There are a lot of campsites in South East Asia countries situated in the rainforest. Rainforests are full of wild and fascinating animals. Every time during the raining season, there will be a lot of leeches lurking in the area. If you going camping during the raining season in the forest, there are high chances that your skin will get in contact with leeches at some point.
What is Leeches?
Leeches belong to the genus of phylum, and there are about 650 known species found in the world. They are very common to be found in the rainforest.
The main characteristics of the leeches are they are having flat spindle shape, with many ring circle on their body. The back of the leeches is dark brown in color. The ventral surface is flat and brownish yellow.
Most of the leeches are living in freshwater; only a few are living in salt water.
Leeches are Hermaphrodites, which means that the individual leech is both male and female at the same time. Reproduction occurs through the production of Cocoons that are either attached to the substrate, where the family or in the many types of Glossiphoniidae Leeches Pupas it attaches directly to the abdominal surface of the mother leech. This allows the mother to protect and care for the young, as it develops. This includes the provision of food (the victim) for the young hatched Leeches.
How Large Could a Leech Grow?
The largest leech discovered were measured at around 46cm. In the normal state, a leech can grow about 6 ~ 10 times of its original size once consumed blood.
Where are They Come from?
Some of my friends who don’t know much about leeches are having questions on whether the leeches are falling from the tree? Well, the answer is no. Leeches are not falling from the tree. Leeches mostly prefer muddy waters, damp forests, lowlands and coastal areas where the water buffaloes hang out.
They also tend to repose in bushes beside the jungle trek. When you walk on the jungle trek, they will grab on you. This is the reason most of the people are finding the leech attach on their legs.
Are Leeches Dangerous?
It is not dangerous if you get a leech stick on your body. Most of the time you won’t have any feel when a leech is sticking on your body. You may only know at the time you see with your eye or you feel there is bleeding of the certain area of your body.
The reason that after you got bite by the leech, your wound takes a long time to stop the bleeding is that the secretion of the leech is having an anticoagulant effect and which cause the blood to take a long time to get condensed.
How to Avoid Leeches Bite?
1. Wear long pants
Wear long pants and tie the neckline, cuffs, and hem to prevent leeches to crawl in and suck the blood of your body.
2. Buy yourself a pair of mink socks
Dress it like a sock and tie it below your knees to prevent the leeches from entering between your toes and feet. Remember, leeches like warm and humid.
3. Buy a small bag of raw tobacco that you can get from the market
Soak the raw tobacco in the water, then put them into a small bottle. Spray them on the clothes and pants. You can also soak the mink socks in the water that contain raw tobacco. But this may not be so effective as according to my personal experience, it does not stop leeches to craw onto my socks. The smell of tobacco can slows down the movement of leeches and eventually intoxicates them. But it takes time and there is no immediate effect.
4. Apply salt to your hands and any exposed area of your body
You can sprinkle salt on the leeches, and it will fall off immediately. Never forcibly pull the leeches off your body. If it is already sucking your blood, this will make you bleed more, it is difficult to stop bleeding.
Put the clothes inside the pants. This will prevent the leeches from crawling into your abdomen, armpits and any warm area of your body. It is not unnecessary for you to wear long sleeves.
5. Don’t lean on anything in the rainforest
If you need to stop and take a break, you should find a place where the sun can shines through. The leech does not like to stay in a warm area. During the journey, you should always pay attention to see if there is any leech crawling on your feet.
6. Apply soap, mosquitoes repellent or raw garlic
If you apply some soap and anti-mosquito oil on your shoes, you can prevent the leech to get close to you. Normally, the effective timeframe of the soap and anti-mosquito oil will only last for 4 to 8 hours. Leeches don’t like the smell of raw garlic. You can apply garlic juice on your shoes and clothes to prevent leech to get close to your body.
7. Choose a dry campsite
When going camping, you should choose a campsite that is dry and less grass. Leeches love the damp site and not on places that are dry and warm.
8. Don’t drink river or lake water
Bring your own water and try not to drink any water from the lake or river. Micro leech lurking in the water is not easy for you to see with your eye. If you drink them, it will be parasitic in the respiratory tract, esophagus, urethra, etc. If you need to drink water from the lake or river, you need to purify them first.
How to Get Rid of Leech Manually?
If you get bitten by a leech, you can do this to remove it from your body:
- Figure out the oral part of the leech. This can be found at the small end of the leech.
- Once identify the oral sucker, place your finger close to it.
- Slowly move your finger toward the wound where it got fed by the leech. Gently push the sucker away from your skin with your fingernail.
- As soon as the oral sucker of the leech has been dislodged, you need to detach the posterior sucker immediately.
- Use your fingernail to flick the leech. You need to do this is because when you try to remove the leech from your skin, it will attempt to reattach again to your body.
If you find there is a leech attached and sucking blood on your body, you should not try to pull it off. If you do so, the mouthparts of the leech may remain under the skin and will leave a lump.
Avoid Doing this to the Leeches
Other than don’t pull the leech off your body, you also shouldn’t burn the leech with a lighted cigarette.
You can try to detach it by tapping around the bite area and shake it off, then cover the wound with grind charcoal powder or tender bamboo leaves to stop it from bleeding, or use iodine to coat the wound to prevent infection.
Besides, you can also apply anti-inflammatory drugs to the skin that is bitten by leeches to prevent secondary infection.
What if I accidentally eat a living leech?
If you accidentally eat a leech, you shouldn’t get panic. Under normal circumstances, the leeches will be destroyed by your stomach juice once it goes into your belly.
You can also drink honey mixed with plenty of water. The leech will die after about one hour when it gets into contact with honey.
Nonetheless, for health and safety reasons, it is recommended for you to go to the hospital for treatment and do a thorough check to ensure there is no risk cause for your body.
How If Leech Crawl into the inner part of your body?
If the leech enters the vagina, nasal cavity, or urethra, do not use your hands to forcibly pull it out. You can apply honey or sesame oil in the area, and the leeches will automatically withdraw from the body.
Leeches Facts & Founds
What type of local (Asia) leech is suitable as medical leeches?
The species of the local medical leech is called Hirudinaria Manillensis. It is commonly known as the buffalo leech or lintah kerbau to Malaysians.
How to rear leech?
There are many methods of Leeches breeding. Leeches can be rear by the pond, cement pond, canvas pond and even in the poly tank.
How much does leech consume?
For every 1,000 leeches breed, it requires 3kg of eels monthly.
How old for the leech to start laying eggs?
The peak time for leeches to start laying eggs is at 6 months and above.
How many baby leeches can it hatch from a cocoon?
About 20 ~ 80 leeches can be hatched at one time from a cocoon.
What is the usage of leeches?
Leeches are commonly used to extract hirudin (anti-coagulant) for medical and cosmetics usage. Other than that, leeches are also extensively used for leech therapy.