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The Truth About Chiggers

July 21st, 2017

The Truth About Chiggers

There are very few entomologists in the world, so it is understandable that some bugs get confused with others. But sometimes these common misunderstandings can lead to dangerous situations. For example, a dangerous bug’s name could sound like a harmless bug’s name when being pronounced. One example would be the harmless arachnids that are commonly referred to as “chiggers”, which sounds similar in pronunciation to a sometimes-harmful flea known as “jiggers”. Jiggers are fleas that can burrow underneath a victim’s skin. Sometimes these fleas will burrow so deeply that the victim must have the jigger fleas removed surgically. However, chiggers are not even related to jiggers, and they are almost entirely harmless.

Chiggers are very small, the length of their bodies ranging between 0.004 to 0.6 of an inch. Chiggers are also known as harvest mites, scrub mites, and, of course, chigger mites. Due to their very small size, most people who learn about these mites become surprised to learn that chiggers belong to the family of arachnids. Some chigger species have eyes, while others do not. All chiggers possess spiracles, which are pores that allow for respiration. In the chiggers’ case, these spiracles can be located at various points on its body depending on the species in which it belongs.

There are thousands of different species of chiggers. Some dwell on land, and others dwell within aquatic environments. Chiggers can be predators, parasites, scavengers, and plant feeders. Parasitic chiggers can become parasitic on humans, but no species of chigger can cause serious symptoms that go beyond intense itching. Chigger larvae can penetrate people’s clothing and skin. Once chigger larvae have nestled into skin they release a digestive fluid that causes severe itching but nothing worse. After a short while, the chiggers fall out of people’s skin and onto the ground, where they complete their development. Some chigger species are located in America, especially the Midwestern region and the Atlantic coast. But, don’t worry. If chigger larvae find its way into you, then you will be just fine.

Have you ever had chigger larvae beneath your skin, or thought you did?

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