Tag Archives: Bugs

Leaf Cutter Bees

A leaf cutter bee enters its home drilled in a cedar plank. Leaf cutter bees are solitary but don't mind living close to other leaf cutters.

A leaf cutter bee enters its nest drilled in a cedar plank. Leaf cutter bees are solitary but don't mind living close to other leaf cutters. Leaf cutter bees are important pollinators.

 Old cedar planks drilled with rows of small holes lean against Jackie G.’s garage in a Kansas City suburb.  Leaf cutter bees come and go from the holes, where they have built nests using bits of leaves and petals they have cut from nearby plants. 

“I smile when I see the lacey edges,” Jackie says.  “It means leaf cutter bees are in the garden.”

Despite the busy bee activity in the planks, very few of the nearby leaves and petals exhibit cut edges and none seem to be damaged very much.  Mild-mannered leaf cutter bees are important pollinators, which is one reason Jackie, a master gardener, provides the drilled planks.  Drill holes in untreated soft scrap or salvaged wood to make the bee condos. Jackie also volunteers with Monarch Watch, which is dedicated to education about and  conservation and research of the Monarch butterfly and other pollinators. The link is in my blogroll on the right.

   From Pollinator Partnership, link is in my blogroll on the right.

Pollinators need protection NOW

Declines in the health and population of pollinators in North America and globally pose what could be a significant threat to the integrity of biodiversity, to global food webs, and to human health. A number of pollinator species are at risk.

Pollinators are ESSENTIAL TO LIFE

At least 80% of our world’s crop plant species require pollination. Estimates as high as 1 out of every 3rd bite of food comes to us through the work of animal pollinators. Birds, bees, butterflies, and also bats, beetles and even mosquitos are among the myriad creatures which transfer pollen between seed plants.  This function is vital for plant reproduction and food production.

 

One person who makes bee condos or nest blocks, etc., from reclaimed wood is  “Andrew’s Reclaimed.”  He makes Mason bee blocks, leaf cutter bee nest blocks, bat houses, elevated pet feeders, planter boxes and more, all from reclaimed wood.  He found me on twitter.  Somehow he knew I was a bee and butterfly nerd.  Here’s a link to his shop: Andrew’s Reclaimed.  He lives in the Seattle area, but the shipping costs don’t seem that bad.  Even if you aren’t in the market for any of these items, it’s worth checking out his store, because he provides a lot of information.

These lacey edges show that leaf cutter bees have harvested part of the leaves to line their nests.

These lacey edges show that leaf cutter bees have harvested part of the leaves to line their nests.

“Anna’s Bee World” post about Bee engineers. 

Information about the Leaf Cutter Bee. 

More information about Leaf Cutter bees.

Artsy Homes for Leaf Cutter Bees.

Old planks of untreated wood drilled with holes make great homes for leaf cutter bees.

Old planks of untreated wood drilled with holes make great homes for leaf cutter bees.

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Filed under Entomology, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal

Assassin in the Garden

A Wheel Bug hangs out on a bronze fennel, which is the home of one of his favorite meals, the soft bodies of Black Swallowtail Caterpillars.

A Wheel Bug, an assassin bug, hangs out on a bronze fennel, which is the home of one of his favorite meals -- Black Swallowtail Caterpillars. This is a young Wheel Bug, which hasn't yet formed the characteristic wheel protrusion on its back.

Every day, I watch the progress of the Black Swallowtail (BST) caterpillars on my huge bronze fennel plant, which is home to a lot of other insects, including this character (see photo) who seemed to be hanging out and doing nothing while sitting on a fennel flower.  Very suspicious.  I thought he was up to no good.  He gave me this look that said:  “Hey, Lady, Don’t look at me.  I’m just minding my own business.”  Yes, exactly. What was his business?  What did he eat?  He wasn’t sipping flower nectar like the bees and wasps and occasional butterfly.  I confess after a couple of days, I gave the fennel a shake and this bug tumbled to the earth.  The next day I saw him slowly making his way back to the top.  I don’t know how much I should interfere to protect “my” BST caterpillars. Was this a “good” bug or a “bad” bug?

I emailed Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas about this bug.  Jim Lovett replied: “Looks like an immature wheel bug to me (Order: Hemiptera; Family: Reduviidae)…if you’re not familiar with this bug be sure to check out some images of the adult. It’s a neat little critter that always captures people’s attention – “little” of course is relative; adults wheel bugs can be 1.5 inches long. They use that piercing/sucking beak to puncture their prey (and can inflict a painful “bite” on us humans if mishandled). FYI – all hemipterans (the “true bugs”) have piercing/sucking mouthparts.”

