Chiggers may be tiny, but their bites can pack a big punch. Chiggers are mites – also known as red bugs, harvest lice, or harvest mites – and members of the arachnid family. They live in grasslands and forests all over the world. Even though the bites aren’t dangerous, the resulting rash and itching can be really uncomfortable. There are steps you can take to avoid chigger bites and ways to find relief if you’ve been bitten.
Can Clothes Prevent Chiggers?
In addition to topical bug repellents such as DEET, one of the most effective ways to prevent chigger bites is insect repellent pants for men (and for women) and insect repellent socks pre-treated with permethrin. Tuck the pants into the socks and you will be amazed at the difference when you are protected by Insect Shield built-in bug repellent technology. Learn more about our products below.
What Causes Chigger Bites?
Chigger bites are caused by mite larvae. Usually red in color, the larvae are very tiny—only 1/120 to 1/150 of an inch in size. Most cannot be seen by the naked eye. Larger adult chigger mites measure 1/20 of an inch— which means they are visible, but they do not feed on people. Chigger mites belong to the genus eutrombicula and are arachnids, like spiders and ticks. (There are thousands of other species of mites, some of which feed only on vegetation.)
Beginning in spring, the chigger mite eggs hatch into six-legged, fast-moving larvae that climb onto vegetation where they seek prey. The mite larvae attach their claws tightly to their victims, piercing the host’s skin and injecting their saliva—which liquefies the skin cells of the host. After feeding on their host’s skin cells, the larvae drop off and develop into the eight-legged nymph-stage and, finally, into the adult-stage chigger mite, which is also eight-legged. Chigger larvae prey on many animals including cats, dogs, reptiles, birds and people. It takes about four days for a chigger to finish feeding on a human host.
Chigger Bite Symptoms: What Do They Look Like?
A chigger bite causes a red welt with a white, hard center that itches intensely. The welt and itching, and sometimes swelling and accompanying fever, are a reaction to the mite’s saliva being injected into the skin. These symptoms usually appear 3 to 6 hours after attachment, and may last a week or more. Scratching can cause secondary infection, but chigger bites in the United States do not transmit infectious diseases to people.
When Do Chigger Bites Occur?
Chigger bites are most likely to occur in late spring and summer. People tend to experience the most numerous bites when on or near grass or other vegetation, in a sunny location. Chiggers usually attach to people where clothing is tight over their skin, particularly around the waist, or where flesh is wrinkled or thin such as in the groin area, bend of elbows and behind knees, in armpits or on ankles.