

You may not realize you have been bitten or picked up a leech until you leave the water. Leeches have a chemical compound in their saliva that acts to anesthetize the wound; you won’t feel the bite at all. Once the leech latches on, it releases an anticoagulant that causes you to bleed more freely. A leech can rapidly engorge itself on blood and swell to several times its original size in moments.

Treating a Leech Bite

The first instinct for most of us is to slap at or rip the leech away as quickly as possible. While a leech does not dig in to the skin like a tick, pulling them off could cause bleeding or even infection. Sprinkle the feeding leech with salt and he will drop off on his own. Vinegar or Tea Tree oil can work as well. Once removed, treat the wound like any other animal bite to prevent infection and speed healing.

Prevention

The best way to avoid being a leech’s dinner is to make your homestead unappealing to them. Most leeches arrive in your pond attached to a bird or other animal; some even hitchhike on plants that you’ve added to your pond. A leech that latches on to a heron or duck can easily be transported to your own little lake.

A healthy fish population will help keep your leech levels down; fish will devour the leeches as they appear. Turtles and waterfowl will help control the leech population as well. If there is a lot of muck and dirt at the bottom of your pond or cattails in the shallows, these areas should be cleaned or removed; both offer ideal breeding grounds for leeches.

A leech trap can be used if you have an active infestation; punch holes in a coffee can and add some raw chicken. Cover with a lid and sink into the pond; leeches can fit in but not out. Remove the can regularly and dispose of leeches.

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