The Little Chigger Bug Bite
A 40x Magnification of an Image of Chiggers
The Chigger Bite
What Are Chiggers?
I want to preface this subject with the fact that some of the details may appear disgusting. So many of us experience chigger bites during the summer months and perhaps never question what they are since the effects are similar to that of a mosquito.
Once you learn what chiggers actually are, you may never walk through your lawn again. According to Merriam-Webster, chiggers are "a 6-legged mite larva (family Trombiculidae) that sucks the blood of vertebrates and causes intense irritation." The Trombiculidae are in the family of mites and mites are part of the Arachnid family which is the same group spiders belong to--still interested?
This year, I went from the experience of poison ivy, or oak, to chiggers after mowing the lawn and either experience is greater than annoying. Most of us are aware of poison ivy and its effects, but how many of us have known what chiggers are and what they do to our skin cell structure?
Chiggers go through four stages: (1) eggs; (2) larva; (3) nymph; and (4) adult. When the chiggers are in the larva stage, this is when they attach to your family pet or people. Because they look for areas on your person where clothes seem to cling to you, this is why you will notice them on your waist or on your ankles if you wore socks. They also go to hair lines, so some people experience them under the arms or on the neck at the base of where your hair growth ends. Once the skin has been bitten, the chigger releases an enzyme into your skin breaking it down into such a manner that it can be digested by the chigger. The chigger can remain attached until it drops off after feeding or when it's removed by a hand that begins itching the area. Remember, too, that chiggers are so small that you're unaware of it attaching to your skin until you begin to itch. Once you're aware you have these types of bites, make sure you don't wear the same clothing such as jeans when you discover you have these bites because the chiggers could still be in those jeans.
What Can You Do to Cut Down On Chiggers In Your Lawn?
First, chiggers do not prefer direct sunlight. Second, make sure you keep your lawn mowed on a routinely basis because this can help cut down on supporting a well infested area. The female chiggers like thick growth for egg laying purposes, so keep your lawn well weeded and avoid having a lot of leafy debris piled up in one area. If your lawn is infested with chiggers, you may want to check with your local hardware store for the safest pesticide to use if that is a route you deem necessary. The next time you mow, dress accordingly and consider using a natural insect repellent. You may never choose to sit on top of your lawn again after reading this. Whatever clothing you choose to where, select those items that are tightly woven which makes it more challenging for the chigger to penetrate.
How Do You Treat Chigger Bites?
Anti-itch creams such as hydrocortisone can be applied to the areas of chigger bites. People have also used clear nail polish to extinguish the itching, although I do not know I would recommend doing so for a child. Check with your local pharmacist for other recommendations. If you have a severe case of bites, contact your physician for medical advice.
If you know you were in a chigger infested area, wash immediately with very warm water and soap to remove any chiggers. Take the clothing you were wearing and wash in very warm to hot soapy water.
Useful Information From the Missouri Department of Conservation
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