Archive for the 'Worms' Category

16th April 2011, Saturday

East Guldeford – medicinal leech

The warm weather over the past week has made it easy to find this Romney Marsh speciality by splash sampling.  You stand in a ditch and splash for fifteen minutes and after a few minutes the medicinal leeches come looking for a blood meal, swimming through the water towards the disturbance.  This large specimen, placed over a bag because I did not want any accidental bites while I was netting the ditches, shows the size these animals can reach and their characteristic green colouring with a pair of red lines along the back.


This was part of Read the rest of this entry »

26th February 2011, Saturday

Anyone for leech crisps?

For anyone doubting my commemnts about the hardiness of medicinal leeches I was told this morning of a specimen that escaped from an aquarium and was missing for a “day or so”.  It was eventually retrieved in a very dehydrated state, and was described as “crisp”.  The unfortunate explorer was placed in water where it eventually revived.  Probably a much harsher environment than the damp mud at the base of a ditch!

25th February 2011, Friday

Medicinal leeches and drought

Returning to a familiar theme, the impact of drought on a series of grazing marsh ditches at East Guldeford, my latest post brings me to the medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis.  Drought would seem an obvious killer for this animal, however the leech is a resiliant beast.  Last summer I netted the ditches that had dried out in 2009 and found the leech to be distributed in good numbers through most of them, even an extremely isolated and ephemeral ditch that dries out in most years.

Whilst I guess the Read the rest of this entry »

21st March 2010, Sunday

Historical leeches

One of the specialities of Romney Marsh is it’s large and extensive population of medicinal leech, a species with a curious distribution in Britain, found from Dungeness on the south coast, to the north coast of Scotland.  Despite this extensive distribution it is very localised, and frequently found only in individual ponds.  When the species was found in Lade Pit in the early 1980’s it was considered possible that it might have been a recent introduction to the area.  However the work of Andrew Nixon, of the Romney Marsh Countryside Project, demonstrated that it was widespread between Dungeness and Rye Harbour, and a number of old records demonstrated it had been present in the area for most of that century.

In the 1950’s Brian Heritage told me that they rapidly colonised new gravel pits at Lydd Airport, and I was told of Read the rest of this entry »

31st August 2008, Sunday

Which medicinal leech?

Cliff Dean’s recent post on the medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis reminded me that I have been meaning to catch this animal on the Marsh all through the summer. Romney Marsh has the largest and most extensive populations of this animal in the UK. In our country it has a curiously disjointed distribution. The closest population to ours is in the New Forest, and animals occur in scattered isolated populations all the way to the north coast of Scotland

The reason for my interest is that recent studies have revealed that there is more than one species of medicinal leech in Europe and that we do not know which one occurs in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »