Parasites irritate me!

I hope my readers will forgive me for a frivolous and much too personal post.... BUT -- I have been scratching so much that I have been miserable; too miserable to post anything. And now that I am driven to abject despair, I decided to write a post just to stop my fingers from doing any scratching!

The culprit is a small arthropod, Trombicula autumnalis (Harvest Mite), commonly known as the "chigger."

I haven't had them since I was a boy, but what's happening now confirms my childhood memories. Chiggers are hell! They are also rude:

Typically chigger mites fall onto shoes or pant legs where they begin climbing in search of some tender, moist, skin to bite. They seem to concentrate in areas where clothing fits tightly against the body, such as around the ankles, groin, waist or armpits. This is exactly the rude behavior that I am talking about. A simple bite on an arm or back of the neck may be acceptable, and can be itched in public. But public itching of the groin area, the armpits or under the bra strap is an entirely different matter. It is socially unacceptable, politically incorrect and may even be illegal in some countries.

And itch you must. Once chiggers bite, there is no alternative. Chiggers do not burrow into the skin but rather pierce skin cells with their mouthparts and inject their special chigger saliva. This saliva contains enzymes that breaks down cell walls and causes the skin cells to liquefy. Human immune systems react to this foreign enzyme, resulting in not only infuriatingly, and intense itching but also in the formation of a hard red wall at the spot of the bite. The chigger capitalizes on this body reaction uses the round wall, called a stylostome as a straw to suck up its meal of dissolved body tissues, and then promptly drops off immediately after feeding. The itching intensifies, however, over the next 20 to 30 hours and may go on for days or weeks, depending on the person.

Well I'm just past the 24 hour stage right now, but already it seems worse than last night. And last night I couldn't sleep! I kept waking up and scratching demonically.

I don't know whether I acquired these beasties in the Pine Barrens on Saturday or visiting the Eastern State Penitentiary on Sunday. It didn't start until hours after I left the prison, and one of the things I had done was to explore the area around a partially collapsed escape tunnel the inmates had dug which had run into an underground stream. Water, moisture, and weeds are what they like, and their normal host is the rodents which congregate in such places.

I found another blogger who was been tormented by chiggers, and here is his account:

The itchiness is unbelievable: especially in the middle of the night when it feels like somebody has chucked a bucket of itching powder under the bedclothes.

I know that humans are host to millions of tiny unseen parasites but these rank among the worst because of their ill effects.

If you have ever been walking in the Lakes and come back covered in itchy red spots which you thought were fleas caught off your dog or mother-in-law, well, it wasn't. It was the Harvest Mite.

Anyway, there we are. I thought I'd let you know what we're going through. Sorry if I've made you itch in sympathy. I'd tell you more only I'm off to dab me buttocks.Any offers?

I'm reminded of an old saying about mutual back scratching, but geography and time make any offers moot.....

I'll leave my readers with before and after pictures.

Here's the chigger larva before feeding:


And here it is after feeding (drinking my precious bodily fluids!):


I'm trying to avoid any references to politics.

posted by Eric on 09.13.04 at 10:20 PM


Paint the bites with nail polish. (I prefer clear, but to each his own.) That suffocates the little buggers, and brings relief in about 12 hours.

Aaron   ·  September 14, 2004 12:06 PM

Death to chigger mites!


Death by nail polish seems like Divine retribution!

Eric Scheie   ·  September 14, 2004 7:26 PM

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