We are not immune to leeches at Booyong, especially in the rainforest area after rain, the leaf litter on the forest floor is gold to them.
They find you by detecting your body heat and the sounds of vibrations, if you stand still too long they’ll often find you. If you look closely you’ll find them alert and extending their posture to full length. Another tip is to not walk at the back of the bunch, they are awoken by the first people walking and attach themselves to the later ones.
They attach themselves to you by piercing your skin with their jaws and sucking. You often won’t feel them bite you and they have an anesthetic that inject into you to prevent the blood form clotting and which enable them to get their fill. A leech can be 7mm and extend to 300mm, extending and eating up 5-10 times its body weight before detaching. Interestingly they can survive several months from one feed.
Tea tree oil or vinegar are considered deterrents, as is aero guard sprayed on your outer clothes. We always wear appropriate footwear and long pants ensuring they are tucked into your socks.
The easiest way we’ve found to remove a leech is with salt, I will often take some satchels with me on a bush walk or you can easily flick them off. There seem to be no real consistency sometimes I will find one or two on my sock and other times none at all. Leeches are not known to spread disease and due to the anti-coagulant, however it may be worthwhile dabbing the wound with a disinfectant. The bite can bleed for several hours and will be itchy for some time afterwards.
In the early 1800’s they were used to cure a variety of illnesses and to reduce swelling and they are hermaphrodites which means each one has both male and females reproductive organs.
Burkes backyard have an interesting Factsheet