Leeches – That slimy, slippery, itchy, sinking feeling

Can you feel it? Nah, you probably can’t. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the first thing you feel is the damp trousers against your calf as your blue blood oozes, unrestrained, into the fresh wilderness air. Last Monday, Australia Day (Invasion Day), I set out to walk a historic, somewhat invisible, track in the Blue Mountains.

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Although the day started grey, it wasn’t long before the blue sky broke through and my companion and I were bathed in beautiful sunshine. However, down at ground level, under the lush canopy, the mystery of the disappearing track and recent downpours had the earth beneath our feet become the unmistakable home sweet home of Euhirudinea – the Leech.

Lush and ferny - a perfect home for leeches

Lush and ferny – a perfect home for leeches

Like something from Alien, the Australian version of these hermaphrodite little darlings have 2 toothy jaws, (3 in other countries) and seek out a tasty dinner which can keep them going for up to 3 months. They do this by producing a secretion called Hirudin, which stops the blood from clotting… hence the unstoppable flood of our precious, red stuff.

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

Like most people, I used to get pretty grossed out by these little critters, however, over the years I’ve come to admire their tenacity, patience and curiosity and am happy to reward them with my ample B positive. I’m no Buddhist, but find it quite unnecessary to smother them in salt, which causes them to sizzle, froth and die – surely a bit over the top. I simply get my finger nail under them and flick them off, making sure not to flick them in the direction of my friends.

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

Sure, I bleed. Big deal. And for the next 5 days I am scratching into the wee hours of the night, whilst reaching for my trusty spray of Stingose, but I kinda think of it as being part of the Circle of Life, like something from The Lion King.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Not to get too sentimental about these suckers, as they can cause infections such as cellulitis, but for me I don’t give them a second thought. Get over it… move on – oh, unless of course you’ve got one on your eyeball!

Oh and with gonads in their heads, I should probably start calling them Dickheads, instead of my usual expletive… bastard (as per the video)!

Q:  What’s your favourite method of dealing with leeches?

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Comments

    • says

      Now that’s another generous way of dealing with them! I’ve also been known to use a 9v battery in the past, just gives them a little zap and they release… but live to suck another day!

  1. says

    Like you, I just pick leaches off and flick them back into the bush. I’ve never found them particularly disgusting or anything. Though the itching does drive me crazy :)

    • says

      … and that annoying thing where they won’t stop bleeding after you’ve broken the seal in the shower. I usually resort to ‘man who cuts himself shaving’ routine with a bit of toilet paper, until it seals over again!

  2. says

    Yes, like in your video, where there’s one there’s bound to be more. I’ve been on two walks that were simply crawling with them – a lesser frequented track around Lamington National Park (Gold Coast Hinterlands) on a steamy summers day, and Powelltown (not far out of Melbourne) again on a track that didn’t look very often visited, up an otherwise beautiful, lush gully.
    The little buggers haven’t latched on yet, touch wood. We usually wear gaiters if we think there’s a chance of leeches around, although once I found two really, really small leeches on the inside of the gaiters before – not eating me yet, which was puzzling.
    I didn’t know the spot itches for a while after. I won’t tell my partner – he’s more paranoid than me!
    : )

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