Chigger Mite

Actual Size: Larvae 1/150th of an inch – Adults 1/60th of an inch.

Characteristics: Oval; orange-red to reddish-brown and covered with long surface hairs.

Habits:

  • Only the larval stage of these mites attack people and animals.
  • Will run about a person’s legs for several hours before feeding.
  • Inject digestive enzymes into the skin and feed upon the decomposed tissue.

Chigger Mite Overview

Chiggers or redbugs infest people and animals during the summer months, causing intense itching and irritation. In the United States, chiggers are mostly found in the southeast, south and midwest. They are most active from early spring to early autumn, until the first frost. Chigger larvae do all the damage and do not burrow into the skin, as it is commonly believed; rather they attach on the surface of the skin or at the rim of a hair follicle.

Chigger Mite Habitat

Chiggers prefer damp, grassy and wooded areas, especially at the edges of forests. They can be found near lakes and streams, and even in your lawn. Adult chiggers may often be seen as large brilliantly red-colored mites crawling over lawns and pavements. Adult chiggers spend winter underground and will deposit eggs during the first warm days of spring. The adults soon die and the eggs hatch into chiggers, which crawl about and eventually make contact with people or other hosts.

Chigger Mite Behaviors, Threats or Dangers

Chiggers usually hide in thick brush, grass, parks and gardens, grassy fields, and in moist areas around rivers or lakes. All of these areas are popular with humans for recreation, hiking, and camping. After coming into contact with flesh, they will settle down and begin to feed. Most chiggers will attack around the ankles or under the knees, although some go higher up to attack the crotch and armpit areas. Once bitten, the body will react to the digestive enzymes that chiggers use to liquefy skin cells, causing a rash and intense itching that begins a few hours after they have fed.

Chigger Mite Prevention

Frequent mowing of lawns and removal of unnecessary shrubbery and weeds will go a long way to reduce chigger problems. When outdoors, wear insect repellent, long sleeves, and pants. Tucking your pants into your shoes or boots is also recommended to keep chiggers from attaching to exposed skin. Stay on marked trails, away from tall weeds. Chiggers will wander for hours before feeding, so a quick shower can wash them off before they do any harm. Lastly, wash any clothing you’ve worn in chigger-infested areas in hot, soapy water.