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When Leeches Attack

Updated on February 9, 2013

Leach waiting for a Sucker to come along

Leach on Log
Leach on Log

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

Leech Sucking Blood
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.

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 .

Hungry Leeches

Hungry Leeches
Hungry Leeches

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

Leeches on Feet and Legs
Leeches on Feet and Legs

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.

Blood Sucking Comments

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    • Cresentmoon2007 profile image

      Cresentmoon2007 3 years ago from Caledonia, MI

      There has been a sense of fear when it comes to leaches that I have had for a while now. I think it originates from a time in childhood when my brother ended up getting a leach on him. A moment I won't ever forget. This is a useful and interesting hub that I enjoyed reading.

    • Brisbanelocksmith profile image
      Author

      John Magee 4 years ago from Brisbane, Qld, Australia

      Tsadjatko, thanks I will get to it soon I hope. I noticed a hospital near me offers leach therapy for burn victims to stimulate blood flow after serious burns.

      Variousereads, There were hundreds of leeches that day. They are so quick to hitch a ride and start sucking you don't have time to catch them before they attach.

      There was a movie made in 1959 called Attack Of The Giant Leeches. Worth watching for a laugh!

    • variousreads profile image

      Victoria Addino 4 years ago from USA

      Great Read, Being from New York I haven't come in much contact with Leeches, But I remember when I was a kid, friends would pour salt over slugs, At the time I thought it was cruel, but trust me if those suckers come after my blood I would be the first to pull out a salt shaker, Your read was so good that for a few minutes I felt the presence of the creepy crawler, Great Read!!!

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 4 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      Ewwwwe, Great hub! You know about Leech Therapy: a natural way to cure diseases ? It has long been known that leeches can be used to cure people of their ailments. Google it, you might want to add that info to your hub. :-)

      What is the difference between a leech and a lawyer?

      The leech stops sucking you dry after you're dead.