Chigger Bites: Chiggers are tiny larvae members of the arachnid family and are sometimes called red bugs. Although the larvae are extremely small in size, their bites pack a powerful punch. They’re so tiny that you probably won’t notice when they jump from that tall blade of grass onto your skin. You won’t feel it as they hitch a ride right into your home. When you eventually do feel them, however, they can be extremely itchy.
Chiggers live in tall weeds and grass, in berry patches, and in wooded areas. They may be in your backyard, by the lake, and clustered along your favorite hiking trail. They are most active on spring, summer and fall afternoons, when temperatures are warm and inviting.
They can quickly attach to your skin if you walk by and brush up against vegetation where they live. When the temperature falls below 60˚F (16˚C), chiggers become inactive. They die off when the temperature falls below 42˚F (6˚C).
Chigger Bites Images
What Are Chiggers and Where Do They Lurk?
Scientists call these creatures “trombiculid mites.” But they have a bunch of nicknames. You might hear people call them harvest mites, harvest bugs, harvest lice, mower’s mites, or red bugs.
Technically, these critters aren’t insects. They’re “arachnids,” in the same family as spiders and ticks.
Chigger mites infest human skin via areas of contact with vegetation, such as pant cuffs or shirt sleeves and collars. They migrate on the skin in search of an optimal feeding area. A common myth about chiggers is that they burrow into and remain inside the skin. This is not true. Chiggers insert their feeding structures into the skin and inject enzymes that cause destruction of host tissue. Hardening of the surrounding skin results in the formation of a feeding tube called a stylostome. Chigger larvae then feed upon the destroyed tissue. If they are not disturbed (which is rarely the case because they cause substantial itching) they may feed through the stylostome for a few days.
How To Treat Chigger Bites
According to the Entomology Department at the University of Kentucky, these mites commonly attach where the skin is thin, wrinkled, or tender. They also commonly attach in areas where clothing is tight.
Chiggers are very small and are almost impossible to see with the naked eye. At around 1/50th of an inch in size, most people require a magnifying glass to spot them. These mites resemble tiny spiders, are red in color, and tend to cluster in groups on a person’s skin. They are only really visible when in groups.
The chigger mite is about 1/150th of an inch in length, meaning it is only barely visible to the naked eye. The juvenile forms, which bite humans, have six legs, while the adult forms have eight legs. Chigger mites are red in color, and the juvenile (biting) forms require a relatively humid environment, so they are most commonly located in vegetation that is near ground level. When human skin or clothing comes in contact with low-lying vegetation that hosts chiggers, the mites can infest the human and migrate on human skin in search of a feeding area.
Chiggers most commonly bite in areas of thinned skin such as wrinkles and folds.
Therefore, chigger bites are commonly observed in the crotch and groin areas, in the armpits, and in the folds behind the knees. The ankles are also a common site for chigger bites. Other areas that are commonly bitten by chiggers are areas where the compression of clothing (such as belts) presents barriers to their migration.
A popular myth about chiggers is that they burrow into the skin and remain there, but this is incorrect. When the chigger bites, it inserts its feeding structures and mouthparts into the skin. They inject enzymes into the host skin that destroy the host tissue. The area then hardens, and a feeding tube, called a cyclostome, develops at the bite area. Chiggers can feed on the skin for a few days through this structure if they are not disturbed.
What Do Chigger Bites Look Like
“Chigger” is the common name for species of the Trombiculid family of mites. Bites from the larva of these mites can cause local pruritus and irritation, formally known as trombiculiasis or trombiculosis. The reaction is usually mild and self-limited, but the bites may rarely transmit disease or result in a bacterial superinfection.
While there are many species of parasitic mites in a variety of habitats all over the world, the species most commonly referred to as chiggers include Eutrombicula alfreddugesi in the south of the United States, Trombicula autumnalis in Europe, and species of the Leptotrombidium genus in Asia and Oceania. The larvae of these species feed on the skin of a variety of animals, including humans. Adult mites burrow into the soil and feed on detritus while the larvae of these species accumulate on the edges of leaves and grass before hitching on to a passing host.
They then migrate to a preferred feeding site, attach themselves to the host’s skin, and secrete proteolytic enzymes to digest host epidermal cells. This provokes an inflammatory reaction with surrounding erythema, a variable degree of swelling, and intense pruritus. They are easily dislodged by scratching. They rarely remain attached to humans for more than 48 hours, but the intense pruritus, inflammation, and localized allergic response may last for weeks afterward. Rarely, the light-red to orange colored larva, measuring 0.15 to 0.3 mm in length, may be identified on the skin. More typically, the diagnosis of trombiculiasis will depend on exposure to trombiculid habitat, the pattern of the lesions, and the exclusion of other possible diagnoses.
Chigger Bites Pictures
The chigger’s mouth and feeding structures are delicate and are best able to penetrate the skin at areas of wrinkles, folds, or other areas of skin that are thin. Most bites occur around the ankles, the crotch and groin areas, behind the knees, and in the armpits. Barriers to migration on the skin such as belts may be one reason that chigger bites also commonly occur at the waist or at other areas where their migration is prevented by compression from clothing. The location of chigger bites contrasts with that of mosquito bites, which are usually in exposed areas of skin where mosquitoes can land.
Identifying Chigger Bites
A chigger bite itself is not noticeable. After the chigger has begun to inject digestive enzymes into the skin (usually after about 1-3 hours), symptoms and signs typically begin.
- Pronounced itching is the most common symptom.
- The area of the bite may be reddened, flat, or raised; sometimes it resembles a pustule or blister.
- The itch is due to the presence of the stylostome and usually is most intense within 1-2 days after the bite.
- The itching persists for several days, and complete resolution of the skin lesions can take up to two weeks.
- If multiple bites are present, the condition may be mistaken for eczema or allergic contact dermatitis. A history of outdoor activity can suggest that chigger bites are the cause of itching and characteristic skin changes.
What do chigger bites look like?
When the chigger falls off, you are left with reddish bumps. You may notice a bright red dot in the center — this is a remnant of the tube your skin formed in response to the chigger’s saliva. The bumps may look like welts, blisters, pimples, or hives. Many insects tend to bite exposed skin that’s easy to get to.
Can chigger bites spread?
When they get on you, they can stay attached to your skin for several days while they eat. Chigger bites can happen anywhere on your body, but they often show up in clusters around the waist or lower legs. … Chiggers don’t spread diseases but scratching could break the skin and lead to irritation or infection.