I asked whether this bug would eat a BST caterpillar.

 Jim’s answer:  “Yes, it would. It is a common predator on caterpillars (and other soft-bodied insects) of all sorts.”

Here’s a link Jim suggested: Wheel Bug.  The Wheel Bug is the largest member of the Assassin Bug family and is related to stink bugs.  Mean and smelly!  But useful, too, because they eat a lot of damaging caterpillars.

 The next day, the Wheel Bug disappeared and so did a few of my smaller BST caterpillars.  I hope Mr. Wheely didn’t eat my caterpillars! 

To learn more about butterflies and caterpillars, click on Monarch Watch.   My most recent post on raising BST and Monarch caterpillars is here:  Survivor — Caterpillar Version.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Butterflies, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Humor, Insects, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Science, University of Kansas

Survivor — Caterpillar Version

My garden is full tasty plants to tempt butterflies to lay their eggs.  Finally, a black swallowtail butterfly slipped in and laid a few eggs on a bronze fennel.  I've been following their progress since before the caterpillars hatched, fretting over these gorgeous creatures and wondering how much I should interfere to keep away crab spiders, dragonflies and other predators.

My garden is full of tasty plants to tempt butterflies to lay their eggs. Finally, a black swallowtail butterfly slipped in and laid a few eggs on a bronze fennel. I've been following their progress since before the caterpillars hatched, fretting over these gorgeous creatures and wondering how much I should interfere to keep away crab spiders, dragonflies and other predators.

If you plant it, will they come?  Over the past two years, I’ve planted many kinds of coneflowers and milkweed.  I’ve planted bronze fennel, parsley, bee balm, butterfly bush, autumn sedum and more.  It’s a buffet for Black Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies and others.  But where are they?  I’m not getting much business.  Friends say that the butterflies will come, but it seems a slow year. Maybe a watched garden never produces.  Everything is lush and green, the flowers are blooming, come and get it!

I jumpstarted the process in May when I bought a Monarch caterpillar at the Monarch Watch open house in Lawrence, Kansas, where I also bought three kinds of milkweed.    “Reggie” (from the Latin rex, regis,  for king, a monarch…yes, it’s corny) chewed away for a day and then disappeared.  I hope he successfully moved on to pupation.

A month later in June, I found another Monarch caterpillar, one I didn’t have to buy.  I was thrilled, even though he was voraciously chewing up the one-month planted milkweed, leaving only a stem. I did plant milkweed just for the caterpillars to eat, but do they have to eat so much!  He was almost ready to pupate when I discovered him, and he had the appetite of a teenager!  I said:  “Hey, leave some milkweed for the others!”  Soon, the caterpillar was gone, hopefully moving on to the next stage and not in the craw of a robin.  The milkweed struggled, but finally a few new shoots appeared, and then it began to flourish.  Apparently, milkweeds “know” how to cope.

A Monarch butterfly flitted in and briefly landed on several milkweed plants.  Later, I discovered many eggs, each one laid on the underside of a leaf of different plants.  I watched the progress as the eggs hatched.  Here are two very small caterpillars from July 15, 2009.  Today (July 16) when I checked I couldn't find any caterpillars, so I don't know whether they were hiding or had fallen prey to other creatures.  It's a dangerous world out there!

A Monarch butterfly flitted in and briefly landed on several milkweed plants. Later, I discovered many eggs, each one laid on the underside of a leaf of different plants. I watched the progress as the eggs hatched. Here are two very small caterpillars from July 15, 2009. Today (July 16) when I checked found only one caterpillar, so I don't know whether the other was hiding or had fallen prey to other creatures. It's a dangerous world out there!

Since then, I’ve found eggs on the under side of  the leaves of three of my milkweeds, wondering how they could all support so many caterpillars. Well, I didn’t have to worry about that, because most didn’t survive.   Most seemed to hatch, leaving a tiny hole in the leaf where they were laid, but each day there are fewer and fewer caterpillars.  Will any survive to adulthood? 

The irony is that decades ago when I wasn’t even aware of this wonderful world of caterpillars, I found seven black swallowtail caterpillars on some parsley in my garden. I didn’t know what they were.  I was so horrifed, because I had this revulsion to creepy crawlie things, that I clipped off the “infested” stems and threw them all in the trash. Now, I’d think I’d won the lottery if I found so many BST caterpillars. (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating…)  I’ve regretted that act of destruction ever since.  And who even needs parsley! 

Now I hover over “my” caterpillars, wondering how much I should interfere.  Should I chase away the crab spiders and dragon flies?

