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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. Change the 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 aeration to help break down the muck.

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

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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.

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 rake or cutter 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?

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

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

Specific Predator Control | Learning Center

Now that we learned the basics of predator control, here are some specifics about each nuisance pest.

Geese
Geese have several natural enemies including swans, alligators and coyotes. Using one, a pair or all three of these decoy methods will help to ensure your pond (and the surrounding area) stays geese free all season long.

  • Swans and geese make similar nesting areas (like your pond). Swans are very territorial and aggressive towards geese. Geese will see the swan decoy and fly over to find a less inhabited water body.
  • Using alligator decoys is also an effective method for geese control. An alligator decoy is effective in areas where alligators do not live; the fear of alligators is instinctive, not learned.
  • Geese do not like coyotes. The Coyote Decoy’s 3D build makes it visible from all angles making it superior to silhouette cut outs, not to mention its tail and body will move with the least amount of wind. This movement can be spotted by pesky birds from a great distance away. Nesting birds and other rodents will not want to seek refuge anywhere near your property if they spot this lurking predator in the open!

Blue Heron
Blue Herons compete against their own breed for pond real estate. A blue heron decoy will deter a real heron from landing due to their territorial nature. Just be aware that late April to May (sometimes early June) is mating season. If used too early, your blue heron decoy may attract a heron searching for a mate.

Muskrats
Muskrats can be cute at first as they frolic and play in your water, but beware you likely have a bigger problem than you think. Muskrats wreak havoc on your shoreline by digging tunnels around your pond to the den causing unstable ground. Here are tips to remove them from your pond:

  • Disrupt their diet. Muskrats are mostly vegetarians, eating aquatic vegetation such as cattails, grasses and pond weeds. Although, you may see them munching on snails, crayfish small fish and frogs in some areas. Removing vegetation in and around your pond is a sure way to limit a muskrat’s access to food.
  • Disrupt their environment. Muskrats prefer shallow ponds with still or slow-moving water. Adding an aeration system or fountain will provide circulation and, in most cases, enough wave movement to deter muskrats. You’ll get a cleaner pond out of it too!
  • Remove them from the pond. Muskrats can caught using a live trap baited with apples or other fruits and vegetables. Make sure you do not fully submerge the trap in case other wildlife accidentally becomes trapped. Monitor your traps several times per day. Check with your local DNR to determine rules involving relocating these pests.

Once you’ve trapped and released your muskrats, make sure you cave in their tunnels and den. You may need to backfill these spots with additional dirt or gravel.

Leeches
Leeches can be quite the nuisance pest in a swimming pond, but, thankfully, they do not do much harm. Leeches can be found in most ponds but a healthy fish population can keep their population in check. Redear Sunfish do a great job eating leeches out of their mucky habitat.

If you do not have fish, there are some prevention and removal techniques we can share with you.

  1. Control the muck. Mucky areas are a breeding ground for leeches. Rake out as much muck as possible and use MuckAway™ to reduce muck by up to 5” per year.
  2. Remove weeds and debris. You have the muck under control but what about weed growth? Another hot spot for leeches is among weeds and debris. Raking out weeds and any decaying dead weeds from shallow waters will also keep your leech population in check.
  3. Add fish. Redear Sunfish and Largemouth Bass will help to reduce the overall leech population.
  4. Set a leech trap. Punch leech-size holes in a coffee or aluminum can, bait it with raw chicken or fish 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.