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I’ve been trapping leeches with success. Will the rest die this winter or do I need to continue next spring? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’ve been trapping leeches with success. Will the rest die this winter or do I need to continue next spring?

Q: I’ve been trapping leeches with success. Will the rest die this winter or do I need to continue next spring?

Bernie – Muskegon, MI

A: Those little bloodsuckers sure steal the fun, don’t they?

Hitching a ride with waterfowl, amphibians, small mammals—even your muck boots—leeches love living in mucky debris at the bottom of your pond. They settle in and wait for worms, snails, insect larvae, small water-loving animals and even humans to cruise by. When something looks tasty, they’ll use their suction cup-like mouths and teeth to latch on and feed on their blood.

Leeches aren’t necessarily bad for your pond or lake—in fact, they’re an important part of the food web. But they can be a nuisance, particularly if you use it for swimming or water sports.

Death by Winter Frost

During the winter, leeches don’t die. They ball up and burrow in the mud just below the frost line, nice and cozy, where they hibernate through the cold temperatures. In the spring, they’ll return to their bloodsucking ways.

If temperatures fall below freezing where you live, one wintertime leech-control trick is to manipulate the water level in your pond. Drop the water level at least 4 feet after ice has started to form on the pond. This will freeze the leeches that were living in the shallow underwater mud. It’s an effective method, but it could also kill other aquatic life burrowed in the mud.

Controlling Leeches

Sure, they’re part of the ecosystem, but no one likes climbing onto the dock with their legs covered in leeches, right? There are several ways to trap and control those bloodsuckers.

  1. Capture them in tiny traps. Punch leech-size holes in a coffee or aluminum can with a lid, bait it with raw chicken or fish heads, and position it in a shallow area of your pond. When the leeches climb in for a meal, they can’t escape because their full bellies will prevent them from exiting. Remove the can once it’s full and repeat until the leeches are gone.
  2. Control them with leech-grubbing fish. Your finned friends will savor the protein-rich treats. Fall is the perfect time to add more fish to your pond—and leech control is a perfect excuse to boost your game fish population. Red-ear sunfish are particularly fond of leeches.
  3. Destroy their habitat. Because leeches live in the muck and detritus in the shallow areas of your pond or lake, keep up with weed maintenance so you’re not creating a hospitable habitat for them. Remove shoreline vegetation with weed removal tools, cut and rake out dead organic debris from the water and add natural bacteria to break down the muck.

Pond Talk: How do you control leeches in your lake?

Cut Through Tough Pond Weeds - The Pond Guy® 28” Weed Cutter

After getting out of my swimming pond, I had a leech on my leg! How do I remove leeches from my pond? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: After getting out of my swimming pond, I had a leech on my leg! How do I remove leeches from my pond?

Q: After getting out of my swimming pond, I had a leech on my leg! How do I remove leeches from my pond?

Dennis – Blythewood, SC

A: There’s nothing like climbing out of your pond and finding one (or more!) of these little blood suckers stuck to your leg. What are they, and how do you banish them from your pond?

Getting to Know Leeches

Leeches are 2-inch-long brownish-black segmented worms that are a distant cousin to the earthworm. They use their suction cup-like mouths and teeth to latch on to vertebrate and invertebrate animals, feeding on their blood. Of the 700 different leech species, the majority live in freshwater environments, like your swimming pond.

Leeches love to live in the debris at the bottom of your pond. In all that muck accumulation, they get comfortable, find food and hide from predators—also known as fish—swimming overhead.

Despite their bad reputation, leeches aren’t all bad. Up until the 18th and 19th centuries, these worms had been used medicinally on humans to improve and restore blood circulation. The practice waned for a time—likely a combination of the yuck factor and modern medicine—but it’s slowing coming back into favor. In fact, Emma Parker Bowles (daughter of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall) recently wrote about how leeches helped relieve her of debilitating migraines.

Kicking Leeches to the Curb

Unless you practice leech therapy, you probably want to evict those invertebrates from your pond. The best way to do that is to remove their preferred habitat—all the muck and debris covering the bottom of your pond. How do you do that? Here’s a four-step approach:

1. Pull Out the Debris: First, use a lake rake, like the Pond & Beach Rake, to remove weeds, accumulated debris, algae, decomposing plants and muck.

2. Add Beneficial Bacteria: Next, add some beneficial bacteria, like those found in MuckAway™. The bacteria will head to the bottom of the pond and digest whatever muck remains. Remember that it will take some time to break down all that debris, so be patient.

3. Let Your Fish Do the Work: With nowhere to hide, those leeches will become tasty meals for your fish. You may even consider adding some more leech-eating fish to your pond.

4. Trap and Destroy: For those leeches that elude your finned friends, you can trap and remove them with a baited trap. Punch leech-size holes in a coffee or aluminum can, bait it with raw chicken or fish heads, and position it in a shallow area of your pond. When the worms go for the grub, they can get in but not out because the burrs from the hole punches will prevent them from escaping. Remove the can once it’s full and repeat until the leeches are gone.

If a leech latches onto you, don’t worry. In most cases, it won’t do any harm. In fact, you might not even feel it as the tiny critter injects the spot with anesthetic-anticoagulant combo while attaching itself with its suckers. You can remove a leech by breaking its suction seal with your fingernail or another blunt object, causing the worm to detach its jaws.

Pond Talk: Do you have any leech-removal tips to share?

Reduce Mucky Pond & Lake Bottoms - Pond Logic® MuckAway™

How can I control leeches in my pond? – Pond & Lake Q & A

How can I control leeches in my pond?

How can I control leeches in my pond? Allison – Empire, CO

Don’t Leech the Fun from Your Summer

Have you ever climbed out of your pond and found one of those blackish-brown creatures on you? Well it’s a sure fire way to scare the rest of your friends out of the water. So why do leeches decide to call your pond home and what can you do to make your pond leech free?

Leeches tend to use the accumulation of muck and debris at the bottom of your pond as a type of abode. Not only do they find food sources in the debris they also hide from predators that are passing by overhead. The best way to banish leeches from your pond is to remove this habitat. This can be accomplished by pulling out the debris you can reach using a Pond & Beach Rake and then adding MuckAway™ bacteria to digest whatever muck remains. With nowhere to hide the leeches will be picked off by your fish population.

Being the good neighbor that you are, you can help the leeches pack up and move out even faster by trapping and physically removing them. A fairly simple way to trap them is to poke a series of small holes or slits into a milk jug or coffee can. Line the bottom of the can with rocks to keep it weighted down and stable and bait the can with raw meat or fish heads. The leeches can enter the can via the holes you added, but the jagged edges prevent them from exiting. Some trappers utilize accordion folded plastic or thin metal with similar bait to pull up any leeches that find their way into the folds. Check your traps and refresh bait often! Also, keep in mind that leeches become less active as the water temperature drops so you may have better luck trapping them in shallower areas of than in the depths.

Take a look at our past Blog about leeches for some additional information and feedback from our followers. There is a helpful link that explains how to remove leeches safely as well as some user submitted tips and tricks on how to trap them.

POND TALK: If you have found a great way to trap leeches or maybe tried a method that didn’t work out too well please feel free to share it with everyone reading this blog.

Eliminate up to 5 inches of muck per year!

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