American Medicinal Leech

2014 March 22

So here we are, back in Michigan. On May 17, 2013 we decided to have another look at the contents of the little pond back in the woods. So, we were poking around on the shore, and Sandy spotted an odd orange object in the weeds. Which we promptly netted, and found to be – A Leech! A big one!

It was only orange on the underbelly side, with the back being more a dark brown with small spots.

This looks to be an American Medicinal Leech, Macrobdella decora. These are big leeches that have sometimes been used for bloodletting purposes, although the European Medicinal Leech was more commonly used.

The little pond was crawling with them. Later in the summer, Sandy and the girls hauled our canoe down to the pond to go poking about, and ended up netting about a dozen of them as they swam by in their undulating way. Sandy later used them for fishing bait [1]

A big advantage of leeches as fishing bait is that they keep really well. A leech might go for a year or more between meals, so if you keep them in a jar of water in your refrigerator you’ll always have bait available. They also stay on the hook very well (you can hook them through the sucker, which is pretty tough and gristly), and being aquatic they won’t get “soggy” and listless the way an earthworm will. And fish really do love them.

[1] We also tried setting out various types of “leech trap” as discussed the last time I had pictures of a leech. None of the traps worked for us, though. So for our particular pond, and our particular leeches, netting is probably the way to go.

“So, as fast as I could, I went after my net. And I said, “With my net I can get them I bet. I bet, with my net, I can get those Things yet!” – Dr. Seuss

6 Responses
  1. Katbird permalink
    March 22, 2014

    Welcome home- nice leech!

  2. Carole permalink
    March 22, 2014

    We had leeches in our lake years ago. Wish I’d paid more attention to their appearance.

  3. Katbird permalink
    July 20, 2014

    I am sorry you are getting so many annoying answers to your blog- not Carole of course. Is it spam?

  4. July 21, 2014

    Yes, it’s the spammers. My spam filters are pretty good, so normally nobody but me sees the 200+ spam comments I get in an average day. But lately, four or five have been slipping through per day and have to be manually removed. Hopefully the learning algorithm in the spam filter will learn to catch those, too, eventually.

  5. Amy permalink
    November 25, 2015

    Hello Tim! Is there a way for us to borrow your image of Macrobdella Decora for an article we are publishing in our library’s online journal, “Grand Traverse Journal”? Please get back to me, we were hoping to use it in our December issue, and I’d love to send you a link to it, it’s an awesome article by our resident biologist, Richard Fidler.

  6. November 27, 2015

    Amy: You are welcome to borrow the image. Thanks for asking.

Comments are closed.