If quarantine and social distancing have you venturing into the great outdoors for activity, know that you’re not alone. Aside from other folks looking for new sources of entertainment, you’ll find a bevy of pests in their natural habitat. However, one prominent pest, chiggers, are not so easy to spot.
Chiggers are tiny, red biting mites that are invisible to the naked eye. Equivalent to the size of the period at the end of this sentence, you might need a magnifying glass to see them. They are arachnids, making them relatives of spiders and ticks. Chiggers go by a couple of different names – berry bugs, mower’s mites, harvest mites – and are found throughout the world. They’re most prominent in grassy areas, woodlands, and close to streams and lakes.
No matter where in the world you fall victim to their attack, there is no mistaking a chigger bite. Red clusters that form on the lower leg, their bites can appear as bumps, blisters, or a hive-like rash, all of which are extremely itchy. What’s interesting about chigger bites is that they’re not bites at all. After hatching from their eggs, “baby” chiggers use their sharp, jaw-like claws to drill tiny holes into the skin, after which they secrete digestive enzymes that break down skin cells. From there, the surrounding skin hardens and creates a feeding tube called a stylostome, enabling chiggers to feed on the destroyed tissue of the host.
Contrary to popular belief, chiggers don’t burrow into the skin and they don’t transmit any diseases. However, they can remain attached to clothes or skin, feeding for several days. If you think you’ve been exposed to chiggers, take a bath or shower and scrub your body with soap and water. Also wash any clothes, towels, or blankets that were exposed in hot water and soap. You can use an over the counter anti-itch cream but check with your doctor first if you are prone to sensitive skin or are taking any other medications.
If you’ll be spending time outdoors in a chigger-friendly habitat, be sure to use bug repellent containing DEET. If you spend a lot of time outdoors between the spring and early fall, it might be wise to invest in permethrin-treated clothing. When it comes to decreasing chigger presence in your yard, keeping your shrubs trimmed and your grass cut can help deter these little critters.
If a freshly trimmed yard just isn’t cutting it, let us help you fight the bite and keep your yard pest-free. Contact your local Mosquito Squad today!