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!
HOW TO AVOID GETTING CHIGGER BITES:
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!
For more information go to http://www.mdc.mo.gov./nathis/arthopo/chiggers/