Leech sucks on to the title of invertebrate of the year in Latvia

Take note – story published 1 year ago

The Latvian Entomological Society (LEB) is the next in line for announcements of [insert natural object/creature] of 2023. The next category is the invertebrate of the year, which in 2023 is the medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis).

The medicinal leech is an especially protected species in Latvia since its natural habitats are shrinking and/or polluted.

There is an opinion that this species is relatively rare, also perhaps because there are insufficient data on the occurrence of this species in different types and depth water bodies and distribution throughout Latvia. LEB therefore wants more information this year on the prevalence of a medicinal leech and to explain its importance in interconnected processes in nature.

The medical leech has a lifestyle of amphibians – it is found in habitats associated with humid biocenosis and standing water, and only freshwater. The most typical place is a small pond with muddy ground, covered with reeds, in which frogs live. The presence of frogs or other amphibians is also important in lakes, gravel quarries, old rivers, and ponds of different kinds, even in small backyard ponds and ditches. This is because, for the survival and development of the leech, it consumes blood produced from amphibians at various stages of development.

The Latvian Entomological Society asks everyone to survey of at least the nearest water reservoirs (ponds, lakes, ditches) this year and to check whether the medicinal leech has not found its place of life here.

There are other types of leeches in Latvia, which can be confused with the medicinal leech due to their hue and variability, so a very important condition is to photograph the findings. It is best to do this by removing the lech from the water and placing (spreading) on a moistened surface of the substrate. The leech should be released back into the water body, since the collection of the medical leech should only be allowed by a written permit issued specifically by the Nature Conservation Agency.

Observations with a leech photograph can be placed on the Dabasdati.lv site or sent by email at [email protected].


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