- Updated: 30 July 2011
- Published: 30 July 2011
- Hits: 559
A recent trip to the range reminded me why you should not wear flip flops in chigger territory. Below is some interesting information on this little buggers.
Chiggers are not bugs or any other type of insect. Chiggers are the juvenile (or larval) form of a specific family of mites, the Trombiculidae. Mites are arachnids, like spiders and scorpions, and are closely related to ticks.
Chigger mites are unique among the many mite families in that only the larval stage feeds on vertebrate animals; chiggers dine on us only in their childhood, and later become vegetarians that live on the soil.
Chiggers are tiny-less than 1/150th of an inch in diameter. More than a thousand of them could line up across this page and still leave room for two or three hundred more.
One of the greatest misconceptions about chiggers is that they burrow into our skin and eventually die within the tissues, thus causing the persistent itch. This widespread myth has its origin in the southern states where pests with similar names such as jigger flea or the chigoe do attack by burrowing under skin. Chiggers are not equipped to burrow, and they are much too large to enter through the pores.
The chigger's piercing mouth parts are short and delicate, and can penetrate only thin skin or where the skin wrinkles and folds. That's why most chigger bites are around the ankles, the back of the knees, about the crotch, under the belt line and in the armpits. The reason the bite itches so intensely and for such a long time is because the chigger injects saliva into its victim after attaching to the skin. This saliva contains a powerful digestive enzyme that literally dissolves the skin cells it contacts. It is this liquefied tissue, not blood that the chigger ingests and uses for food.
Unlike ticks, which quietly wait for hosts, chiggers run about almost constantly. Chiggers tend to move towards and onto any new object placed in their environment. You can test your lawn for the presence of chiggers by placing a black piece of cardboard or a white saucer vertically on the ground. If chiggers are present they will move rapidly over the object and accumulate on the upper edge where you can see them with a magnifying glass.
Regular mosquito repellents will repel chiggers. All brands are equally effective. Applying these products to exposed skin and around the edge of openings in your clothes, such as cuffs, waistbands, shirt fronts and boot tops, will force chiggers to cross the treated line get inside your clothes.
The absolute best repellant for these pesky little buggers is sulfur powder – but the strong smell of the sulfur mixed with your natural body odor can also repel everyone around you.