gift
Living Woods Magazine -- 1st Issue
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
Win a copy of Landrace Gardening this week in the Seeds and Breeding forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Mike Haasl
  • Burra Maluca
master gardeners:
  • Greg Martin
  • jordan barton
  • Carla Burke
  • Leigh Tate
gardeners:
  • Jay Angler
  • John F Dean
  • Steve Thorn

Discouraging Leeches

 
gardener
Posts: 2528
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
907
forest garden fish trees foraging books earthworks food preservation cooking bee woodworking homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I severely dislike leeches. It's always a bad feeling to get out of the water from swimming to find leeches on your feet. We go swimming sometimes at a nearby lake, and the leeches have gotten worse each year. There used to be no leeches in the section where we swim, and now I get a few every time I get in.

The bottom used to be very sandy, and now it has a lot more leaf litter and is muddy on the bottom. It seems like the leeches like this new habitat and are making themselves at home. I wonder if I raked out some of the leaf litter and mud on the bottom and it became more sandy again if that would help?

The major factor that I think is contributing to there being more leeches, is the reduction of smaller fish like bluegill and sunfish that eat leeches. I think it's a result of having a huge turtle population combined with there not being a lot of habitat for the smaller fish to hide. I wander if increasing the habitat for the smaller fish and as a result increasing their numbers will help, resulting in more of them hopefully eat more leeches?

I've also seen some DIY leech traps using meat as bait, but I feel like this may just be addressing the symptom, and the top two strategies may help address the actual cause of there being so many leeches.

Has anyone used any of these strategies with success, or have any other ideas to help discourage leeches?
 
gardener
Posts: 496
Location: Nara, Japan. Zone 8-ish
356
kids dog forest garden personal care trees foraging
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's too bad your lake is getting full of leeches. While I don't have experience with aquatic leeches, we have "mountain leeches" (yamabiru) which are super annoying and everywhere. I had no idea that leeches existed out of water!


They like to wait in leaf litter and can sense your warmth, breath, shadow, and movement.

A creepy video of their searching behavior:


I had one try to bite my backside while squatting in my own garden. Now I tuck my shirt in.

Bug spray or "mountain leach fighter spray", which is just deet, keeps them off. Also saltwater works ok, and we carry a salt shaker with us to sprinkle on if we do get bit. They let go right away after being salted.

Anyway, this doesn't help you with your aquatic leeches. I think your plan is spot on.
Remove their habitat by clearing leaves and debris.
Promote the fish population. You could try some floating cages or sheltered areas the turtles can't get to.

I would maybe try the coffee can trap at least in the beginning. It could be helpful to reduce the population quickly. Then after removing habitat and increasing predators, hopefully the leech population wouldn't bounce back.

I would add also that turtles don't taste too bad! Not sure if yours are protected or anything....
 
Steve Thorn
gardener
Posts: 2528
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
907
forest garden fish trees foraging books earthworks food preservation cooking bee woodworking homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow Amy, that is very interesting! I had heard of land leeches, but I didn't know they were that successful in finding a host. They make the aquatic leeches look not nearly as bad.

It cracked me up when the guy in the video was looking at the leech about to suck his blood and said, "Very interesting, that's a great shot!"

Thanks for the encouragement and tips for discouraging the aquatic leeches in the lake, I'm hoping that using some of these strategies will help reduce their numbers, and I hope you don't have any more leech encounters either!
 
Posts: 328
Location: SW Missouri
53
hugelkultur duck trees chicken pig bee solar wood heat
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Its definitely a lack of fish problem.  I dug a pond going on 3 years ago now. Its had ducks from the beginning. Its been fun watching it go through evolution. Frogs were the first to arrive. Last year it got overrun with snails and leeches! We only noticed because tadpoles were dying at an alarming rate and after investigating the tadpoles were covered with leeches. Thousands of them were dying.  I guess they come in on bird feet and start reproducing.  I put 25 red ear perch and 25 hybrid blue gill along with 2 lbs of fat head minnows in the pond and all the leeches are gone, some snails are there but much more controlled.  I did not give the fish any habitat because I could not justifying putting anything into this hole I paid to have material taken out of lol!
 
pioneer
Posts: 198
Location: Chesterfield, Massachusetts, United States
hugelkultur purity forest garden food preservation fiber arts building woodworking rocket stoves
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Eric Hammond wrote:Its definitely a lack of fish problem.  I dug a pond going on 3 years ago now. Its had ducks from the beginning. Its been fun watching it go through evolution. Frogs were the first to arrive. Last year it got overrun with snails and leeches! We only noticed because tadpoles were dying at an alarming rate and after investigating the tadpoles were covered with leeches. Thousands of them were dying.  I guess they come in on bird feet and start reproducing.  I put 25 red ear perch and 25 hybrid blue gill along with 2 lbs of fat head minnows in the pond and all the leeches are gone, some snails are there but much more controlled.  I did not give the fish any habitat because I could not justifying putting anything into this hole I paid to have material taken out of lol!



What about the permaculture ethic of fair share and all life being valuable? Don't we have an obligation to these little guys as creatures who manipulate other species so readily? I am distressed frequently by the extent to which we view only the yield as this does not seem to be in keeping with sustainability.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3771
Location: Toronto, Ontario
535
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One of the first species to disappear when the aquatic ecosystem is compromised is the noble leech. A thriving aquatic system has leeches. I start to worry about lakes where they once were where they now are but memories.

If you've got a glut of them, I hope there's a favourite fish species that either eats the leeches, or else one that will eat the sunfish and bluegill to feed you. I like the idea of increasing predator fish habitat. All that might need doing is to stop removing  fallen trees and half-submerged ones from most of the waters' edge.

If you can stock the body of water, I would suggest just the minnows if you have a remnant small fish population. They will find your added shelter elements, and those shallower areas will teem with minnows as food and smaller leech predators. As much as I love the humble leech, I would rather swim with minnows. The worst they will do is nibble my dead foot skin.

-CK
 
gardener
Posts: 1774
Location: Los Angeles, CA
503
hugelkultur forest garden books urban chicken food preservation
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

D.W. Stratton wrote:
What about the permaculture ethic of fair share and all life being valuable? Don't we have an obligation to these little guys as creatures who manipulate other species so readily? I am distressed frequently by the extent to which we view only the yield as this does not seem to be in keeping with sustainability.



Everything in balance.  

I appreciate that the title of the thread is "discouraging leeches" -- not "annihilating the existence of all leeches everywhere for all time".  Permaculture is all about manipulation, and most of us do this daily.  In fact, many of the very lakes that this thread is discussing were man-made, the ultimate in manipulation of the land and water.  We manipulate our gardens to attract beneficial insects who then kill the pests.  We manipulate the flow of water across the landscape with swales and other water capture strategies.  We manipulate the natural building of soils by mob grazing ruminants and getting the cattle to poop where we most need the fertility by placing their water source where the soil is poorest.  We manipulate the length of the growing season by building greenhouses, raised beds, and using shade cloth.  I even manipulate people into trying foods like moringa or chaya by blending it into a smoothy or hiding it in a stir fry.  

The very definition of permaculture is managed ecosystems.  Managed, manipulated . . . a lot of overlap there.

The OP describes a situation where the leeches have gotten out of balance, perhaps due to the over-abundance of turtles.  The whole system is out of balance.  If we have an "obligation", it's to bring balance back to the system so that everyone benefits, including the folks who want to go for a swim.  I don't think we are in any danger of leeches someday going extinct, nor of completely ridding a lake of them and thus removing an important food source for fish and others.  
gift
 
Living Woods Magazine -- 1st Issue
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic