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Chigger - Bug of the Month - June

Picture of Chigger

The chigger is nearly an invisible pest. The chigger is a type of mite and is a blood-sucking bug. Chiggers are more specifically, a type of arachnid. Interestingly, only as larvae do they have six legs. As chiggers mature to become adults they will grow two more legs, one on each side, for a total of eight legs. Chiggers are red in color with small hairs on their backs. Chiggers are very small in size, and can usually only be seen with a microscope, unless of course, you have excellent vision! The chigger larvae feed on just about any kind of warm-blooded animals, while the adults feed on vegetation. Chiggers have specially adapated mouth parts that are able to pierce skin. Chiggers are also very speedy! Despite their small size, they can traverse an adult human body in just a few minutes.


Chiggers seek out various types of vegetation: grass, foliage, underbrush, on the golf course, forests, fields, and even near water. Most adult chiggers live in the soil. Chiggers live together. It is unlikely to find an even distribution of chiggers across any certain area. Instead, chiggers are usually found in groups of large numbers in just one small area. Chiggers like living in shaded and moist areas.


Chiggers enjoy warm weather and are most active in the afternoon. The enjoy temperatures in the upper 70s to mid 80s (Fahrenheit). Extreme conditions, both very hot and very cold, will kill chiggers.


You only have to worry about the chigger larvae. During their larvae stage of development, chiggers will seek out warm-blooded mammals for their one and only meal. Chiggers will only taste the flesh of a warm-blooded mammal once in their lifetime. After one warm-blooded meal, the larvae are now adult chiggers and will never again feed on any warm-blooded mammals. It usually takes three to four days for a chigger to consume its one and only fleshy meal. One common misconception about chiggers is that their red color comes from ingested blood. However, chiggers do not eat blood, they are born with the red color. Even after a meal, a chigger's color actually changes from red. A fully fed chigger is yellow in color. As adults, chiggers will just feed on vegetation.

Chigger Control

To prevent chiggers from bothering you, you can take several steps. If you have a chigger problem in your own yard, the most basic step is to keep your yard well-maintained. You should keep your grass cut low to the ground and trim any overgrown shrubs and grass. If you want to protect your body from getting bitten, mosquito repellent works to effectively keep chiggers off of you. Sulfur is also a good way to keep the chiggers away from you. Applying powdered-sulfur to your body along with some talc powder should also provide you with chigger protection.

Chigger Bites

A human is not a chigger's priority target. Rather, chiggers prefer going after various species of birds and reptiles. All humans are equal in the eyes of chigger. However, women and children are more susceptible to chigger bites than men. Since women and children have thinner skin than men, they face an increased likelihood of being actually bitten by chigger, since their skin requires less effort to be penetrated. Like mosquitoes, chiggers exchange their saliva for what they want from their victim. Unlike mosquitoes, chiggers do not want your blood. Instead, they want your skin. Chiggers' saliva contains digestive ingredients that basically liquefy your skin! Your body reacts to the chigger's saliva by hardening the skin cells surrounding the area of the bite; this area develops into a tube-like structure called the stylostome. Unfortunately, this reaction is just what the chigger needs. Since it is in the middle of this newly hardened area, it is able to feast on your tissue to its heart's content! The chigger will take turns ingesting your tissue and injecting its saliva into your body. As it continues feeding, the stylostome grows, and serves only to cause you further irritation.

If you have been bitten by a chigger, the bite will look like a red welt, and will be very itchy. The red affected area may increase in size and irritation over time.

Chigger Bite Treatment

Get them off me! Contrary to what you might think, chiggers do not lodge themselves under your skin. Instead they attach themselves to your skin via their special mouth parts. Usually any type of itching or brushing on the biting area will push the chigger off of you. If you get the chigger off of you before it has completed its meal, you have already achieved your revenge. A chigger that has not fully completed its one and only mammal-based meal will soon die. To be sure however, it is best to wash the affected area with warm water and soap, or at least wipe the area with a cloth. If you are concerned that you have just come from a concentrated area of chiggers, the best thing you can do is to take a bath and quickly. The faster you move into the bath tub, the less time the chiggers have to land a bite on you. All you need to do is wash yourself with soap and water and you should be chigger free!

If the chigger has landed a bite on you, you can expect a bothersome and itchy next couple of days. A chigger bite will increase in itching intensity for about two days, reach a peak, and then the itching will slowly recede. You can expect to feel an itchy sensation at the spot of the bite for about one week, possibly even more than one week. Just because you still feel itchy does NOT mean that the chigger is still biting you. It is not the biting that causes the problem, but the saliva that it injects into your body, which develops into its feeding mechanism, a tube-like structure (stylostome). The only true way that you will free yourself from the pain of the chigger bite is to wait. Time is the best medication in this case as your body needs to break down the chigger's feeding tube. You can derive some relief by applying lotion to the affected area, but keep in mind no treatment will remove the bite for you. You must give your body time to do what it needs to do to break down the stylostome. After your body has destroyed the stylostome you will no longer feel the effects of the chigger bite.

Don't Scratch!

Like the chicken pox, it may be hard to stop your scratching all together, but you are best off if you try to limit your scratching as much as possible. Scratching the bite will NOT help or expedite the healing process. Continued scratching will only lead to increased irritation and even worse, can lead to infection. Whatever you do, avoid scratching the bite as much as you possibly can.

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Trombiculidae
  • Order: Acari
  • Class: Arachnida

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