Winter doesn't stop deer ticks from biting

BEWARE OF THE DREADED deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) when you are outside. They seem to be in high concentrations right now. Deer ticks are notorious for transmitting serious diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever if the ticks have come in contact with a deer or rodent vector sometime during their development.

(Courtesy Photo)

Female deer ticks lay their eggs in the spring, and then they die. The tiny larvae emerge in August and begin feeding; they need a blood meal to develop into a nymph. The nymphs feed and develop into adults by mid to late October. The adult female will mate but needs to feed before it can lay viable eggs.

Adult deer ticks remain active throughout the winter as long as conditions are favorable. If wintry conditions develop, the tick will find a sheltered area and wait for circumstances to improve. Females lay their eggs in early spring completing the life cycle.

Deer ticks feed by injecting their mouthpart under the skin and extracting blood from the host. This feeding activity is how the diseases are transmitted. Most experts agree that it takes 24 to 48 hours of attachment to transmit Lyme disease so it is important to check yourself, your children and pets after they have spent significant time in areas that could harbor ticks. It is more likely that you will come in contact with a deer tick in the late fall and winter than the summer. Speak to your physician or visit the many informative websites for more information on how to guard against Lyme disease.

Soils groups

Frederick County has a wide variety of landscape features and a correspondingly wide variety of soil types. Its soils can be split into four different regions based on the predominant underlying bedrock.

The western section of the county, from the west slope of Catoctin Mountain over to and including South Mountain, has soils that formed from quartzite lava flows that occurred during the Cambrian geologic period. These "greenstone" metamorphic soils are usually very fertile and productive containing many of the nutrients plants need to grow.

The eastern slopes of Catoctin Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain have more granite mixing with the quartzite and are not as fertile.

The Frederick Valley region extends from the Potomac River northward to Frederick and Walkersville /Woodsboro . This area has soils containing mostly limestone and diabase. These basic soils are mostly fertile, except for acid-loving plants.

The northern part of the county, around Thurmont , Rocky Ridge, Emmitsburg and Taneytown, has soils that were formed from sedimentary shales and sandstones during the Triassic period. These Redland soils have similar characteristics as the Frederick Valley soils, without the limestone. Depending on the amount of clays present, Redland soils can be very wet in spring and dry, almost bricklike, in summer.

The eastern part of the county has the oldest soils, formed during the Precambrian era that were not influenced by volcanic activity. These soils were present before the mountains were formed. Soils in the eastern part of the county are formed from shales, schists, phyllites and marble. They are moderate in productivity and fertility often feel slippery because they contain minerals like phyllite and gypsum.

Nature Notes for 12/6/2009