Flea Bite Creek – short on fleas, big on other critters

Even in an area where the streams and bodies of water have names such as Squirrel Creek, Four Hole Swamp and Smoke Pond, the name Flea Bite Creek stands out.

It’s difficult to determine how long ago the creek got its unusual name, which seems a bit of a misnomer today as there are few, if any, fleas along its banks. But given the sandy soil found in the area, near Cameron, S.C., in Calhoun County, less than an hour south of Columbia, it’s possible the irritating parasites once inhabited the locale in abundance.

Standing on a bridge over Flea Bite Creek, with a view of algae-covered water, thick cypress trees and a great deal of brush along the banks, it would seem a more appropriate name for the stream would be “Snake Bite Creek.”

Another possibility is “Gator Gulch.”

But back 250 years ago when the region was being settled it’s likely nearly every lake, river and swamp in South Carolina was filled with snakes, venomous and otherwise, meaning this sluggish stretch of water wouldn’t have stood out had it been host to cottonmouths, copperheads or king snakes.

Not only that, there’s something to be said for a foe one can see, and avoid, even if it’s a six-foot snake, rather than one the size of sesame seed that jumps in an unpredictable manner.

When giant fleas roamed earth – no, really

The modern-day flea, at 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch, is among the most bothersome of insects, with bites that can be both irritating and, at times, dangerous to humans.

Imagine, though, what life would have been like 150 million years ago, when blood-sucking fleas nearly an inch long scuttled across the earth.

That’s the claim being made by Chinese and French paleontologists, who have pored over nine extraordinary fossils unearthed from Inner Mongolia and Liaoning province.

The ancient fleas measured about eight-tens of an inch long for females, and nearly six-tenths of an inch for males, according to Agence France-Presse.

The fleas, which co-existed with dinosaurs, were wingless and, unlike their counterparts today, could not jump and had comparatively small mouths, according to the study.

But for all that, they were supremely adapted to their environmental niche, and a description of the prehistoric parasites sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie.

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