Unexpected pests: Leeches in the jungle

These nasty blood sucking creatures are segmented worms and are related to earthworms. They are present all over the world but are especially common and ubiquitous in the tropical zone. You can find them in most places within a jungle with high humidity. The only exceptions to this would be the lowlands, all the way up to high altitude or very cold areas like the peaks of the highest mountains as this is less habitable for them. The only places where they do not exist are areas with no wildlife and therefore no blood supply to feed on. There are also aquatic leeches that live in marine and freshwater environments, so unfortunately you are not safe in the water either.

How do leeches feed?

The way in which leeches feed is very interesting. Due to their bloodletting abilities they were used in medicine in some parts of the world. When leeches bite they inject an anticoagulant called hirudin. Hirudin is injected by the leech upon puncturing its victim’s skin with its sharp teeth, and it acts to prevent the blood from clotting. This enables a continuous flow of blood for the leech to feast on. Hirudin is such a powerful anti clotting agent that wounds can often continue bleeding for up to several hours.

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