Chiggers: An Insect Nuisance in Los Angeles, CA

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 @ 10:44 AM

How Do You Get Chiggers

Chiggers in my opinion is one of the worst pest to get "bit" by because the itching is so intense that it will keep you awake at night.  Chiggers are so small that you typically won't see them in the landscape or on your person.  By the time you realize you were a victim, the chigger is long since gone, leaving behind their damage.

As you can see from the picture above, this chigger is sitting on the edge of a Dime!  So what is a chigger you ask...  The chigger is the first stage of a mite that otherwise feeds on plant materials in its later stages, and then called a Harvester Mite. However, the first instar nymph loiters in grassy areas and attaches to a passing animal, often finding people as the first food opportunity that goes by. Since they get into shoes and lower areas of clothing it is the ankle area that gets the brunt of their attack, and they get under our clothing and seem to prefer to feed where clothing and skin make close contact, such as under the socks.

They do not feed on blood, and in a sense do not bite us so much as just dissolve our skin with their saliva and feed on the liquified skin tissues. How nasty is that, their saliva that causes that intense itching for days (and nights) following their feeding. That itching can be sooooo satisfying to scratch at, but this can also lead to causing sores on the skin that can worsen or get infected. Chiggers do not vector and diseases to people (yea!) probably because they go to us right out of the egg stage and do not feed on animals in subsequent stages of their lives.

     Chiggers do NOT bore into your skin, but feed on the surface for just a few days. The itching commonly begins after they are already gone. They do not suck blood, but feed on skin tissues, and their red color is just their color, not because of blood in them. They cannot lay eggs in our skin because it is only the first instar that feeds on us, and adult mites (which are the egg layers) do not. Relief from the itching may be gained from topical ointments or antihistamines.  Control of chiggers should center around keeping grasses mowed short in areas of human activit, and possibly applying a labeled insecticide to the grass and surrounding low-lying shrubbery. Synthetic pyrethroids would be excellent to help control them.

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