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When Leeches Attack
Leach waiting for a Sucker to come along
Camping in the Rain Forest
As a child I grew up in a small town surrounded by Rain Forest. In Australia, Queensland has a large number of tropical Rain Forests and as kids the animals were just a part of daily life. Common animals in the Rain Forest were Wallabies, Parrots, turkeys, Pythons, Large Spiders, Bull Ants and Leeches.
The leeches were a bit annoying buy I never paid much attention to them.
Quite a few years on after being a city dweller for a long time I find myself camping with friends in the rain forest for a weekend. It wasn’t very nice weather. While it was fine in the city, less then 100km away in the Rain Forest, it was raining. Not too heavy, but enough to keep everything nice and damp.
A Happy Leech Sucking Blood
Food for the locals
Well as soon as we stepped out of the nice dry car it was quite evident that the leeches were out for blood. It didn’t matter where you went the leaches stuck to your feet and legs. For every 10 meters you would walk, about 3 or 4 leaches would be stuck to you.
Now leeches are like chewing gum. Once you pick them up they are very hard to flick off. They will just stick to anything. So trying to flick off 10 of these things before they start to bite was quite a challenge. It is Summer in Australia and about 37 degrees so no one is wearing long pants. It is shorts and thongs. Long pants with socks pulled over them would be advisable if leeches are attacking you. At least then you can see them coming. Also they don’t like mosquito repellant, but you have to apply it quite regularly.
Lamington National Park & Queensland
Do you want Salt with that order?
I can tell you from experience it is almost impossible to pull a leech that is well attached off your bum cheek, so when leeches have attached and are feeding on your blood, just sprinkle some salt on them to make them let go. They have very soft moist skin. Salt is the best weapon against the leeches.
Leeches might look like a simple worm, but I think they are quite smart. They know the best spots to stand and wait for a passing victim. Whether they can sense vibrations and move to those areas or communicate with each other telling each other where the juiciest meals are? They do move to where humans are around. The best food is our blood .
Straight from a Horror Movie
While camping in the Rain Forest the leaches moved in and circled our camp site. They don’t only stay in the grass, they will sit on a rock or any place a bit moist.
If a leech were ten times bigger it would be straight out of an alien invasion movie. Leeches have a mouth at one end and the other end is like a finger. When they want to jump onto your foot, they grab hold of a piece of grass or on a rock with their mouth and use their finger like tail to grab you as you walk past. Once they are on your shoe or clothes they move up your body looking for bare skin. They move from head to tail a bit like a caterpillar.
Once a leech finds some skin it can attach to it wasting no time it makes a slit in your skin and starts to drink. It only takes a leech ten minutes or so to be full of blood. The leech secretes an anti coagulant into the bite to stop your blood from clotting so the smallest leech cut can produce a lot of blood. Even after the leech is removed the cut it made will continue to bleed for a while.
As far as I know leeches do not transmit any disease. If they did transmit any diseases, I would have them all after my weekend with the leeches. So anyway I am sticking with leeches being disease free.
The mouth of a leech can hold very strongly. If a leech is climbing on some clothing and is holding on with its mouth. It will not let go easily. Their teeth can hold the fabric fibers better then they can hold your skin.
Bear Grylls gets a little leech and administers medicine
Leeches on Feet and Legs
Rain Forest Books
Leeches cute and cuddly pets
Personally I really admire the leech. It looks like a worm, but it is so much more. It is the perfect creature in every way for what it does. The way it finds its host, the sticking power it possesses, The speed it can move once on a host, the speed it can attach and drink, the anti coagulant it produces and the way it reproduces make it a truly remarkable animal. I guess us humans are more of a threat to the leech then it is to us. It can only live in moist Rain Forests which we like to chop down when we have a chance.
Well the leeches made it an interesting weekend and no doubt we fed them well so there will be plenty more for the next unsuspecting tourists.