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Harvest mites
Adult Trombidium holosericeum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Class: Arachnida
Subclass: Acari
Superorder: Acariformes
Order: Prostigmata
Suborder: Parasitengona
Superfamily: Trombidioidea
Family: Trombiculidae
Ewing, 1929 [1]
Type species
Trombicula autumnalis
(Shaw, 1790)


The distribution of trombiculid species, which is nearly everywhere in the world.

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] The term chigger is sometimes used to refer to a different animal, the Chigoe flea. Trombiculidae live in the forests and grasslands and are also found in low, damp areas where vegetation is rank such as woodlands, berry bushes, orchards, along lakes and streams, and even in drier places where vegetation is low such as lawns, golf courses, and parks.[4]

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. These relatives of ticks are nearly microscopic measuring 0.4 mm (1/100 of an inch) and have a chrome-orange hue.[5][6] A common species of harvest mite in Northern America is Trombicula alfreddugesi; in the UK the most prevalent harvest mite is Trombicula autumnalis.

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 larva feeds 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]

After feeding on their hosts, the larvae drop to the ground and become nymphs, then mature into adults which have 8 legs and are harmless to humans. In the post larval stage, they are not parasitic and feed on plant materials. The females lay 3–8 eggs in a litter, usually on a leaf or under the roots of a plant, and die by autumn.[8]



Trombiculidae, from Greek τρομειν ("to tremble") and Latin culex, gen. culicis ("gnat" or "midge"), was first described as an independent family by H.E. Ewing in 1944.[9] But references to chiggers go as far back as the six century China, and by 1733, the first recognization of trombiculid mites in North America were made. In 1758, Linnaeus described a single species Acarus batatas (Now Trombicula batatas). However, most information about chiggers came from the problems arose during and after World War II.[10]

Then, when the family was first described, it included two subfamilies, Hemitrombiculinae and Trombiculinae. Womersley added another, Leeuwenhoekiinae, which at the time only contained Leeuwenhoekia (Oudemans, 1911). Later he erected the family Leeuwenhoekiidae for the genus and subfamily, having six genera; they have a pair of submedian setae present on the dorsal plate.[11]


Trombiculid mites are found throughout the world. In Europe and North America, they tend to be more prevalent in the hot and humid parts. In the more temperate regions, they are found only in the summer (in French, harvest mites are called aoûtat, or "August" flies[12]). In the United States, they are found mostly in the southeast, the south, and the Midwest. They are not present, or barely found, in far northern areas, in high mountains and in deserts.[13] In the British Isles, the species Trombicula autumnalis are called harvest mites, in North America the species Trombicula alfreddugesi, and the species Trombicula (eutrombicula) hirsti which are found in Australia and are commonly called the scrub-itch mite.[14]

Life cycle

The life cycle of a harvest mite

The length of the mite's cycle depends on species and environment, but normally last 2 to 12 months (but may be longer). The number of cycles in a year depends on the region. For example, in a temperate region, there might only be 3 a year, but in tropical regions, the cycle might be continuous all year long.[7] Adult harvest mites overwinter in protected places such as slightly below the soil. Females become active in the spring, and once the ground temperature is regularly above 60 ℉ (15.6 ℃), she lays eggs, up to 15 eggs per day in vegetation when soil temperatures are 60 ℉ (15.6 ℃). Therefore, from April through early autumn up until the first frost, humans are susceptible to chigger bites.[15] The larvae congregate in groups on small clods of earth, in matted vegetation and even on low bushes and plants, where they have more access to a prospective host. The eggs are dormant for about six days, after which the non-feeding pre-larvae emerge, with only three pairs of legs. After about six days, the pre-larva grows into its larval stage.[7]



The larvae, commonly called chigger, are about 0.17–0.21 mm (0.007–0.008 in) in diameter, normally light red, covered in hairs, and move quickly relative to size. There is a marked constriction in the front part of the body in the nymph and adult stage. The eggs are round in shape.Chigger is also an alternate term for the chigoe flea (Tunga penetrans), a sand flea found in tropical and subtropical climates in the Americas and Africa.[16 ]

The name chigger originated as a corruption of chigoe. Also called scrub mite, red mite and several other names, they are found throughout temperate and tropical zones. Chiggers come in 3 stages: the deutovum, unfed larva, and engorged larva. Once in the egg developing, the larvae enclosed in a membrane in addition to the eggshell, are called deutovum. After hatching, the unfed larvae migrate to the highest area and wait for a host.

