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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™

8 Responses

  1. I have a spring fed swimming pond. No fish in pond. Is it OK to bait with raw chicken? Will that not mess up the water for swimming? I don’t want to make anyone in my family sick.

    • Hi Denny – If you are worried about possible contamination, I would recommend using Steps 1 & 2 outlined above. When we recommend baiting, you are using a few cans in an area and regularly removing and rebaiting the area. You are not leaving the chicken or fish to fully decompose so water quality should be minimally affected.

  2. I would like to know how much muckaway I will need for my pond. How can I figure it out?

    • Hi Jerry – You use 1 scoop of MuckAway™ for every 1,000 square feet of shoreline. For example, if you have 100′ of shoreline, you can dispense the MuckAway up to 10′ away for 1 scoop. Or if you have 50′ of shoreline you want to treat, you can go 20′ from the shore with 1 scoop of MuckAway™.

  3. We grew up at a lake with many leeches (blood suckers) and though we freaked out as kids, the salt shaker was always ready! Shake salt on the leech and it would curl up and let go of you. No touch method. 🙂

    • Salt is the best way to remove leeches. Pulling them can break their proboscis inside of the body. This will cause an infection and rejection reaction in the human. Let the leech withdraw the proboscis on its own to be safe.

  4. Your article talks about little 2 inch leeches., well my pond has leeches that are up to 10 inches long. What about them? I can’t imagine trapping them. Any further suggestions?

    • Hi Skip – With such large leeches, you will need to destroy their habitat by removing the debris and muck from the shallow areas of the pond, or at least the area where you actively swim. You still trap them but frequent checking of the traps would be needed.

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