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Chiggers (A Must Read) Relief and Prevention

posted Oct 12, 2009, 5:35 PM by Vincent Goetsch   [ updated Jun 13, 2016, 6:29 PM ]

Chigger prevention and treatment
Chiggers do not burrow into the skin, they inject saliva that causes intense itching, that can be alleviated with Chigger Bite Delete

Gasoline, kerosene, nail polish, alcohol etc. do not work and are irritating or dangerous to use. Many people think that chiggers lay eggs or burrow into the skin, however that is not true.

The red bugs that you can easily see are the adult stage of the chigger but are NOT what you get a chigger bite from. Why? Because it is only the babies of the chigger (larval stage) that bite us, and instead of being easily seen, the larval-stage chigger (baby chiggers), are virtually invisible! 

The image above is an approximate example of the actual size of the only kind of chigger that you get bitten from. As you can see, you basically need a jewelers loop, a very good magnifying glass or a microscope to see them. The chigger that bites you is about the size of a pin-prick, and people that have been bit by them might think of them as little pricks too. :)

Chiggers in the larval stage look somewhat like a miniature 6 legged version of an 8 legged adult chigger, rather than having a worm-like appearance often associated with the term larval. The larval chiggers most people encounter in North America are only 1/20th of an inch long and 1/150 to 1/120 inch in diameter!

They are not insects, they are an arachnid (in the spider family) type of mite that is worthy of causing arachnophobia. 

The chigger has 4 life-stages; egg, larvae (parasitic stage), nymph and adult. The nymph and adult chigger primarily feeds on the eggs of other small bugs such as isopods, mosquitoes, springtails and vegetation. When in the nymph and adult life-stages they do not feed on animals like they do when in the larval-parasitic-stage. The chigger does not begin its life in our skin.

Chigger harvest mite life cycles

The adult chigger burrows into the soil to over-winter, not skin tissue. In spring when temperatures are 60 degrees or higher the female lays eggs in vegetation. After hatching the nearly microscopic immature chigger climbs up tall grass, or waits in any place where it can easily climb onto a host. A host can be virtually any animal such as a; rabbit, rodent, lizard, bird, turtle or snake that has skin that contains the protein they need to complete their life cycle and grow into nymphs and then adults.

The life cycle from egg to maturity is about 50 - 57 days. Adult female chiggers live approximately one year, and during the active season may lay up to 15 eggs per day, all of the spring and summer season through about October or when temperatures drop below 60 degrees again.

Adult chiggers flourish in acidic soils like those found where things like raspberries grow, this is the reason for some of the names they have, such as; berry bugs or harvest-mites.

The larval chigger is orange-red, but is more of a translucent orange color and it is minuscule. They are not like ticks which are easily seen. Larval (meaning immature stage) chiggers are virtually invisible even if you look hard. See # 2  above, but keep in mind the size of the dot in the image at the very top of this article.

Once the stealth-nearly invisible larval-chigger in on its host, it finds a secure place to do its thing, and on humans they seek out tight warm places like between skin and socks, the elastic band of underwear etc. as well as preferring areas where the skin is moist thin and penetrable. So chiggers gravitate to the groin, arm pit, waist, ankles and legs, but they can, and do; bite just about anywhere on the body.

Chigger bite prevention treatment

Once situated, the chigger takes its fang like mouth parts (chelicerae) and inserts them into a suitable location, such as a pore, or a hair follicle. They then inject a potent digestive enzyme that also has an initial numbing effect. The enzyme they inject dissolves cells in a downward direction into the tissue, and also causes the cells surrounding the dissolved tissue to harden into a tube-like "stylostome" that acts like a straw, (like the kind of straw we drink a soda pop with). From this tube-like stylostome the chigger sucks the liquid tissue that is the dissolved cells inside of it that they need to complete their life-cycle, always while they are attached at the skins surface.

Chiggers never burrow into nor lay eggs under the skin as is commonly believed.

Once the stylosome forms after 3 or more hours, which then causes intense itching that can last from several days to several weeks, the body then reacts to this process by causing inflammation and the formation of a bump or pimple like pustule. It is these reactions that make it appear as if the chigger is under the skin, but it is actually the physical after-effects of the enzymes and chemicals of the chiggers saliva injection that causes the physical irritation, inflammation and itching.

