Chiggers are a parasitic insect in the Arachnida class, order Trombidiformes and are related to the common tick. They are tiny mites with a mighty bite that causes extremely uncomfortable itching.
How “The Itch” Occurs
It is in the larva stage that chiggers affect humans. These 0.4 millimeter bugs do not bite so much as form a hole in a person’s skin, creating a “stylostome.” This is a place where the insect uses its digestive enzymes to feed on skin cells. These small wheals become incredibly itchy after the larvae have fed and fall off the host. They leave behind bumps that look like pimples. The bumps can turn into rashes or hives, depending on a person’s skin sensitivity.
Due to the delayed effect and lasting itch, a common myth is that chiggers burrow into skin and lay eggs or live there. However, the itchiness is merely a body’s reaction to the stylostome created and the immune system’s response to its highly irritating enzyme.
Chiggers are despised worldwide. In North America they prefer hot and humid climates. In Canada, chiggers are prevalent only in summer. They favor low, humid areas around damp vegetation. Larvae gather in clods of soil or on clumps of vegetation.
A chigger’s life cycle lasts anywhere from two to several months, depending on outdoor temperature. They lie dormant beneath the soil in winter. Once daily temperatures rise above 16° C (60° F) females become active, laying up to approximately 15 eggs daily. Within a week, eggs become non-feeding pre-larvae. Within another week, larvae begin to feed and become recognizable as “chiggers.” At this point they are approximately 0.2 millimeters in size, red in colour, and covered in fine hairs. After a few days of feeding on a host, the larvae fall off.
Avoid taller grasses and vegetation, especially during wet weather. When the ground is dry, wear long socks and pants, particularly among shaded underbrush. If you come in contact with infested vegetation, you may be vulnerable to chigger larvae attaching themselves to you.
Chigger encounters are no fun. If you think they’re a problem in your home or neighbourhood, or simply need more information, contact JDM Pest Control at (416) 729-3568. We offer full spectrum pest and insect control to the Greater Toronto Area. We’re here to help!