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Leaches in the pond

It’s like being in a horror movie: You go for a swim in the pond and when you come out, your legs are covered with leeches. It’s alarming, but leeches don’t transmit diseases. In fact, they’ve been used for thousands of years for medical purposes. Either pick them off by hand, or dump some table salt on them and they’ll let go.

Related to common earthworms, leeches are found in almost every pond. They hitch a ride with waterfowl, amphibians and mammals, and settle in the mucky debris at the bottom of the pond.

Larry Dorman is an extension aquaculture specialist at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. He says leeches are blood eaters, but aren’t exclusively on the prowl for human blood. They just sort of bump into us and latch on.

"Maybe your warm temperature, being cold-blooded, that may attract them. For the most part they’re blood eaters, but they have been known to eat insects, worms, crustaceans, other type things that are in ponds," says Dorman. "And some of these guys can actually eat five-times their body weight in blood."

Leeches will also attach themselves to fish – if the fish don’t eat them first. Sunfish and bass consider leeches a tasty treat and are a good way to keep their numbers under control.

But if there are just too many leeches and they’ve become a problem, Dorman says you can kill them off with chemicals.

"That’s going to vary state-to-state. There are certain permits that one state may get or allow to use that another state’s not allowed to, so I would advise somebody to start out with their county extension agent or their DNR people and go from there as far as what may be approved chemically and what’s not," he says. "But you don’t want to just indiscriminately throw chemical in the water."

If you can’t beat ‘em, sell ‘em. Leeches are excellent fish bait.