It’s beautiful outside and we are all hoping to get out there and enjoy the early summer weather! Sometimes though, we bump into problematic pests that can ruin our day. One such pest is the chigger, which is the bane of many a hiker, gardener, or just general outdoor enthusiast. Here are some quick facts to help understand and avoid this biting bother.
|Chigger bites on top of foot by V. Jedlicka|
1. Chiggers are just kids
The chigger that bites you isn’t actually the full grown version; they are the larval stage of a predatory mite. This means that despite being arachnids, if you looked at a chigger under a microscope you would find it only has six legs.
2. Chiggers love the great outdoors
You can encounter chiggers in many different types of places, but their preferred habitat is a nice, damp, low lying area. You may encounter them areas with only turf but are more likely to meet them in areas of tall grass with weeds as well. If you are visiting wooded areas or stumble into a bramble patch, don’t be surprised if you find some chiggers too.
3. No need for that nail polish
Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not take up residence under your skin or feed on blood. When you brush up against a plant they are hanging out on they will latch onto you. After this they insert a long straw (called a stylostoma) into your body. They will then inject enzymes into you that will melt bits of your skin and they slurp up the juices like a milkshake. These enzymes are responsible for the intense itching we have after the bite.
|How a chigger bite works|
4. Gross! I don’t want that
To prevent bites you should wear full length pants and shirts when you can. If you don’t want to be warm, you can also wear protective products such as DEET to repel chiggers from your body. Finally, when picnicking or watching fireworks, lay a blanket down to sit upon and try to avoid sitting directly on turfgrass. If you find that you have recurring chigger issues on your property, treating your yard or just the infested area with an insecticide containing bifenthrin will help to eliminate their populations.
If you ever want to know any more about chiggers here are some helpful links: