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South Jersey Caching & Safety: Chigger my timbers..Oh my...itching ???

Chigger my timbers..Oh my...itching ???
Author: moose_is_loose
Published: Fri, 24-Jun-2005
Version: 0.13
Article ID: 35
Read: 20087 times
Article Size: 5.38 KB

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A chigger or red bug is an immature stage (larvae) of the harvest mite. Like all mites, the harvest mite life cycle includes larva, nymph, and adult. In the last two stages, this mite feeds on plant materials. The stage that gets the attention of humans is the larval stage. This is the stage that is considered to be a pest, causing intense itching.

The tiny nymph (chigger) will infest humans (and other animals) usually when we work or walk in tall grass or other such undergrowth. The chigger has a mouthpart similar to that of a tick and uses this mouthpart for feeding. But, unlike ticks, chiggers do not feed on our blood.

A chigger's saliva will at first harden the walls of the hole made by its mouthpart. This hardening gives the chigger a "straw" to use for feeding and prevents our body from closing off the hole made by this pest. Once the chigger has made its hole, it can now feed. Its saliva will actually liquefy our skin cells which the bug now uses for food.

The chemicals or proteins in a chigger's saliva will cause itching in the area where the tiny red bug feeds. This itching is delayed; we sense intense itching about 24 to 48 hours after being exposed to chigger bites. Some itching might be detected in 3 or 4 hours but the worst sensations (a day or two later) are what fool us into believing that we picked up chiggers (or red bugs, as they are sometimes called) in our lawn.

Having a terrible itch from red bugs or chiggers? Where were you yesterday or the day before? That area is usually the origin of infestation. This is very important when eliminating chiggers or harvest mites in all stages.

A chigger is too tiny to see with the naked eye but a group of them can be visible when they congregate on our ankles, waist or other body area. (These areas are preferred by the chigger because our skin is thinner and makes it easier for this microscopic pest to penetrate our skin for its meal.) When grouped together in large numbers they appear red in color. This is their natural color, not caused by blood feeding!

Chigger Myths

Chiggers do not bore into and live inside of our skin. Applying finger nail polish or other household chemicals to red bumps on our skin does not help. They will not burrow deep inside our body and eventually die. By the time your severe itching problem sets in, the chigger is nowhere in sight. Trying to smother a chigger with various products is a total waste of your time and might actually cause more problems. Chiggers do not drink blood. They are red because that is their color. Chiggers drink liquefied skin cells. Ticks feed on blood; chiggers do not.

A chigger or red bug is not an adult bug. It is an immature larvae.

These pests are not insects; they are mites.

That tiny hole or red bump on your skin is not where chiggers lay eggs. A chigger is a baby, a harvest mite larvae. Only the adult harvest mite lays eggs.

Reducing the Itching

Immediately after exposure to chigger-infested areas, take a hot bath to kill and remove chigger larvae. Then apply an antiseptic solution to any welts that have appeared to kill trapped chiggers and to prevent infection. Destroying the chigger usually does not stop the itching completely because the itching is caused by tissue reaction to the fluid injected by the chigger. Normally, two to three days pass before the itching stops. Temporary relief can be obtained by applying a commercial product that contains a mild, local anesthetic. Your pharmacist can suggest an appropriate product for your needs.
Any unusual allergic reaction, fever or infection should be treated by a physician.

Repellents labeled for chigger management.*

Common Name

Homeowner Product*

Cutter (9.5%)

Cutter (28.5%)

Cutter (Family) (6.65%)

Repel (23%)

Repel Lotion (9.0%)

Sportsman (29%)

Ultrathon (23.75%)


Hot Shot (0.15%) (clothes only)

Repel! (Permanone Insect Repellent) (0.5%) (clothes only)

*Read label carefully to insure pest, site and commodity are listed rior to applying product. Some product labels are very restrictive.

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