AskDefine | Define chiggers

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

chiggers
  1. Plural of chigger

Extensive Definition

Chigger or chigoe can refer to either of two parasitic arthropods with similar behaviors:
  • the chigoe flea (Tunga penetrans), found in tropical climates
  • the larva of a harvest mite that, when carrying a tiny parasite called Orientia tsutsugamushi, causes scrub typhus. The larvae are also called scrub mite, red mite and several other names, and they are found throughout temperate and tropical zones; the name chigger originated as a corruption of chigoe, but the harvest mite is what is most commonly called a chigger in North America.

Chigger Facts

  • Chiggers do not burrow into the skin and do not suck blood. They attach to the host, inject digestive enzymes into the bite wound, and then suck up the digested tissue.
  • Warm, rainy days make these parasitic and predatory mites reproduce into large populations. Once the ground temperature is regularly above 60°F, the harvest mite lays eggs, and “chigger season” is underway. This season typically begins in April and ends in the early autumn/first “frost.”
  • Chiggers do not like sunlight or humidity. During the wet season, chiggers are usually found in tall grass and other vegetation.
  • During dry seasons, chiggers are most found underneath brush and shady areas.

Chigger myths

  • Applying finger nail polish to red bumps/bites on our skin helps. By the time the severe itching occurs, the chigger is long gone.
  • Chiggers do not drink blood. Chiggers drink liquefied skin cells.
  • These pests are mites, not insects.
  • The red welt/bump on skin is not where a chigger laid eggs.

Prevention

  • Keep grass short.
  • Remove brush and wood debris where potential mite hosts may live.
  • Keep major hosts away from the area, such as rodents and other small mammals. Secure trash cans to discourage wildlife from coming near your home.
  • Sunlight that penetrates the grass will make the lawn drier and make it less favorable for chigger survival.
  • Apply insect repellent to your feet, legs, and mid-section.

Medical treatment

To reduce the itching, apply an anti-itch cream that contains hydrocortisone, calamine, or benzyl benzoate. If you are sensitive to these medications or have questions, be sure to ask your health-care professional or pharmacist.

References

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