Chiggers are a type of mite that affect both humans and animals. They do not feed on the blood of their host but instead on their broken down skin cells. Chiggers are found throughout North America including in Missouri.
Chigger mites are tiny in size; they only grow to be about 1/20 - 1/64 of an inch in length. They vary in color depending on the species but can be orange, yellow, or a bright red color. The adults have hair on their bodies and they have four pairs of legs. The larval stage of the chigger only has three pairs of legs.
Chigger mites overwinter deep in the soil as adults and emerge in the spring to lay their eggs. Once the eggs hatch the larvae hide in tall grasses and vegetation to wait for a host to pass by. The larvae is the only stage that is parasitic, they crawl on the surface of their hosts skin and use their specialized mouthparts to breakdown the skin tissue with their digestive fluids. They then feed upon the broken down skin cells. Once the larvae have fed for several days they fall to the ground and develop into nymphs and then mature into adults. Their entire life-cycle takes approximately two months.
Chiggers are generally most abundant in the late spring and summer months. They congregate in areas that are damp, shaded and provide them with an area to hide in. Pastures, woodlots, fields, ditches and other areas that have heavy vegetation and tall grass or weeds are all habitats that attract them. On humans chiggers are most often found around the ankles, in armpits, the backs of knees, or in the groin area.
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In order to prevent chiggers on your property you should make sure to keep your lawn trimmed low and thin out overgrown or thick vegetation. When spending time outdoors make sure to wear insect repellant, loose fitting clothing, long sleeves, and long pants. After spending time outdoors be sure to wash your clothing and take a hot shower afterwards.
Chiggers are typically an exterior pest and do not infest the interiors of home. Your technician can perform monthly exterior treatments outside of your home in foliage and shaded areas around the foundation of your home, trees, under deck and porches and in other conducive areas to help reduce and/or eliminate chigger infestations on a seasonal basis.