For more information about growing plants for caterpillars and butterflies go to Monarch Watch.  To read about J. G.’s beautiful garden, which is a Monarch Waystation, go to my post: Life and Death in the Garden.  For my story on the Monarch Watch Spring 2009  Open House, click here.  Click on the title of the posts, and the stories with photographs will pop up.  Use my search box to find my other stories about butterflies and caterpillars.

I didn't discover this Monarch caterpillar until it was almost ready to pupate.  It ate the leaves of this milkweed so quickly and voraciously that it left only a stem.  I thought: Hey, leave some for the other guys!  I didn't think the milkweed, which I had recently planted, would survive, but it slowly recovered and grew new shoots, ready for the next batch of hatchlings.

I didn't discover this Monarch caterpillar until it was almost ready to pupate. It ate the leaves of this milkweed so quickly and voraciously that it left only a stem. I thought: Hey, leave some for the other guys! I didn't think the milkweed, which I had recently planted, would survive, but it slowly recovered and grew new shoots, ready for the next batch of hatchlings.

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Filed under Animals, Butterflies, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Science

Batty About Birds, Bees and Butterflies

Soon after it was hung, hummingbirds appeared at this feeder at the Grand Lake of the Cherokee, Oklahoma, in mid-September.

Several ruby-throated hummingbirds appeared at this feeder almost as soon as it was hung at a waterfront home at the Grand Lake of the Cherokees, Oklahoma, in mid-September. Hummingbirds are territorial so they all fought to make it their personal feeding station.

 

In 2007, there weren't many bees in my garden, but this year they've swarmed to my basil plants. I have both honey bees and carpenter bees.

In 2007, there weren't many bees in my garden. This year, a "swarm" of honey bees appeared, along with carpenter bees, in my basil plants.

My enthusiasm for bees sky-rocketed last year when I discovered that I wasn’t getting any squash, because I had no bees to pollinate them.  I had to do the job myself with an artist’s paintbrush.  My harvest? Ten squash.  I’m a terrible match-maker! It’s easier to attract bees to do the work.  They know what they’re doing. They’re like match.com for fruits and vegetables. 

Pollinators are essential to our food supply, and not just in our backyards.  Eighty percent of the world’s food crops depend on some kind of pollinator.

I already miss the ruby-throated hummingbirds and butterflies that passed through our yard or made it their home this summer and early fall.   The bees are still busy in the basil flowers, so I’m waiting to cut the plants for pesto.  I’m also lazy. 

My husband took down the hummingbird feeder a few days ago after not seeing “our” ruby-throated hummingbird for more than a week.  The tiny bird has left Kansas City and is on his way to southern Mexico for the winter.  Adios!  I loved watching him come to the feeder at the window.  Occasionally, a visiting hummingbird would stop at the feeder, and there would be a “dog fight” in the air as the resident bird dive bombed and chased the intruder.

I didn’t see as many butterflies this year as last.  We had a colder, wetter spring, which reduced their numbers.  Hopefully, their numbers will bounce back after our lush, wet summer resplendent with flowering plants. 

A male carpenter bee on a basil flower.

A male carpenter bee on a basil flower.

What I really want to show you are my photographs, including those below.  Don’t miss them!  Be sure to click on them to get a better look. For my other posts and photographs on ruby-throated hummingbirds, butterflies, caterpillars and bees, use my search box.

Here’s a list of useful websites:

A Monarch butterfly fid nectar in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

A Monarch butterfly finds nectar in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

A Zebra butterfly flutters in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.  I saw a Zebra flt through my yard this year. It flashes by so quickly I almost thought it was a hallucination -- or at least wishing thinking.

A Zebra butterfly flutters in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. I saw a Zebra flt through my yard this year. It flashed by so quickly I almost thought it was an hallucination -- or wishing thinking.

There are 3,500 species of skipper butterflies, and they seem to be be everywhere.  They're not very flashier, however, so you might not even notice them.  This mating pair of skippers is making a spectacle of themselves, however, so you have to take a look.  This took place in front of the Monarch Watch building at the University of Kansas.

There are 3,500 species of skipper butterflies, and they seem to be be everywhere. They aren't very flashy, though, so you might not notice them. However, these mating skippers are making a spectacle of themselves in front of the Monarch Watch building at the University of Kansas. You can't not look!

I was so excited when this female hummingbird stopped by our backyardfor a few days to visit the cardinal flowers I planted to attract her.

I was so excited when this female ruby-throated hummingbird stopped by our backyard for a few days to visit the cardinal flowers I planted to attract her. She and butterflies pollinated these flowers, which are already forming seeds that I can plant next year to continue the cycle.

