Where Does a Leech Feed?
Leeches, which are rather slimy worms and vary in length from an inch to several inches, have two suckers, a big one at the rear and a smaller one at the mouth end. They have powerful muscles which enable them to expand and contract their bodies. This makes them excellent swimmers.
They can also use their suckers to crawl on the land. In tropical Asia, the islands of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, there is a particularly vicious and dreaded species of land leech which enters the breathing passages of animals, gorges on the animal’s blood and swells so that it cannot escape.
Aquatic or water leeches cling to fishes, turtles and shell fish. An overpopulation of leeches in a pond can cause harm to fish and other aquatic life living in the pond. Adding chemicals to the pond water will kill leeches but will cause fish and other life more damage than the problem leeches.
Using natural means to remove leeches from the pond will keep your pond healthy while reducing the threat of leeches. Removing leeches naturally from a pond requires patience and persistence to ensure all harmful leeches are removed.
Some leeches feed on earthworms and frogs’ eggs. Others live on the larvae of insects and even on the microscopic life on the floor of the pond. A leech attaches itself when it bites, and it will stay attached until it becomes full, at which point it falls off to digest. Due to the hirudin secreted, bites may bleed more than a normal wound after the leech is removed.
Leech saliva is commonly believed to contain anesthetic compounds to numb the bite area, but this has never been proven. Although morphine-like substances have been found in leeches, they have been found in the neural tissues, not the salivary tissues.
They are used by the leeches in modulating their own immunocytes and not for anesthetizing bite areas on their hosts. Depending on the species and size, leech bites can be barely noticeable or they can be fairly painful.
Leeches have been used in medicine from early times until quite recently to draw blood from a patient. Leeches normally carry parasites in their digestive tracts, which cannot survive in humans and do not pose a threat.
However, bacteria, viruses, and parasites from previous blood sources can survive within a leech for months, but only a few cases of leeches transmitting pathogens to humans have been reported. A study found both HIV and hepatitis B in African leeches from Cameroon.