Saturday, June 23, 2007

pond invaders

As we hit a period of slightly hot weather, with highs near 90 forecast for tomorrow, Starflower has at last been able to enjoy swimming in the pond. She got her cast off on Thursday, and her arm looks great; hardly even a tan line, and she was somehow able to keep good muscle tone.

However, there has been one obstacle to full pond enjoyment. Or, should I say, a bunch of annelid obstacles.

It seems every time we show up at the sandy edge of the pond, the leech patrol is there to meet us. I thought they hung out in the muckier end of the pond, but sometimes you can see seven or eight of them cruising the sand shallows. I don't mind them; I usually dash out to the deep hole before they can come near me. Mr. Attitude, being a tough guy, doesn't mind them. But Starflower minds them...a lot. So much that the poor girl hasn't had her usual carefree swim yet this year. I can't say I blame her.

The options are 1) Stock some kind of fish that will eat the leeches. But that will take time, and money, and the fish won't likely survive the winter and get big enough to eat. 2) make leech traps, and sell or give them away for fish bait. But that too would take a bit of time and effort, and adequate leech removal would not be guaranteed. So that leaves 3) obtain a small amount of copper sulfate and apply it to the pond. I don't like going the chemical kill route, and I'll have to make absolutely sure it won't harm frogs or turtles, but copper sulfate is a lot less harmful than a lot of the stuff that has been finding its way into the groundwater in Minnesota (not here, thankfully; we're near the top of a watershed with no agriculture or industry above us.)

I have encountered a few other nuisance critters, both four and six legged, in my garden. A little natural chemical warfare may be in order. But that's another post.

Oh, and notice the reflection blob on the top of the picture. Any ID guesses?


pablo said...

Leeches suck!

RuthieJ said...

The reflection resembles a large semi-aquatic mammal. Beware of the wet fur shake-off!

Deb said...

Pablo- I read your comment aloud in my best Beavis and Butthead voice.

RuthieJ- It is most certainly a large semi-aquatic mammal. That shake-off was spectacular!

Madcap said...

Starflower would have a soul-sister in Poppy - the pond wouldn't be big enough for her and even one leech.

Do you get problems with swimmer's itch parasite?

Larry said...

I remember being in shock when I walked out of a pond covered in leeches-I didn't feel them getting on me-They're like -well-little bloodsucking leeches they are-I heard they used to be helpful in medicine though.

Nifty Galoot said...

Hmmmm.... Here I was thinking the reflection was too small to be a cruise liner, maybe more like a tug boat. Anyway, I woulda had some kinda boat in the pond when I was a kid.

Oh! Ain't any kinda water fun when you're a kid? I always liked ditches, puddles, and wandering around on the rocks in the Mississippi. The rocks in the river could be a bit slippery and the current is strong so had to be careful there.

Enjoy your pond this summer!

Floridacracker said...

In all my swamping about, I've never had a leech hook to me. I think your northern leeches must be more aggressive than our laid back southern variety. They definitely look bigger.

Sally's a cutie, even when she's in a reflective mood.

Deb said...

madcap- Soul sisters definitely.

We haven't had swimmers itch, probably because the responsible parasite is spread by snails, which have not yet colonized our pond.

Larry- My youngest son had a similar experience today. Ewww.

Nifty Galoot- Kids definitely need water, and most adults could use a daily dose of it too. The pond is priceless.

FC- But you have nastier stuff inhabiting your waters, like gators and such. I think once you even mentioned some flesh eating amoeba. I guess I'll take leeches. And, Sally was in a very reflective mood yesterday! She would not stay out of any leech photo.

Deb said...

I forgot to add...the decision has been made. CuSO4 is on the way. Mr. Attitude, after a brief swim tonight, came out of the pond with well over fifty baby bloodsuckers on his legs. The big leeches in the picture are probably no problemo, but I won't tolerate bloodsuckers. :(

Tracy said...

Yuck! I'm with Starflower. I can't stand leeches - I won't even bait a hook with them. (Isn't that what husbands are for?)

Deb said...

Tracy- I was thinking of trapping and selling some of the larger leeches to the fishermen guys I work with. :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry to see you use copper sulfate. A quick google search:

The leeches, in turn, provide food to many fish and aquatic birds, as well as turtles, snakes, and crayfish.

There are no guaranteed, environmentally safe chemical control measures that effectively reduce leech populations. Copper sulfate is lethal to fish at concentrations below what is lethal to leeches.


Deb said...

Eva- As someone whose job sometimes involves regulating the application of chemical herbicides/pesticides, I thought long and hard about this. I would not consider it if this were a larger, natural pond, but this is an excavated pond in an old gravel pit, less than a tenth of an acre in size. The only fish present are a few minnows that apparently came in from the creek, which is only connected in very high water periods. We're in a drought right now. There are frogs, which at this time of year are capable of moving out of the pond to another nearby wetland.

We hope to raise fish in here some day, but for now the primary use is swimming, and I'm factoring in the value of having our own swimming area, free of leech-o-phobia.

I did do some research on safe application rates, and I'm going to be as conservative as I can with the application.

elise said...

I know I'm a bit late with my comment but I just wanted to let Larry know that they are STILL useful in medicine. They use sterilized ones (not sure how they do that) to help promote blood flow through reattached fingers. Gross but true - I've seen it for myself when I was in the hospital in the ICU next to someone who had cut their finger off in a lawn mower!

Cathy said...

I didn't know leeches were that big. Ugh. I'm with Starflower. Back to the bathtub for water enjoyment.