Can leeches fly?

A quick snap of one of our Horse Leeches - not the best picture, but you get the idea

A quick snap of one of our Horse Leeches - not the best picture, but you get the idea

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a few days – another case of the surprising power of freshwater animals to get from place to place.

Amazingly, a week or so ago, two Horse Leeches (known to biologists as Haemopis sanguisuga – hee-mo-pis sang-gwi-soo-ga) turned up in the new pond.

We found them a few days before the recent change of water.

I have now idea how they got to the pond – they are partly amphibious, so do come out of the water. Chatting with Professor Malcolm Elliott – who has the teeshirt when it comes to leeches – Horse Leeches are partial to earthworms and leave the water to hunt for them.

But whether they do longer distance migrations overland, no-one really knows.

And for ours it’s quite a long way to the nearest water – at least 300 m to the nearest stream. As streams are not really the preferred habitat of Horse Leeches, they may have come from even further away.

So how did these leeches arrive? The birds foot seems unlikely as these are quite big animals, so presumably they did indeed travel overland. It also looks like they prefer to go about in pairs (I made that bit up!).

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