A Cloudless Sulphur butterfly is just a blur on an aster as it flits from flower to flower in the native prairie on the Sprint World Headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas.  Sixty percent of Sprint's 240-acre campus is devoted to green space, including 60 acres of prairie grass and wildflowers and seven acres of ponds and wetlands.  It's a wildlife paradise.

A Cloudless Sulphur butterfly is just a blur on an aster as it flits from flower to flower in the native prairie on the Sprint World Headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas. Sixty percent of Sprint's 240-acre campus is devoted to green space, including 60 acres of prairie grass and wildflowers and seven acres of ponds and wetlands. It's a wildlife paradise.

Here's why this beautiful flowering shrub is called Butterfly Bush.  These butterflies are int he butterfly garden at Powell Gardens in Lone Jack, Missouri, east of Kansas City.

Here's why this beautiful flowering shrub is called "Butterfly Bush." These butterflies are in the butterfly garden at Powell Gardens in Lone Jack, Missouri, east of Kansas City.

Text and photographs by Catherine Sherman, all rights reserved, October 2008.

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Filed under Biology, Bird-watching, Conservation, Education, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Humor, Insects, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Science

The Mystery of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Black Swallowtail butterfly at Powell Gardens, Lone Jack, Missouri, 2007.

What I thought was a Black Swallowtail butterfly at Powell Gardens, Lone Jack, Missouri, 2007. Rachel (comment below) says it's a Pipevine Swallowtail.

One day a week ago the bronze fennel was teeming with Black Swallowtail caterpillars.  The next day, they were gone.  Where did they go?  Off to the woods forty feet away?  I worried about them struggling through the grass to complete their life cycle.  It’s a dangerous world.  Birds, lawnmowers, children chasing balls, other insects. 

Black Swallowtail.

I thought this was a Black Swallowtail, but Rachel (comment below) says it's the dark morph female of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Were those caterpillars the last of the year?  I thought so until today when I found a single fairly large caterpillar on the fennel, which was almost chewed clean of leaves.  A tattered looking Black Swallowtail butterfly sailed in and circled the fennel.  I was hoping it would lay some eggs or at least make a nectar stop at a flower. I even had my camera! But the butterfly sailed off again, ignoring my butterfly bush, the phlox, the coneflowers……

Dottie of St. Louis, Missouri, commented on my Monarch Watch post about her certified Monarch waystation.  She follows the process of the Monarchs very closely, photographing them and raising them.  She talks to schoolchildren about the Monarch life cycle. She also “raises” Black Swallowtail caterpillars on fennel and parsley but says a Black Swallowtail chrysalis is very hard to find.

Following the life cycle of a Black Swallowtail has one “hazard” — the caterpillars spray a stinky odor when you touch them. Dottie says her granddaughter doesn’t mind. It makes her giggle. I was slightly tempted to “pet” the caterpillar on my fennel today just to check it out…… 

One butterfly enthusiast confined many very hungry Black Swallowtail caterpillars to a screened area and captured the entire cycle in a photo chronicle.   Here is the photo chronicle of Black Swallowtail butterflies from egg to adult.

Powell Gardens, which is about a half hour east of Kansas City, schedules butterfly events and has a large area devoted to plants that attract butterflies.  The photograph at the top of the page was from a visit I made there in 2007.  The website is Powell Gardens.  To learn more about creating a certified Monarch waystation go to Monarch Watch.  My other posts on butterflies and caterpillars can be found through the search box or by scrolling down.

Is this the last Black Swallowtail Caterpillar of the year?  The fennel plant has almost been chewed clean of leaves.

Is this the last Black Swallowtail Caterpillar of the year? The fennel plant has almost been chewed clean of leaves.

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Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies and Caterpillars

A Cloudless Sulphur butterfly visits a sunflower in a vacant lot near a big box store.

A Cloudless Sulphur butterfly visits a sunflower in a vacant lot near a big box store.

Who doesn’t love a pretty quartet of wings?  The flashy appearance of the Monarch butterfly’s brilliant orange and black wings is so perfect for Autumn.  And those white polka dots on black?  Very stylish and classic.  (The design also signals to birds — don’t eat me, I’m toxic!)

Monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly.

Black Swallowtail butterflies are gorgeous, too.  Black, yellow, iridescent blue.  The perfect color combination.  And those fabulous swallowtails! Definitely au courant.  I’m like a fashion photographer coaxing these beauties to show their best side as I chase them all over the neighborhood with my camera. (Click on the photos for a larger view.)

Black Swallowtail.

Black Swallowtail.

I’ve almost overlooked the less spectacular Cloudless Sulphur butterflies.  They’re understated, even plain.  They don’t have fancy swallowtails.  These small to medium-sized yellow and white sulphur butterflies can look like flower petals or leaves fluttering from a tree, which gives them an advantage in eluding birds that might want to eat them as they hunt for nectar, mates or a place to lay eggs.

