Sunday, April 22, 2012

Leeches - Nasty Little Suckers.

Leeches - I hate 'em!

With all the wet weather around Sydney right now, and over the past few days and earlier this year, leeches are really active and plenty!

Earlier this year, with the high rainfall and warmer temperatures, dormant leeches were revived and plentiful. After the El Nina cycle was reportedly over and Sydney's summer, or something close to it resumed, leech activity dropped off.

When you're in the garden, be aware that these little blood-suckers can show up. Most reports indicate that they don't do anything more than steal a little blood over a few hours. However, improper removal can cause the leech to regurgitate into the wound they create, and that may cause various health issues.

In our line of work, in gardens all over Sydney's North Shore, they do show up. We wear proper work boots with quality cotton socks and heavy full length trousers and we still experience leech 'attacks'. Some of our colleagues recommend gaiters, mud gaiters and even heavy cotton drill 'leech socks'.

The best way to deal with leeches is insect repellent. If you don't seem tasty to a leech, then they won't stay around. If you use commonly available types of insect repellent spray on your exposed skin and clothes and footwear, then you're reducing the chance of a leech visiting you for a feed. Mostly, leeches climb over your footwear and attach themselves to the the nearest flesh they can find. Thus, if you repel 'em lower down, then the chances for a love match with a leech are reduced.

There are stronger repellants available, but there are stories about ones high in DEET causing troubles with leather and synthetic materials. DEET products are great, but work better if they're properly used, which includes, as we understand it, washing off treated skin and materials daily.

Some other repellant products exist and are similarly efective, but less troublesome for leather and plastic. I can't tell you their names because they don't pay me to endorse their product. However, I'm sure that if you Google for leech repellant, you'll find some excellent solutions that meet your need and some lovely stories from hikers and garden contractors from all over the world.

Some modern types suggest to let the little sucker have its feed and then drop off to reduce the risk of infection by improper removal, and of course to let nature take its course, let the leech have a feed for a couple of hours or so and just naturally drop off. I'm not sure that they have the same sentiments about other more significant predators and their feeding habits. I'm sure a tiger or a lion would drop off after a couple of hours too...

Leeches? I still hate 'em.

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