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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

Top Blog Posts of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, we sit back and look at all the amazing things that happened this year. We thank you, our wonderful customers, for a great year. Below are our Top Blogs for 2013! Your interest in our products and your thirst for pond knowledge truly makes us thankful to have you as a customer. We aim to give you the knowledge and products you need to make your pond great. As always, if you have questions or comments, please feel to send them our way! 
We wish you a safe and happy 2014.
From The Pond Guy® Staff

Top 5 Blog Posts in Pond & Lake

Top Blog Posts of 2013 - Pond & Lake

Q: After a really warm day, I have algae floating on my pond. How do I control it?

Q: After getting out of my swimming pond, I had a leech on my leg! How do I remove leeches from my pond?
Q: I see predator control options for geese and swans, but what about options for other animals, like raccoons?
Q: My fish population is growing rapidly, but how do I know if my fish population is balanced?
Q: How do I know if my pond is covered in pollen or algae?

Top 5 Blog Posts in Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens

Top Blog Posts of 2013 - Water Garden

Q: What do I need to do to perform a spring cleanout?

Q: How do I treat my pond fish for ich and other diseases?

Q: My water turned brown about this time last year. How do I stop it from happening again?

Q: My fish are looking for food. Can I feed them now? If so, what kind of food do I give them?

Q: My stream is already accumulating algae! Is there anything I can use to help clean it up?

Happy New Year from The Pond Guy(r)

My pond has leeches! How do I get rid of them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: My pond has leeches! How do I get rid of them?

Tana – West Allis, WI

A: Leeches. They’re not for the squeamish. These little bloodsuckers – which are actually segmented worms related to earthworms – use their suction cup-like mouths and teeth to latch on to vertebrate and invertebrate animals, feeding on their blood.

The majority of leeches thrive in freshwater environments, though some species can be found on land and in the sea, too. Of the 700 different species of leeches, 100 are marine, 90 are terrestrial and the remaining 510 prefer habitats like your lake or pond.

One of the more common leeches found in North America is the Freshwater Leech or North American Leech. This brownish-green worm with black and red spots grows to about 2 inches long and lives in lakes, marshes and slow-moving streams.

Harmless – and Healthy

Historically, leeches have been used medicinally on humans to improve and restore blood circulation. The practice of leeching, or leech therapy, can be traced to India and Greece and has been done in both Europe and North America up until the 18th and 19th centuries. Though the practice waned for a time – likely a combination of the yuck factor and modern medicine – it’s slowing coming back into favor.

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.

Tiny Hitchhikers

The leeches in your pond have probably hitched a ride from visiting birds or plants that you’ve purchased and placed in your pond. Leeches will attach themselves to their host – like a duck or heron – and take in their fill of blood. Once they’re satiated, they’ll drop off and establish themselves in their new home. Leeches will also hide in plant roots and on the bottom of pots, and when you place them in your lake, they’ll happily move right in.

Fish Food

Fish love to gobble down leeches. A healthy fish population will, in most cases, keep leech numbers under control. Among game and lake fish, red ear sunfish do a great job of eating these worms. Other natural leech predators include turtles, crayfish and water fowl.

Prevention, Removal

Besides using your finned friends to control the leeches in your lake or pond, you can also try some of these recommendations:

•Control the muck on the bottom of your pond – which is where they lay their eggs and spend their off time – with a product like MuckAway™.
•Remove debris, cattails and phragmites from shallow areas of your pond.
•Add more leech-eating fish.
•Set a leech trap. Punch leech-size holes in a coffee or aluminum can, bait it with raw chicken and position it in a shallow area of your pond. When the worms go for the grub, they can get in – but not out. The burrs from the whole punch will prevent them from escaping. Remove the can once it’s full and repeat until the leeches are gone.

Pond Talk: What did you do the first time you found a leech locked onto your leg?

Pond Logic® MuckAway™ - Eliminate Muck Naturally

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!

Controlling Leeches – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a Leech

Q: How do you get rid of leeches?
– Richard of Waterbury Center, VT

A: The “muck” at the bottom of your pond is a great breeding ground for leeches. So the absolute best way to get rid of them would be to get rid of the “muck”. MuckAway™ Pond Muck Reducer is the best way to do this. MuckAway™ will eat up to 5″ of “muck” per year!

Another thing you can do in the short term is trap them. To do so, do the following:

1.) Start with a coffee can with a plastic lid.

2.) Poke holes in the sides of the can with a nail. Holes should be 1/8 to 1/4 inch in size. The nail holes should leave a sharp burr on the inside of the can (approximately 50 holes).

3.) Put about 1/4 cup of raw meat in the can (ground beef, liver, chicken or turkey giblets are recommended).

4.) Put the lid on the can and submerge it completely in your pond. A rock placed on top of the can will prevent it from falling over and will help prevent snapping turtles from tampering with it.

5.) Check the trap a couple of times a week and remove the leeches. Keep the trap in the pond until the leech numbers decrease, or you no longer catch any leeches in the trap.


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