Dr. Rudy Mancke talks snakes, and other summer creatures of nature

Polyphemus moth. Karamie Sullivan photos.

The University of South Carolina’s Dr. Rudy Mancke hosted one of his seasonal discussions related to all things nature, at the McKissick Museum Tuesday afternoon.

“The Nature of Summer” was an hour-long presentation, where Mancke brought along objects to show the crowd that somehow relate to the summer in South Carolina.

The crowd was enthralled by Mancke’s insights accompanied by his humorous, conversational delivery. Peggy Greeves said she tries to go see Mancke every time he does a presentation. “I’ve been a fan of Rudy Mancke for a long time,” she said. “He always has something interesting to tell about nature and about life. He was good today.”

One of the first things Mancke discussed was the amount of snake activity there has already been this year.

“It has been pretty incredible,” he said. Mancke elaborated on the snakes in the state, and told everyone that the most common venomous snake here is the copperhead. He reminded the crowd to be very careful when attempting to remove or kill one.

“Don’t think that thing cannot bite when its head is cut off,” he said. He explained that the reflexes in the head of a snake allow its mouth to bite down on a hand, or anything that touches it, even shortly after the head is removed. However, there have only been .45 deaths per year by snake bite in the state since 1960, he said. Mancke then displayed a copperhead snake skin and pointed out the markings.

Another of Mancke’s topics was spiders in South Carolina. “There’s one spider right now so many people are scared of. They think it’s a black widow,” said Mancke. He described it as a small spider that spins a 3-D web, and rests upside down near the middle. “It’s actually an orchard orb weaver. They build beautifully shaped webs,” he said. He mentioned that if you see one now, they are probably pretty small, however as the summer months go by, they grow to be quite large.

The last conversation topic related to objects that have been found on the beaches of South Carolina.

“Of course we have to talk about a few things people find at the beach, because people are taking vacation now,” said Mancke. He held up a sea urchin found at Edisto Beach, along with uni-valve shells (like conch shells) and bi-valve shells (clam shells).

Mancke encouraged the crowd to contact him if they have any kind of nature-related question. His number at USC is 803-777-7703.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Columbia, Education