MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: Can a mosquito feed of of a leech and not kill the leech?

Date: Mon Jan 3 09:38:20 2000
Posted By: David Richman, Staff, Entomology, New Mexico State University
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 946566372.Gb

This is a question that I am fairly certain has not been addressed 
directly- unless there is some work published on land leeches. According to 
Bates (1949)and Gillett (1972) some leeches will attack mosquito larvae, 
but there is no mention of the reverse happening.  Partly this is because 
most leeches are aquatic and no adult (blood-feeding) mosquito lives under 
water. The totally terrestrial leeches in the family Haemadipsidae (see 
Barnes 1987) could very well be attacked by mosquitoes, as they are 
abundant in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and Australia.  The main 
problem for mosquitoes would be to get through the thick epidermis of a 
leech and into the gut, if they were to tap the leech's food (blood meal), 
or into the leech's circulatory system, if they were sucking the leeches 
blood.  I don't think that the "blood" of many leeches would be palatable 
to mosquitoes, although land leeches do have hemoglobin in their blood.  
What this boils down to is that, assuming that a mosquito did feed on the 
blood of a leech, the size of the leech and the number of mosquitoes 
involved would probably influence the effect on the leech- smaller leeches 
being most likely to be damaged than larger ones.  Feeding on the blood 
meal of the leech would probably cause little damage, other than 

Finding a leech would be a big problem for any mosquito hunting leeches. As far 
as scientists know CO2,  sweat odors, and hody heat are very important for all 
mosquitos to recognice a possible food source. All of the above is nearly not 
produced by leech.

Barnes, R. D. 1987. Invertebrate Zoology, 5th ed. Saunders. Philadelphia.
Bates, M. 1949. The Natural History of Mosquitoes.  Macmillian, New York,  
Gillett, J. D. 1972. The Mosquito.  Doubleday, Garden City, N. Y.   

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