Sunday, June 13, 2010

‘Tis the Season

Remember how a few weeks ago I said how glad I was to see everything turning green out at the ranch?  Well, I still am glad, I really am…..but there is one facet of all that nice green vegetation that I could live without.

It is now officially Chigger Season.  Mr. HH and I have travelled quite a bit since getting married, and we’ve been to lots of places that were lush and green and beautiful.  And at every destination, I always feel the need to ask someone if it is ok to step in the grass.  I really am trying to get over that, because people look at you like you’re nuts when you ask about chiggers.  But it’s such a luxury to walk through the grass in your bare feet and not wake up the next morning looking like a human pincushion.  Like someone gave me a chocolate cake and told me it has no calories – I just don’t quite believe it can be true.

But so far, the only places I’ve ever gotten chiggers from is in Oklahoma, on the ranch or in similar areas.  I guess we just have to deal with them, and in the meantime stock up on deep woods OFF, clear nail polish, and iodine.

If you, like most of the people I’ve met who are NOT from southern Oklahoma, have never heard of chiggers, consider yourself lucky.  Have you ever been bit by a mosquito?  Well, a chigger ‘bite’ itches 10 times as much, and sticks around for weeks!  And they don’t just bite you wherever they land, oh no.  Chiggers are pretty much invisible, and once they jump on you, they crawl on your skin, unbeknownst to you, until they either find some really tender spot, or they hit a barrier.  If you’re lucky, that’s your sock line.  If you are not so lucky, it is your waistband….or even less lucky – well, you get the idea.

This next part, about how they attach to your skin and inject you with a poison that liquefies your skin cells and they feed on you until they are ready to pass out of the larval stage, well, that’s where most non-Okies decide I’m pulling their leg.  It kind of sounds like something out of a horror story, right?  So, let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about chiggers.  It redirected me to the ‘scientific’ name, but here’s the summary.

Trombiculidae

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  (Redirected from Chigger)

Trombiculidae (pronounced /trɒmbɨˈkjuːlɨdiː/) is a family of mites called trombiculid mites (also called berry bugs; harvest mites; red bugs; scrub-itch mites; and, in their larval stage,chiggers).[3] …..

They are most numerous in early summer when grass, weeds and other vegetation are heaviest. In their larval stage they attach to various animals, including humans, and feed on skin, often causing itching…..

Trombiculid mites go through a life cycle of eggs, larva, nymph, and adult.[7] The larval mites feed on the skin cells, but not blood, of animals, including humans. The six-legged parasitic larvafeeds on a large variety of creatures including humans, rabbits, toads, box turtles, quail, and even some insects. After crawling onto their host, they inject digestive enzymes into the skin that break down skin cells. They do not actually "bite," but instead form a hole in the skin called a stylostome and chew up tiny parts of the inner skin, thus causing severe irritation and swelling. The severe itching is accompanied by red pimple-like bumps (papules) or hives and skin rash or lesions on a sun-exposed area. For humans, itching usually occurs after the larvae detach from the skin.[8]

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Gosh, that sounds fun, doesn’t it?  You go to bed, and you wake up covered in whelps, and nothing can ease the itching.  Nail polish keeps the air out of the ‘hole’, and that helps, and Dad swears by iodine, that it helps it close up, but mostly you just have to wait it out.  Welcome to summer! 

So, the next time you see that beautiful grass like this:

June 2010 004

  Just do what I do, and think of this:

File:Trombidium holosericeum 2 Luc Viatour.jpg

(Image credit for the chigger photo from Luc Viatour via Wikipedia)

You’ll think twice about stepping in the grass, I guarantee it.  Now, I wonder where I put that iodine…

6 comments:

Dad said...

"Ya gotta be tough" to live in Western Oklahoma.
Everyone should try an office day job after working all weekend on fences. Trying to scratch the chiggers without being considered a weirdo is sometimes difficult.

Jen at Cabin Fever said...

AHH. gross. I could have gone without the photo of the chigger. I got them in Maryland growing up as a kid. Honestly I thought the nailpolish thing was something that my mother made up, although it does work!

Mrs. HH said...

Sorry Jen, but I had to post it :) Ever since I looked them up on Wikipedia a few summers ago, I'm way more freaked out by the idea of those little monsters attached to my skin! That's the kind of horror that must be shared.

Carlene Hill said...

I'm itching now. One thing about that Wikipedia description seems to cast doubt - there has never been a chigger that chose to feast on a spot exposed to sun. No, they like darker parts of the human body. The best way to collect them for investigation is to pick sandplums.

Carlene Hill said...

Your new collection of photos along the banner are really nice.

Stephanie Franklin said...

It's really sad that as a read your story I knew exactly what you were talking about. No one can fully understand chiggers unless they have had that terrible, annoying experience.

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