• Archives

  • Categories

  • Pages

  • Follow me on Twitter

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

29 Responses

  1. Put some Perch in your pond. Leeches are fantastic Perch bait

  2. Thanks for the advice. It helps having a site like this .

  3. A leach from the dew pond over my fence was squashed under my trouser leg, from witch i received blood poisoning, delirium, and a very
    long time in hospital. and i am still experiencing skin problems.
    So avoid squashing them so they regurgitate in you.
    J Bowyer.

  4. My pit was dug in New clay and then covered in 2″ heavy duty black plastic. The seams have been heat sealed so nothing leaks into the ground. This fall it will be a manure lagoon,(holding 10,000,000gal of manure), for now, it’s got about 2ft of rain water in it. The kids have used it for a slip-n-slide. They said it’s got leeches in it. How could this be?

    • Hi Pennie – If they are present an any environment around you, than leeches could have easily been brought in from other animals visiting the water hole. You can still use the same tricks to remove them and once the pit is being used for a lagoon the environment most likely will become uninhabitable for them.

    • Ok..thanks. we have the kids have rolled huge Ricks from the field into the pit. Now on these rocks, there seems to be eggs covering them. We are thinking they maybe frog eggs. Since that’s the only animals that we see down there. And we are wondering if the blood suckers the kinds are seeing aren’t little tadpoles.. lol..
      Thanks for you quick response ..Pennie

      • Leeches should look more like a worm, where tadpoles have a more distinctive head and tail and actively swim and scatter as soon as you are near the water. Hopefully for your sake and the kids they are just tadpoles!

      • Hi again..I had to reply back. Your last sentence sparked more interest…
        “For your sake and the kids, I hope it’s only tadpoles”? Oh boy..that kinda doesn’t sound too good. Lol what are we talking about there? What else should we be looking for/worries about? We truly have not had a body of water like this to play on, except for a lake… So fill me in… I can take it. 😃
        Thanks Pennie

      • Sorry to worry you Pennie, the leeches shouldn’t cause any harm. I just meant that the tadpoles would be a more desirable creature to have swimming with you.

      • Hi again….last reply..sadly today the big pond turns into the manure out it is suppose to be. Thanks for your advice. Whatever is growing or swimming will be no more!! Have a great summer..you have great advice for sure!! Pennie

      • Thanks Pennie – maybe the experience will encourage you to add a small pond or water feature in the future. They add to the landscape and are a lot of fun. Take Care!

  5. We recently came across tiny leeches in our swimming pond. They make going swimming kinda creepy, when get out you have to pick the booger size pests off your feet. I’ve read all the articles about them and didn’t feel like any of the eradication solutions were going to produce the results I want. We’ve decided to add small amounts of marine salt to the pond as I hear leeches have no salt tolerance and it makes them unable to hydrate. I’ll write again and let you know if it works.

    • Hi Katy – Good luck and hopefully you have good results to share!

    • Salt is the best remedy to get rid of leeches on your bodies or animals. If the leeches are in the pond especially if the pond is filled with fish, use sea salt then flush the water out while shaking the gravel after 2 to 3 hours. Your fish would probably hate you for killing their snack but at least you got rid of the yucky feeling. Dont forget to use water conditioner though after you add new water to relieve the stress you put on the fish when you added the salt.
      Depending on the size of your swimming pond and if there’s nothing in it you might want to put alot of sea salt or consider shock treating it with swimming pool grade bleach. It works all the time

    • We did salt the pond for a while and loaded it up will all kinds of fish. Haven’t seen in a leech in over a year 🙂

  6. My husband was in our pond pulling cat tails and became covered in leaches. This is the first year we have had leaches. We are going to try the bait trap. What kind of poison should we use to apply to the chicken? Thanks!

    • Hi Adina – You would not want to put any kind of poison on the chicken as you wouldn’t want that in the pond. Simply removing the leeches from their environment will work or you can use salt once they are removed from the pond.

  7. I made a leech trap for our pond and it worked great!
    The problem is, I only have one can.
    I tried dumping the captured leeches out of the can, but I can’t get them out.
    They are determined to stay in.
    How do I get them out of the can so I can reset my trap?

    • Hi Kim – Are the leeches still attached to the bait you are using or just stuck to the sides of the can? Maybe hold the can upside down over another bucket and use a garden hose to help flush them out of the can. This may be enough to break their suction so they slide out.

  8. Is it possible to remove a leech with vinegar?

    • Hi James – I haven’t personally tried it but in reading other blogs and information online it seems to be a common suggestion for removing a leech.

  9. Should I have a concern for my children swimming in the pond, for we found small leeches on them when they got out.

    • Hi Terry – Nope, they should be just fine. You can typically flick them off or put a pinch of salt and they’ll come right off. Follow the tips listed in the article to reduce their numbers in your pond.

      • Hi Mel, I thank-you for the quick response to my concern, the children having little leeches after swimming in our pond. What do you think of injesting them, can there be a problem? Terry

      • That’s better asked to a medical person. I do not think it’s a good idea. Leeches are typically in pond muck, so most time, they are found on legs.

  10. will leeches hurt my dog,,he loves my pond he enjoys swimming and he also drinks the water,it was dug for a swimming hole but we aquired leeches this year,,,:(..

    • Hi Jeanie,

      As long as they are not left on the animal for extended periods of time and any small wounds are cared for to prevent infection they should not cause to much trouble.

      • thanks so much i put a coffee can with bloody meat in it with holes to try to trap them but all i caught were snails? i have stood in and splashed the water a bit but i have yet to see any leeches only about 3 earlier in the summer,,is it possible they are gone??

  11. The first time I had a leach on me my Mom put salt on it and in no time the leach just fell off. I have been doing that ever since.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: