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Leech Bite Clarification

7-7-17 snapper with leeches IMG_9090Today’s Naturally Curious post stated that leeches have a chemical anesthetic which prevents the host from feeling a leech’s bite. I have since learned that there is no scientific proof of this, and substantial proof that it is not true. As reported, it is possible, and even likely, to feel a leech’s bite. In addition, as Ruth Sylvester pointed out, hirudin is the anticoagulant, not the non-existent anesthetic! So sorry. Reference:

8 responses

  1. Skip Jones

    In the 1970s, when I smoked, I came upon a snapping turtle on a dirt road in Maine. It was near wetland. It was a bit over a foot in length and was hosting over a dozen leeches, covering all its exposed flesh, feet, neck, legs, tail.
    I got out of my truck, lit a cigarette and gingerly placed the lit end near the back of a leech. It quickly detached. I repeated until all leeches were removed.
    The turtle waited patiently, occasionally turning its head to watch. It made no move to bite, even when I was working on its neck and front legs,.
    When the last leech fell off it looked at me briefly and wandered into the swamp.

    July 7, 2017 at 11:50 am

  2. Collin Fabbri

    I think you were right in the first place. I have had the unfortunate experience of having a leech bite and i had no idea it was on me until I saw it. I have no data to support my statement, but that was my experience. Thank you for your wonderful website/books!! >

    July 7, 2017 at 12:03 pm

  3. bernard webb

    So far, day by day, your entries have been mildly repulsive, not joyous, as one would expect it nature pictures. This is disappointing.

    July 7, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    • April

      I will have to beg to differ on the characterization of the posts being repulsive! I think we humans overlay various cultural and personal judgments on what we encounter. I’m interested in all aspects of nature, not just what seems beautiful. I never even thought about what leeches eat besides humans. Keep it going Mary!

      July 7, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      • Cheryl McKeough


        July 7, 2017 at 9:11 pm

  4. As a kid we often had leeches attach themselves. Don’t remember any pain but we delighted in “salting” them so they’d detach. The wound would bleed for quite awhile after.

    July 7, 2017 at 4:54 pm

  5. lanny moldauer

    Having had leeches attach to me in good numbers while hiking semi-tropical rainforest in Australia, I never felt any other than by the contact with their bodies. Bleeding through my tee shirt was evidence of their presence, but never the sensation of any bite. Maybe American leeches operate differently, however.

    July 7, 2017 at 7:58 pm

  6. Cheryl McKeough

    I am grateful for your wonderful
    Blog entries. I learn so much from you. The natural world is endlessly fascinating, and I love that you cover creatures large and small, cute and less cute!

    July 7, 2017 at 9:19 pm

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