Chiggers, the larval form of mites, obtain the protein they need to survive by dining on birds, reptiles, animals and humans. If you notice a red, itchy bump on your skin after a walk through a field, you might be a victim of a chigger attack. Learning where chiggers live can help you avoid contact with these parasitic bugs.
Chiggers have six legs and are red in color, but they’re so tiny, you’ll probably never spot one of these bugs without the help of a microscope or magnifying glass. Chiggers attach themselves to your body and secrete a special enzyme that ruptures your skin cells. When the cells rupture, the chiggers feed on the fluids. In addition to rupturing skin cells, the enzyme also hardens surrounding skin, making it easier for the chiggers to suck the fluids from the cells. You’ll often find chigger welts on your underarms, ankles, waist, crotch or knees because it’s easier to feed on thin skin. Once chiggers reach the next stage in their development, they feed on plant material and leave animals and people alone.
Chiggers prefer to live in grassy, bushy or weedy areas. They settle on blades of grass or vegetation and jump onto a passing person or animal. You’ll often find them in overgrown areas, because high vegetation provides easier access to human and animal bodies. Chiggers like moisture and thrive in shady, moist areas near ponds, streams or other bodies of water. Once on your body, they’ll seek out moist places, such as your crotch or armpits.
Effects of Temperature
If it’s too hot or too cold, chiggers are less likely to seek out hosts for a meal. Chiggers become inactive below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and stay away from people and animals when it’s 99 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. You’re most at risk of a chigger attack when temperatures are in the upper 70s to upper 80s. Shade keeps temperatures lower, and chiggers might still be active in shady areas, even if it’s a particularly hot day.
The best way to avoid chiggers is to stay away from the habitats they prefer. If you must venture into a potentially chigger-infested area, cover as much of your skin as possible. Wear a long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms, chest and abdomen. Prevent chiggers from feeding on your ankles by pulling your socks over your pants. Use insect repellant before you walk through tall vegetation or brush. Chiggers don’t immediately attach to your skin when they land on you. If you shower as soon as you return indoors, you might dislodge them and prevent them from feeding on your skin.
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