Recently, a news blog seen by some LKG residents identified Lake Gaston as the “North Carolina Lake Number 1 Most Leech Infested In The Country.” The identified author, Melanie Day, goes on to state “new data has a North Carolina lake as the most leech-infested in the country.” However, no such data is actually presented. In fact, the original blog by “Animals Around the Globe” that was used as the supposed source, titled “The 6 Most Leech Infested Lakes in the United States,” does not even identify Lake Gaston as one of the six most leech-infested lakes in the country. The article, written by Dona Van Eeden from South Africa, does not even really discuss Lake Gaston! A few months ago, a similar blog identified Lake Gaston as having the “cleanest water in North Carolina.” Similar to the article on leeches, it may be entertaining reading but presents zero scientific (or even non-scientific) data for such a claim. The bottom line is this type of “news” should not be considered reliable as in many cases it may be based on nothing more than a web search to see how many instances a topic is noted in social media or other websites, and has no scientific analysis or technical research.
Lake Gaston certainly has leeches, but there is no reliable information to indicate there are any more or less than any similar lake across the country or the state. Here are some facts about leeches:
● There are more than 650 species of leeches worldwide with about 80 species in North America and about 20 of those found in North Carolina.
● Leeches are a natural component of lake and pond ecosystems and the presence of leeches is in no way associated with polluted water.
● Leeches provide food for some types of fish and aquatic birds, as well as turtles, snakes, and crayfish.
● Leeches are found in a variety of freshwater aquatic environments, including lakes, ponds, marshes, springs, and slow streams, typically found in the area along the shoreline in areas protected from wave action.
● Leech bites are harmless to humans although they may become infected by bacteria.
Keeping your shoreline clear of organic material such as leaves and other debris can help reduce leech habitat. Chemicals should never be put in the lake in an effort to kill leeches as it may be a violation of federal/state clean water laws and the Dominion Shoreline Management Plan. It can also result in killing fish, birds, and other wildlife and may harm humans and pets recreating in the lake.
The moral of the story is when reading an online “news” article, be sure to consider the source. Or as a very smart person said, just because you read it on the web doesn’t mean it's true!
Article written by John Franz
LGA Lake Environment Committee Chairperson