Daily Archives: July 27, 2008



This is a chigger, enlarged about 1,500 times. Chiggers are red until they are engorged, when they turn yellow. They feed on our dissolved skin cells, not blood. (Photo — Dr. W. Calvin Webourn, the Ohio State Acarology Laboratory.)

Since I’m still scratching like crazy, I decided to get serious about avoiding more chigger bites.  (See my post, “Berry Picking by Moonlight” for an impractical approach.) If you’re wondering whether there are chiggers in your area, there probably aren’t. If you’ve been in nature, you’d already know! 

Wear Insect Repellent.
Wear long pants and long sleeves (which is so much fun when it’s 95 degrees!)
Wipe off your skin with a rough towel when you come inside.
Take a warm shower or bath with soap after coming indoors.
Wash your clothes and used towels in hot water and detergent to kill any chiggers hanging out there.
                                                                                                                                                               Chiggers are the almost microscopically small six-legged larval (juvenile) form of an eight-legged mite (Trombiculidae), related to ticks.  How can something so small cause such torment? You can’t see them to pick them off.  By the time you feel their bite, it’s too late.  Your body has already started its allergic reaction.
                                                                                                                                                         Chiggers are constantly on the move, running onto your body from grass and plants, heading for areas of thin skin such as your ankles or groin area. Their mouth parts are weak, so if they can’t find a delicate area, they need a fold of skin or a tight piece of clothing to help them pierce the skin.
                                                                                                                                                                          In North America, humans aren’t a chigger’s preferred host.  Chiggers would rather bite reptiles or birds, which don’t get an allergic reaction.  We’re just accidental prey. (There are chiggers in Asia and the Pacific Islands that do prefer humans, and their bites cause no itching.)
                                                                                                                                                                       The chigger injects saliva to dissolve our tissue, which the chigger then sucks.  Our bodies react by walling off the corrosive saliva, forming a sort of feeding tube in the center of a welt that itches like crazy.  The tiny chigger then sits on the tube, alternately injecting saliva and then sucking up the liquid tissue.   Most chiggers are scratched off before they complete their one and only feed.  If they don’t get enough to eat, which may take three days of feeding, they won’t mature into an adult mite. Too bad! 
                                                                                                                                                                       The good news is that chiggers don’t carry any diseases.  However, if you scratch too much, you might get an infection.
Now, enjoy your summer outdoors!


Filed under Biology, Family, Gardening, Health, Howto, Humor, Kansas, Life, Nature, Personal, Uncategorized

The Brothers Angora, Chapter One

Bones and Paddington quickly make themselves at home wherever they travel.

Bones and Paddington quickly make themselves at home wherever they are. Bones, on the left, is deaf, a trait that appears in Turkish Angoras. Paddington, on the right, has one blue and one amber eye, a frequent and even favored Turkish Angora characteristic. Turkish Angoras are known as the “swimming cats.” Bones loves standing in water in the sink.

We parents do crazy things for our children.  My husband and I volunteered to help our daughter move her belongings to a new apartment with two roommates while we visited her in Boston, where she attended college.

Usually, we flew, but this time we were bringing some small pieces of furniture, a computer and housewares in our minivan from Kansas City — a round trip of about 3,000 miles.  Our daughter gave us a list of what she needed.

“Oh, can you bring our kittens?”

“You have kittens?”

“Amber’s cat had kittens.”

My daughter.  What a jokester!  “Don’t they have homeless kittens in Boston?”

“These are Turkish Angora kittens.”

“Hmmm.” I didn’t know what a Turkish Angora kitten was, but how could that be important?

“And they’re rare,” she continued.

I sighed.  Still not impressed.  My daughter wasn’t going to be breeding and showing cats.


Paddington and Bones found a warm spot to enjoy the drive to Boston from Kansas City. Here they are somewhere in upstate New York.

Paddington and Bones find a warm spot on the dashboard to enjoy the drive to Boston from Kansas City. Here they are somewhere in upstate New York.

“And we promised Amber we’d take them.”

I pondered this information.  “No.”

A cry of dismay. “We’ve already named them.  Cynthia’s is Paddington, and mine is Bones.”

Well,  now that they had names, they were claimed.  It was settled then.  We’d be driving a pair of two-month-old kittens to Boston. No problem.  My husband and I didn’t cave in quite that easily, but it was still embarrassingly fast. (Part of the negotiations involved a small ball python.  Another story.)

On a break from classes, my daughter flew to Kansas City to get the kittens from Amber.  When my daughter walked in the door of our house with one crying kitten clinging desperately to her shirt, she looked miserable.  Motherhood can be hard.  But the kittens quickly adjusted to their new temporary home. They didn’t mind being confined to a bedroom and bathroom area, because our old cat, Malcolm, didn’t much like them in his territory.  Soon, the kittens discovered how much fun it was to pull all of the toilet paper from the roll and shred it.

“We’ll keep the cats in a carrier,” I said, when my husband wondered whether it was safe to have kittens running loose in the car.

Newborn Bones and Paddington snuggle together. The brother's mother was rescued from a home of a cat hoarder.

Cat owner Amber emailed this photo to my daughter and her roommate. They were hooked when they saw the snuggling newborn brothers, which they immediately named Bones and Paddington. The brothers’ mother was rescued from a home of a woman who had more than forty cats.

Confining the kittens lasted for about the first half-hour of the trip. The meowing was unbearable, so I released them. Once freed, they leapt and sailed around the minivan.  They watched from the windows and slept some times on the dashboard.  Online, I’d found motels that would take cats, and the kittens were surprisingly quiet when we settled in each night.   They snuggled next to us.  We also spent some nights with friends along the way.  With the kittens in the car, we stopped only for gas until we reached each night’s destination.

We moved our daughter into her apartment in the Fenway Park area. (Another story.)  There was hardly room for her and her two roommates to move around.  The kittens quickly made themselves at home, climbing above the clutter. I missed our furry passengers on the drive back to Kansas City.   To be continued.


Filed under Cats, Family, Humor, Personal, Pets, Travel, Uncategorized