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Discouraging Leeches

 
garden master
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I severely dislike leeches. It's always a bad feeling to get out of the water from swimming to find leeches on your feet. We go swimming sometimes at a nearby lake, and the leeches have gotten worse each year. There used to be no leeches in the section where we swim, and now I get a few every time I get in.

The bottom used to be very sandy, and now it has a lot more leaf litter and is muddy on the bottom. It seems like the leeches like this new habitat and are making themselves at home. I wonder if I raked out some of the leaf litter and mud on the bottom and it became more sandy again if that would help?

The major factor that I think is contributing to there being more leeches, is the reduction of smaller fish like bluegill and sunfish that eat leeches. I think it's a result of having a huge turtle population combined with there not being a lot of habitat for the smaller fish to hide. I wander if increasing the habitat for the smaller fish and as a result increasing their numbers will help, resulting in more of them hopefully eat more leeches?

I've also seen some DIY leech traps using meat as bait, but I feel like this may just be addressing the symptom, and the top two strategies may help address the actual cause of there being so many leeches.

Has anyone used any of these strategies with success, or have any other ideas to help discourage leeches?
 
pollinator
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That's too bad your lake is getting full of leeches. While I don't have experience with aquatic leeches, we have "mountain leeches" (yamabiru) which are super annoying and everywhere. I had no idea that leeches existed out of water!


They like to wait in leaf litter and can sense your warmth, breath, shadow, and movement.

A creepy video of their searching behavior:


I had one try to bite my backside while squatting in my own garden. Now I tuck my shirt in.

Bug spray or "mountain leach fighter spray", which is just deet, keeps them off. Also saltwater works ok, and we carry a salt shaker with us to sprinkle on if we do get bit. They let go right away after being salted.

Anyway, this doesn't help you with your aquatic leeches. I think your plan is spot on.
Remove their habitat by clearing leaves and debris.
Promote the fish population. You could try some floating cages or sheltered areas the turtles can't get to.

I would maybe try the coffee can trap at least in the beginning. It could be helpful to reduce the population quickly. Then after removing habitat and increasing predators, hopefully the leech population wouldn't bounce back.

I would add also that turtles don't taste too bad! Not sure if yours are protected or anything....
 
Steve Thorn
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Wow Amy, that is very interesting! I had heard of land leeches, but I didn't know they were that successful in finding a host. They make the aquatic leeches look not nearly as bad.

It cracked me up when the guy in the video was looking at the leech about to suck his blood and said, "Very interesting, that's a great shot!"

Thanks for the encouragement and tips for discouraging the aquatic leeches in the lake, I'm hoping that using some of these strategies will help reduce their numbers, and I hope you don't have any more leech encounters either!
 
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Its definitely a lack of fish problem.  I dug a pond going on 3 years ago now. Its had ducks from the beginning. Its been fun watching it go through evolution. Frogs were the first to arrive. Last year it got overrun with snails and leeches! We only noticed because tadpoles were dying at an alarming rate and after investigating the tadpoles were covered with leeches. Thousands of them were dying.  I guess they come in on bird feet and start reproducing.  I put 25 red ear perch and 25 hybrid blue gill along with 2 lbs of fat head minnows in the pond and all the leeches are gone, some snails are there but much more controlled.  I did not give the fish any habitat because I could not justifying putting anything into this hole I paid to have material taken out of lol!
 
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