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.

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God’s Acre Healing Springs: Curing folks for 200+ years

God's acre sign

There aren’t too many places in the world that, legally, have been deeded to God.

Artesian springs located in the woods of rural South Carolina – said to have been noted for centuries for healing properties – counts itself as one of those few locales.

God’s Acre Healing Springs, located in Blackville, a rural community in Barnwell County, SC, was a sacred site for local Indians before white settlers moved into the area in the 18th century.

It is said to have gotten its name during the American Revolution. In 1781, after a bloody battle at nearby Windy Hill Creek, four gravely wounded Tories were sent inland from Charleston by General Banastre Tarleton in the care of two comrades, who had orders to bury them when they died.

Native Americans found the six and took them to the springs. Six months later the Charleston garrison, where the British forces were based, was astonished by the reappearance of the half-dozen men. All were strong and healthy.

Ownership of the springs passed from Indian tribes to an Indian trader named Nathaniel Walker. The site was eventually acquired by L.P. Boylston. On July 21, 1944, Boylston deeded the land and springs to “God Almighty,” both officially and through informational signs he posted in the nearby area.

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How ants work together to survive floods

fire ant raft

Fire ants are a major hazard in the Southern US. Whether you stumble onto a colony of these tiny stinging demons or simply stand too near a nest, you’ll likely end up with painful reminders of how appropriately these insects are named.

The mounds – which can approach a density of 1,000 per acre – are usually 1 to 3 inches tall and made of soft dirt, but can sometimes approach a full 12 inches in height. It’s not unusual for a medium-sized nest to hold tens of thousands of ants.

Among environments fire ants like to construct nests is along riverbanks and around ponds. As someone who likes to fish, I’ve discovered many a fire ant nest the hard way.

So, while I have a soft spot for most living things, it is with a child-like glee that, after a day of fishing, I will take occasion to carefully kick ant nests into the water when the opportunity presents itself.

The way I see it, anything that can harm me or my kids – along with any other living creature unfortunate enough to blunder along – is fair game. And if I can help cut down on these invasive pests, even better.

One thing that always caught my attention was how the ants, after being punted into the drink, would cling together. This is no accident, according to a recent study released by scientists from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

When faced with a flood, ants use their own bodies to form a raft and rely on the buoyancy of the brood and the recovery ability of workers to minimize injury or death, according to the study, released earlier this week. In addition, the queen ant is placed in the middle and protected on all sides by the rafting ants.

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Rare giant shark caught, eaten

megamouth

Fishermen in the Philippines accidentally caught and later ate a megamouth shark, one of the rarest fishes in the world, with only 40 others recorded to have been encountered, the World Wildlife Fund reported last week.

The 1,100-pound, 13-foot megamouth died while struggling in the fishermen’s net on March 30 off Burias island in the central Philippines. It was taken to nearby Donsol in Sorsogon province, where it was butchered and eaten, according to a report in The Associated Press.

The first megamouth was discovered in Hawaii in 1976, prompting scientists to create an entirely new family and genus of sharks. Like the basking shark and whale shark, it is a filter feeder, and swims with its enormous mouth wide open, filtering water for plankton and jellyfish. Gregg Yan, a spokesman for WWF-Philippines, said the Burias megamouth’s stomach revealed it was feeding on shrimp larvae.

Megamouths are very large sharks, able to grow to 18 feet in length. Weights of up to 2,680 pounds have been reported. 

Yan said the fish was tagged “Megamouth 41” — the 41st megamouth recorded in the world — by the Florida Museum of Natural History. It was the eighth reported encountered in Philippine seas.

Others megamouths have been encountered in California, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Brazil, Ecuador, Senegal, South Africa, Mexico and Australia.

The Florida Museum of Natural History has extensive online information on the megamouth here.