Aaah, summer – there’s so much to like about you – summer vacations, summer romances, “Summer time and the livin’ is easy.”
Oooh, summer – there’s so much about you that’s scary – mosquitoes, sharks, “I don’t like spiders and snakes.”
You can simply balance the good against the bad of summer, or you can take the upbeat approach. Serious problems with those scary creatures are statistically rare. And the likelihood of summer critter problems can be reduced with a little preparation and common sense.
So here are a few of the summer threats in South Carolina, and the reasons we shouldn’t let them keep us cowering in air-conditioned homes until late September.
You’ve probably heard that mosquitoes are the deadliest creatures on the planet. But while mosquito-borne malaria is a major killer worldwide, it’s extremely rare in the U.S. There were 1,925 cases of malaria in the U.S. in 2011, and almost all who contracted the disease had recently traveled overseas. South Carolina does have plenty of mosquitoes, however, and some carry the less deadly but still serious West Nile virus.
There are four types of venomous snakes in the U.S. – rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins and coral snakes. All four can be found in South Carolina.
There are plenty of sharks among dozens of species cruising the state’s coastal waters. They generally ignore humans, which aren’t among their standard diet. Shark experts say most bites along the South Carolina coast involve sharks feeding on smaller marine creatures and accidentally hitting a swimmer’s foot or lower leg.
Gator populations in South Carolina have been on the rise for decades, and the recent advent of a limited gator hunting season has barely impacted those numbers. Fixtures in coastal golf course ponds for years, they’ve recently begun wandering into neighborhood streets and shopping centers in the Lowcountry. While their range is mostly in the coastal plain, gators have become more common in the Columbia area in recent years.
Brown recluse and black widows are the venomous spiders common in South Carolina. The recluse, as its name indicates, hides out in dark areas such as holes, brush piles and even boots left on the porch. Black widows, identifiable by the red hourglass on their abdomen, also like to build webs in dark places such as under eaves of houses or in leaf piles.
Fire ants sneaked into the U.S. from South America more than 50 years ago and are ubiquitous in South Carolina now. If you spend any time outside, you’re likely to get a fire ant stings.
There are several species of jellyfish in the waters off South Carolina. Most of those you see washed up on the beach are cannonball jellies, but those have weak venom and usually cause few problems for swimmers. The common species in local waters with more venomous tentacles include lion’s mane, moon jellies, sea nettles and sea wasps. Their venom can raise painful welts. Though not a true jellyfish, the Portuguese man-of-war can be found in South Carolina waters, and its sting is more serious.
Bees, wasps, hornets
These biting insects are common in the state. While they out there year-round, they seem more of a problem in the summer when people are out in their environment more.