chigger

chigger

[chig-er]
chigger, minute, six-legged, reddish larva of the harvest mite, one of various red bugs widely distributed throughout the world and common in the S United States. Attaching itself by its mouthparts to the skin of its vertebrate host, the chigger injects saliva that destroys cells and may cause an intense irritation known as red-bug dermatitis. The food of the chigger consists of the cellular contents and tissue fluid of the host. Certain Asian species carry minute organisms (rickettsias) that cause scrub typhus, a disease of humans. Chiggers are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Arachnida, order Acarina, family Trombidiidae.

Larva of some 10,000 mite species, ranging in length from 0.004 to 0.6 in. (0.1–16 mm). Some are terrestrial; others live in freshwater or salt water. They may be predators, scavengers, or plant feeders, and some are pests of humans, either as parasites or as carriers of disease. In North America, the common chigger that attacks humans is found from the Atlantic coast to the Midwest and Mexico. The larva penetrates clothing and, once attached to the skin, injects a fluid that digests tissue and causes severe itching. After feeding, the larva drops to the ground and begins to mature.

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Chigger may refer to:

  • Harvest mite, mites in the family Trombiculidae that live in North American forests and grasslands
  • Chigoe flea (Tunga penetrans), a parasitic arthropod found in tropical climates, especially South America and the West Indies

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