redagainPatti's WunderBlog

Red Bugs, Chiggers, Whatever you call them... they are Trouble !

By: redagainPatti, 12:53 AM GMT on July 22, 2013

A short time ago, I shared on here that I was dealing with the red bugs. One of the post afterwards lead me to understand, some folks had not a clue with what I was talking about so, here is a post about what I was talking about.

Red Bug, Chiggers, or just plain Trouble

It seems the real name for the critters is Trombiculidae.
These relatives of of spiders and ticks are nearly microscopic, measuring 0.4 mm (1/60 of an inch) and have a chrome-orange hue of color. If you look at the period at the end of this sentence, you will get an idea of just how small the evil bug is. Something so small yet creates an awful sore on your skin. I will post a photo at the end of this blog.

They are found all around the world. In Europe and North America, they tend to be more prevalent in the hot and humid parts. In the more temperate regions, they are found only in the summer (in French, harvest mites are called aoûtat because they are frequent in August). In the United States, they are found mostly in the southeast, the south, and the Midwest. They are NOT present, or barely found, in far northern areas, in high mountains and in deserts. In the British Isles, the species Trombicula autumnalis is called harvest mites, in North America the species Trombicula alfreddugesi. The species Trombicula (eutrombicula) hirsti are found in Australia and are commonly called the scrub-itch mite.

Although the harvest mite chigger usually does not carry diseases in North American temperate climates, the Leptotrombidium deliense is considered a dangerous pest in East Asia and the South Pacific because they often carry Orientia tsutsugamushi, the tiny bacterium that causes scrub typhus, which is known alternatively as the Japanese river disease, scrub disease, or tsutsugamushi. The mites are infected by the Rickettsia passed down from parent to offspring before eggs are laid. Symptoms of scrub typhus in humans include fever, headache, muscle pain, cough, and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Where I live in Mississippi, (the Deep South of the USA) the main problem is the severe itching sensation around the bites but you also must watch out for a secondary infection if you do a lot of scratching of the area.

They are called chiggers or red bugs. They show up when the weather gets warm and the ground temperature is regularly above 60 °F (16 °C). During the wet season, chiggers are usually found in tall grass and other vegetation. During the dry season, bugs are mostly found underneath brush and shady areas. During our colder times of the year, adult bugs overwinter in protected places such as slightly below the soil. I love it when we have a few weeks of good cold weather as this kills a lot of the bugs of all types. I mean temperatures of below freezing for at least two weeks.

Let me explain more about this evil, and little critter. It is only during the larval stage of it's life cycle when they attach to various animals, including amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, to bite and feed on skin. This often causes an intensely itchy, red bump in humans (who are accidental hosts).

One common misconception, is that the bug digs down into and under our skins. They DO NOT. Chiggers do not actually bury themselves in skin. What happens is they attach to the host, pierce the skin, inject enzymes into the bite wound that digest cellular contents, and then suck up the digested tissue through a tube formed by hardened skin cells called a stylostome. In other words.. they drink a soup of skin cells. The larva can remain attached to a suitable host for three to five days before dropping off to begin its nymph stage.


Then the awful itching from a chigger bite may not develop until 24–48 hours after the bite. The red welt/bump on the skin is not where a chigger laid eggs, as is sometimes believed but rather, the digestive enzymes in the saliva of the bug, are what cause the severe itching sensation. Because chigger wounds are a complex combination of enzymatic and the resulting damage from scratching, plus allergy and immune responses, plus possible secondary bacterial infection subject to local influences, no one remedy works equally well for most people. It is typical for experienced people to say any given method is useless, but another works very well. The most important thing is to refrain from scratching the affected area. This will allowing the skin to heal sooner and you will not be dumping bacterial into the bite.

One thing to make note of, when the chiggers attach themselves to humans (who walk through infested vegetation) they will explored their human hosts for 3 to 6 hours before biting them. Then the bugs like to wedge up in the thin-skinned areas of the body like the ankles, waist, groin, armpits and backs of knees. So the first action that one might take is a bath asap. My dad always had my mom add bleach to our tub water too. Scrub with soap to remove any additional chiggers from your skin. When money was tight, we always had bleach in the house even if other items were limited.

The one time I fail to wash up right away after a hike, is when I had the worse mess of bites. Cold water will not work... you got to have the water as hot as you dare without burning yourself. After washing in the bleached water in the tub, then shower off under the hot shower. This cleaning will also help to minimize skin reactions from the bites so don't short yourself on this process.

Wash your overalls and whatever you had on, in the hottest water you can. I used to make my kids undress on the back porch and make the dash inside directly across the hall to the tub waiting for them. I had the washing machines right by the back door so their stuff went right into the machines. They were left to soak till the kids were done with their baths.

Now what to do about the bites if you are unlucky and cursed with them. Keep in mind, no one remedy works equally well for all of us. I will share what helped me, a few weeks ago.

After two days of bathing with bleach water, I changed to baking soda and took long baths in it each morning and night till the redness began to fade. During the day and between the baths, I used leaves from my Aloe Vera plant give me a gel to spread over my skin till the area was smooth six days or so later. I cut the long leaf open length wise and scraped it with the knife. This was to get all the gel out of each leaf and into the small plate.

Here is a link to a slide show of what different types of bites look like that I found on the Internet. Photos of all the bad bugs

And now a photo of bites from Chiggers below. They are really nasty so I placed this at the end of the blog. Maybe in the comments you might share if you have certain bites and what did you do to take care of your skin afterwards?




Some of the info for this blog came from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trombiculidae

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The nick, redagain is short for the words - "Redwoods again". It stands for a goal to sleep again in a tent under the Redwood Trees in northern Ca.

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