Rumors Give Leeches a Bad Name in Woodbury

It's amazing what a few unkind words scattered here and there can do to a reputation. Consider the leech. Can you think of one good thing you've heard about leeches lately? Over the centuries, leeches have gotten a bum rap. Kind of like Mary Magdalene. One pope 500 years ago calls her a ho, and that's it for all all time: she's a ho. Don't let the truth get in anybody's way about this great friend of Christ. But I digress. I was talking about worms.

Gossip about leeches flew through my front door this morning like a cold wind in the person of a little girl we had invited out for a swim with us. "I can't swim there; my mom won't let me swim there. I'm afraid of those leeches. They suck the blood out of you." All this in one breath from a child who heard fourth-hand information from another child. Wow.

Undaunted, we packed out suits and sunscreen and took her to the beach with us. There wasn't a sinner about the place. The hot dog lady stationed outside the swim area told me these little worms had been the talk of the town the day before as people were coming and going from the water. In the space of one afternoon, the park became a ghost town. Nevertheless, we went onto the beach, spread the blanket, and speculated about the nature of these leeches.

The girls stepped into the water, looked around, captured a few small worms and wondered if these were the fearsome beasts, and then set to building sand castles for an hour.

While the girls played, I asked the lifeguard about the leeches. "All ponds have them. They basically sit on you and are harmless. They like to eat other things. Two people found them on their arms yesterday. So nobody's here today."

Leeches are always present, though they're not always visible. A combination of heat and human activity brings them to the surface. In a few days as cooler temperatures return, nature could right the situation itself. Chlorine is the town's response to this situation, though. This little pond that shares its life with the Pomperaug River will get a dose of chlorine next week. That will kill the worms for a while, though it's hard to believe there won't be survivors who will come back stronger.

Leeches can actually be pretty helpful to humans, despite the rumors. Leeches have been used in microsurgery and to treat black eyes, and they may be useful in treating heart attacks and strokes, according to the Kings County, Washington, website. This is a case of the truth being more compelling than the rumors. Visit the Kings County website for even more information on leeches.


  1. Begs to be said - "Gossip mongers > worse than leeches

    Humans. Bah.


  2. Anonymous11:02 PM

    Only thing I know about leeches is from that scene in Stand by Me when the young boys who are trying to track down the dead body along the railroad tracks have to wade through a march. When they get out, they find a leech on one kid's arm, panic and faint, after finding one in a rather deleicate place. The bad rep of the leech is all over this movie scene.


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