The itching can be so intense that some people will scratch the bite-site into an open sore, it is then that the stylostome that forms under the skin can then sometimes be seen. When intense itching causes the bite site to become a deep open sore it is then that the stylostome and the surrounding hardened tissue may appear in the center of the wound to be the chigger itself or a chigger egg; because it may have a clear-sac, egg-like appearance. These are the reasons that people commonly think (and rightly so) that the chigger got under their skin, it did in a sense, just not the way that it appears.

Scratching the fresh chigger bite can also spread the saliva (irritant) that the chigger injects and may cause a larger area to become itchy and inflamed. The burning and itching of a chigger bite intensity and reaction varies from person to person and from chigger bite to chigger bite, in addition to where the bite is; because a bite in the warmth of the arm pit or groin area will itch much more than a bite on the ankles. It is very common that people wake in the night or scratch the bite site while still asleep until it is an open wound. If scratching causes the bite to become an open wound that is among the greatest chigger-related health concerns. The main reason is; risk of infection from bacteria and organisms picked up from keyboards, door knobs and all the other places and objects that hands interact with.

Most products available on the market for dealing with chiggers only mask the itch and decrease the discomfort with numbing agents but do not address the need to support the body's own ability to neutralise the cause of the effects. However, Chigger Bite Delete does support the body's natural healing processes, and in terms of how well it works, it is more like magic than a product. The magic is that the body has miraculous powers to neutralise toxins and heal itself, all it needs is a bit of assistance from time to time, and in this case that's where Chigger Bite Delete excels, although it works equally well to prevent chiggers in the first place.


Chigger bite harvest mite rash
After the chigger feeds, it then drops off of the host and enters the nymph stage, after it completes the nymph-stage it grows into the final adult stage. Then it takes its turn to lays eggs or hibernate in the ground, either way the cycle starts again.

In North America chiggers are not usually considered disease vectors like deer ticks are. However; in Asia chiggers do pose such risks and are a primary concern for contracting a form of typhus (scrub typhus).

Natural Approaches to Chigger Prevention

Beyond the poisonous approach of using commercial lawn pesticides such as Sevin Dust there are actually green-approaches to preventing chiggers in the lawn and garden areas. One way to discourage chiggers from propagating in the soil around a home or garden foot path is to alter the pH of the soil to be more alkaline. Since chiggers prefer acidic soil the addition of lime to the ground and then watering the area to allow the lime to soak in, will shift the pH more toward neutral or an alkaline pH, which will discourage the growth of chiggers.

You can contact your local County extension office or your local garden center for assistance with choosing a proper form of lime, as well as guidance in how to determine soil pH and how much lime to use. The addition of lime to soil without taking into account the resulting pH change could have a negative effect on grass or other plants that prefer a more acidic soil, so keep this in mind before amending your soil.

Also, keeping the yard mowed discourages chiggers, because they do not have the tall grass to use as a launching pad to gain access to a host. Chiggers also prefer areas where they are moist and sheltered from the dryness and intensity of the full sun. So they need dense plant growth which is also the kind of environment and conditions that animals such as rodents, rabbits, lizards and snakes frequent, to then become the chiggers hosts and help them to flourish.

Make your own All-Season All-Natural Non-poisonous Garden and Lawn Clean-Up Tonic

All-Season Clean-Up Tonic 1 can of beer,
1 cup of ammonia,
1/2 cup of dish washing liquid,
1/2 cup of liquid lawn food, and
1/2 cup molasses or corn syrup
1 cup of baby shampoo,
1 cup of antiseptic mouthwash, and
1 cup of tobacco tea*

Mix all of the ingredients in a bucket, and pour into your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer. Apply to everything in your yard to the point or run-off every 3 weeks, in the morning, throughout the growing season.

*Tobacco Tea

To make tobacco tea, place half a handful of chewing tobacco in an old nylon stocking, and soak it in a gallon of hot water until the mixture is dark brown.

Mix all of the ingredients in your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, filling the balance of the sprayer jar with warm water. Apply to your entire yard to the point of run-off every 2 weeks, in the evening, to discourage insects and prevent disease. Credit for this recipe goes to Jerry Brown.



Photo Credits: where no copyright is indicated are from Wikimedia Commons; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trombiculidae

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