I decided to write a series on land leeches because of questions that people ask after they viewed my brief appearance as a resource person in the local TV show “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” last 02 August (2020).
Let’s make it clear that I’m not an authority on leeches, and I think we still don’t have a local expert on this group in the Philippines. I am an entomologist (a person who studies insects – six-legged arthropods). I specialize in insect taxonomy, particularly on scale insects plus a few other groups of terrestrial arthropods (animals with jointed legs). My work involves teaching in the University and conduct of scientific research. I and my colleagues also provide information and identification services. For the latter, an increasing number of people request information about and identification of insects and other organisms, for various reasons ranging from organisms being pests to plants that are believed to be medicinal, to species that have tickled their interest being either beautiful, charismatic or unusual. This broad range of things we do brings with it the challenge and the pleasure of climbing mountains, going inside forests and grasslands, crawling into caves and being targets of blood-seeking leeches.
Leeches refer to segmented tubular animals, whose ancestors were possibly earthworm-like. Both leeches and earthworms belong to the ancient group Annelida. However, while earthworms are better known as decomposers, soil enrichers and aerators, leeches are best known as, yes, I’ve already said it, blood-suckers. I don’t really hate them but many people do. I always encounter them but often ignore them, unless they really come quite close – touching me. Maybe because I used to be a regular blood donor through the provincial Red Cross, a few ml for this blood solicitors won’t do me much harm other than the tiny wound they leave. Maybe they also do a little good.
In Tagalog, leeches that inhabit ponds, streams or other bodies of freshwater are called lintâ whereas those that occur on land are called limátik. One time, a land leech in Mount Makiling almost succeeded in stealing a lips-to-lips kiss with me. That almost “romantic” (yuck!) encounter gave me an idea for the title of this series – Romantic . . . err . . . no! “Limatik Encounters.” – Jun Lit