Chiggers do NOT burrow into your skin.
Don’t Blame the Chigger Blame the Offspring
The lifecycle of a chigger progresses in four stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. It isn’t actually the chigger that causes those welts and itching, but the chigger larva. The chigger larva is the only stage in which the chigger feeds on a host.
Where Do Chiggers Live?
When temperatures reach above 60°F, the adult female chigger will lay up to 15 eggs per day in moist, thick vegetation. The chigger larva hatch and remain close by waiting for a host such as a reptile or small rodent. If a person happens by a chigger patch, they will quickly attach themselves.
How Chiggers Attach Themselves
Once on the host, the chigger larva will attach itself to the skin. It will then pierce the skin or find a hair follicle and will begin injecting a digestive enzyme into the host through its saliva. This digestive enzyme breaks down skin cells, liquefying them so that the chigger can ingest it. The red welt and itching that results are the body’s reaction to the saliva injection. Once the chigger larva is engorged, which can take anywhere from one day to several, it will drop from the host’s body and bury itself where it will move on to the nymph stage of development.
“Chiggers, HYG-2100-98.” Ohioline. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2100.html>.
” ACES Publications : CHIGGERS : ANR-1109 .” Alabama Cooperative Extension System – ACES.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2012. <http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1109/>.
Glossary of Terms
Digestive Enzyme: are enzymes that break down polymeric macromolecules into their smaller building blocks, in order to facilitate their absorption by the body.
Host: an animal or plant on or in which a parasite or commensal organism lives.
Larva: a young insect that has left its egg but has not yet developed wings, or the young of some animals
Nymph: any of various immature insects; especially : a larva of an insect (as a grasshopper, true bug, or mayfly) with incomplete metamorphosis that differs from the imago especially in size and in its incompletely developed wings and genitalia.
“Chigger bites can typically be managed at home without the need for medical care. However, medical care should be sought if a person has been bitten by a chigger and develops signs of a secondary bacterial infection of the skin”
Melissa Conrad Stoppler MD; Chiggers: When to Seek Medical Care