Another wild guide weekend goes by, and by ‘eck we even got some sunshine! Thanks to the largely dry weather, families turned up in their droves to go pond-dipping, and us wild guides were treated to a veritable smorgasbord of pond fauna...
Now, firstly I’d like you to, for the moment, ignore the many three-spined sticklebacks in this picture. Instead, cast your eyes to the worm-like creature in the centre of the photo. It’s a leech!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m once again writing about a rather gruesome creature, but I think the leech deserves some appreciation, and here’s why...
Our leeches are friendlier than you might think! Only a few actually suck blood, and the species you’ll fish up n our pond aren’t interested in humans, after all they rarely come into contact with anything above the surface. Mostly, they’ll feed off snails and other small invertebrates.
Time to get technical! Identifying leeches can be a tricky business, and as such, I can’t say this with 100% confidence. I think the leech in the photo is Hemiclepsis marginata, and that’s all you need to know!
One more little interesting leech snippet, and the song lyric “I like the way you move!” springs to mind. Leeches have a sucker pad at each end of their body. To move, they first anchor on to a suitable surface using their rear sucker. They then extend their body forwards, with the front sucker searching for a new hold point to latch on to. Once found, it arches its body forward towards the newly-secured front sucker. They repeat this process to move along, and it is called ‘looping’. It isn’t too dissimilar to the looping movement of a caterpillar. You’ll notice in our picture that the leech is moving. Its front sucker (left side) is busy searching for a hard surface to latch on to - you can see how the body is stretching forwards (left is the front of the leech, right is the rear end).
So there you have it, leeches are pretty fascinating after all!
Finally I’d like to say a big thank you to the families who pond-dipped last weekend, everyone was really enthusiastic and it made for a great weekend of wild guiding! Our pond is in great health at the moment, with lots of baby three-spined sticklebacks and pond snails about. We also have plenty of damselfly and dragonfly nymphs, not to mention the superbly terrifying great diving beetle larvae (look out for the adults in our pond!).
See you over the summer holidays!