Issue Description Chiggers attach to the host, inject digestive
enzymes into the bite wound, and then suck up the digested tissue.
They do not burrow into the skin or suck blood, as is commonly
assumed. Itching from a chigger bite may not develop until 24-48 hours
after the bite, so the victim may not associate the specific exposure
with the bite itself. The red welt/bump on the skin is not where a
chigger laid eggs, as is sometimes believed. Warm, rainy days make
these parasitic and predatory mites reproduce into large populations.
Once the ground temperature is regularly above 60 °F (16 °C), the
harvest mite lays eggs. Therefore, from April through early autumn up
until the first frost, humans are susceptible to chigger bites. It is
the larval stage that feeds on humans (as accidental host) or more
commonly on other animals (small mammals, birds, reptiles, and
Chiggers do not like sunlight or humidity.
During the wet season, chiggers are usually found in tall grass and
other vegetation. During dry seasons, chiggers are mostly found
underneath brush and shady areas.
When carrying the
parasite Orientia tsutsugamushi, chigger bites can cause scrub typhus. Other Names Chiggers, Berry Bugs, Red Bugs, Trombiculid Mites, Scrub-itch Mites
Symptoms The main symptoms are severe itching and red
pimple-like bumps (papules) or hives. The skin rash may appear on
sun-exposed area only. The rash may also stop where the underwear
meets the legs. This is is often a clue that the rash is due to
Treatment and Prevention Keep grass short, and remove brush and wood
debris where potential mite hosts may live. Keep major hosts away from
the area, such as rodents and other small mammals. Secure trash cans
to discourage wildlife from coming near your home. Sunlight that
penetrates the grass will make the lawn drier and make it less
favorable for chigger survival.
For personal protection,
apply insect repellent to feet, legs, and mid-section.
To reduce the itching, an application of anti-itch cream containing
hydrocortisone, calamine, or benzyl benzoate is often used. Applying
fingernail polish to the affected area does not kill the chigger; the
chigger is actually no longer present by the time a rash is noticed.