A ten-year-old boy pointed to this Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar, saying it was in the "J" phase. It was one of the caterpillars hanging out at the Monarch Watch open house on Sept. 6, 2008, at the University of Kansas.

I saw this Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar hanging out at the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. A ten-year-old boy told me it was in the "J" phase as it prepares to pupate.

The males are a clear yellow above and yellow or mottled with reddish brown below.  The female is lemon-yellow to golden or white on both surfaces.  Both have mottling, which makes them look more like “moth-eaten” leaves.

Last summer was the first time I really noticed a Cloudless Sulfur butterfly. Certainly, I’ve seen them, but they aren’t showy.  The little yellow butterfly flitted in almost under my radar.  I saw one moving from blossom to blossom in my impatiens bed.  It unfurled its long proboscis into the narrow throat of each impatiens bloom. 

Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar starting to pupate in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar starting to pupate in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.

As the seed pods formed, I realized, hey, I was there at their conception.  I’m sort of their Godmother Nature. I’d plant these seeds instead of buying impatiens, thereby saving money and also bringing the cycle full circle.

When the pods seemed mature, I carefully gathered them.  The pod explodes when it’s touched.  That’s why they’re called impatiens — they’re impatient to get moving and germinating. 

But more about my impatiens project later — this is the Clouded Sulphur’s story.  Yet, you can’t separate pollination from butterflies and other pollinators. According to the Pollinator Partnership, almost 80 percent of the food we eat requires a pollinator.  A large number of these are insects such as bees and butterflies.

As more land is paved and more acreage tilled for crops, there are fewer places for pollinators to live.  About 30 percent of the Monarch butterfly’s summer breeding area is in croplands, where milkweeds — essential for Monarchs to eat — used to thrive, according to Monarch Watch.  Herbicides in crop fields have killed off a lot of the milkweed. Monarch Watch helps people plant milkweed in their gardens for the caterpillars to eat.  They also suggest nectar and host plants that many butterflies and their caterpillars will like.

Herbicides and frequent mowing along roadsides also have reduced habitat for wildlife. The Kansas Department of Transportation has reduced mowing along several of its highways to restore the prairie and move away from brome grass, which is poor habitat.   I enjoyed some of this restored roadside prairie on recent trips in the Flint Hills of Kansas.  What would the neighbors say if we restored our yard to prairie?  It’s a thought.  Wild blue indigo, the orange flowers of the butterfly weed and scores of other flowers among the grass are a beautiful sight.
Dennis Toll writes beautifully about the Flint Hills, including its many flowers, on his blog Flint Hills, Tall Grass.
Cloudless Sulfur Butterfly and an insect rival compete for space on a sunflower. A for sale sign on the lot means all of the insects may soon be out of a home.

Cloudless Sulfur Butterfly and an insect rival compete for space on a sunflower. A "for sale" sign on the lot means all of the insects may soon be out of a home.

The restored roadside habitat also fosters a higher diversity of native bees that are essential for pollination, according to Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch.  “There are dozens and dozens of species of bees, most of them small and not obvious to people,” Taylor says.
“Create a culture of appreciation for diversity,” Taylor suggests. “Change the vegetation in your garden to plants that foster pollinators.” 
Several butterfly enthusiasts have suggested useful butterfly websites.  Deb D. recommended the forums at gardenweb.com.   Mike of Clover Cove Farm, an herb farm near Nashville, suggested Butterfly Gardening and Conservation, which focuses on several types of butterflies.  His solution when caterpillars eat your herbs?  Plant more herbs!
 
Kristy G. of South Carolina inspired me to find out more about butterfly metamorphosis when she wrote about a swarm of Black Swallowtail butterflies that had devoured her parsley.  She wanted to know how she could follow their progress from caterpillar to adult.  More about that in a later post.
The Pollinator Partnership provides a wide range of information, including what plants will attract pollinators in different parts of the country.  Another good information source is Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas.  You can sign up for an emailing list and also participate in activities.  Check out my post on Monarch Watch.  Also check out the video on the Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly Metamorphosis.
A Cloudless Sulfur butterfly chrysalis looks like a leaf in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch on the campus at the University of Kansas.

A Cloudless Sulfur butterfly chrysalis looks like a leaf in the greenhouse at Monarch Watch on the campus at the University of Kansas.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Conservation, Environment, Gardening, Humor, Insects, Internet, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Random, Science, Uncategorized, University of Kansas

Chiggers!

 

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! 

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!
 

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