The larval stage is the only parasitic stage of the mite's life cycle. They are parasites to many animals. About 30 of the many species in this family, in their larval stage, attach to various animals, including amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, and feed on skin. This often causes an intensely itchy red bump in humans (who are accidental hosts).[7] [17]

File-Chigger bite.svg

Chiggers attach to the host, pierce the skin, inject enzymes into the bite wound that digest cellular contents,[18] and then suck up the digested tissue through a tube formed by hardened skin cells called a stylostome.[8] They do not burrow into the skin or suck blood, as is commonly assumed. Itching from a chigger bite may not develop until 24–48 hours after the bite, so the victim may not associate the specific exposure with the bite itself.[8] The red welt/bump on the skin is not where a chigger laid eggs, as is sometimes believed.[19] The larva remains attached to a suitable host for 3 to 5 days before dropping off to begin its nymph stage.[7]

Chiggers do not like sunlight or humidity. During the wet season, chiggers are usually found in tall grass and other vegetation.[15] During dry seasons, chiggers are mostly found underneath brush and shady areas.[20][21]

Chiggers as disease vectors

Although the harvest mite chigger usually does not carry diseases in North American temperate climates, the Leptotrombidium deliense are considered a dangerous pest in East Asia and the South Pacific because they often carry Orientia tsutsugamushi, the tiny bacterium that causes scrub typhus, which is known alternatively as the Japanese river disease, scrub disease, or tsutsugamushi. The mites are infected by the Rickettsia passed down from parent to offspring before eggs are laid in a process called transovarial transmission. Symptoms of scrub typhus in humans include fever, headache, muscle pain, cough, and gastrointestinal symptoms.[22][23]


Once the larva has engorged itself on skin and has fallen off its host, the larva develops to its nymph stage. Like the larva, the nymphs are also sexually immature, but more closely resemble the adult.

This stage consists of three phases; the protonymph, deutonymph, and tritonymph, respectively. The protonymph and tritonymph morphology are unusual in species of Trombiculidae. The protonymph phase combines larval and protonymph characteristics with deutonymph and tritonymph morphology.[24] The protonymph is an inactive transitional stage. The active deutonymph develops an additional pair of legs (for a total of eight). Lastly, it re-enters inactivity during its transitional tritonymph phase before growing to adulthood.[7]


As a deutonymph and adult, trombiculid mites are independent predators that feed on small arthropods and their eggs, also found to eat plant material.[7] They live in soil, often found when digging in yards and gardens. Adults can be beneficial to human beings, since they often eat the eggs of other pests, such as mosquitoes.


Trombiculiasis, also called Trombiculidiasis, is the term coined for the rash caused by trombiculid mites.[25]


Chigger bites on the foot and ankle

Chiggers are commonly found on the tip of blades of grasses to catch a host, so keeping grass short, and removing brush and wood debris where potential mite hosts may live, can limit their impact on an area. Sunlight that penetrates the grass will make the lawn drier and make it less favorable for chigger survival.

Chiggers seem to affect warm covered areas of the body more than drier areas.[15][26] Thus, the bites are often clustered behind the knees, or beneath tight undergarments such as socks, underwear, or brassieres. Areas higher in the body (chest, back, waist-band, and under-arms) are affected more easily in small children than in adults, since children are shorter and are more likely than adults come in contact with low-lying vegetation and dry grass where chiggers thrive.

Chigger bites can be minimized by the use of tightly woven protective clothing, including long pants, which make it hard for them to reach such spots. Application of repellent to the shoes, lower trousers and skin is also useful. Because they are found in grass, staying on trails, roads, or paths can prevent contact. Dusting sulfur is used commercially for mite control and can be used to control chiggers in yards. The dusting of shoes, socks and trouser legs with sulfur can be highly effective in repelling chiggers.[27]

Another good strategy is to recognize the chigger habitat to avoid exposure in the first place. Chiggers in North America thrive late in summer, in dry tall grasses and other thick, unshaded vegetation. Insect repellents containing one of the following active ingredients are recommended: DEET, catnip oil extract - nepetalactone, citronella oil or eucalyptus oil extract. However, in 1993 issue a study reported on tests of two commercial repellants: DEET and citrus oil: "All chiggers exposed on the filter papers treated with DEET died and did not move off the treated papers. None of the chiggers that were placed on papers treated with citrus oil were killed."[28] It was concluded that DEET was more effective than citrus oil.

Chiggers can also be treated using common household vinegar (5% acetic acid)[29]. For personal protection, apply insect repellent to feet, legs, and mid-section.


Chigger rash 36 hours after exposure

To reduce the itching, an application of anti-itch cream containing hydrocortisone, calamine, or benzyl benzoate is often used (though calamine has been shown not to be effective). Hydrogen peroxide and capsaicin cream has also been effective. Another good way to relieve itching is to apply heat — either by using a hand held shower with water hot as one can stand, or by heating the bite with a hair dryer. The heat method will relieve itching for about four hours and will require repeating. Applying fingernail polish to the affected area does not kill the chigger; the chigger is actually no longer present by the time a rash is noticed.[30]

The most effective way of removing chiggers is by washing the affected areas with warm water and soap. This must be done as soon as possible after exposure or possible exposure. Carefully wash the ankles, feet, behind the knees, and under the arms and chest.[27] An Epsom salt bath may help alleviate itching. If one is near the seashore, wading for a few minutes in salt water will both get rid of the mites on one's skin and clothing and also alleviate the itching from their bites. Clothing, especially pants and socks, should be immediately discarded after returning from areas where exposure may have occurred. However, once symptoms appear, it may be too late to prevent further bites. Taking a hot bath when already covered with chigger bites may in fact be very uncomfortable and increase itching symptoms. Do not rub and scratch the skin aggressively, as this can break the skin and leave it vulnerable to a more serious infection.[27][30]

Some claim that the chigger is still in the bite, perhaps mistaking the tiny red center of the bite for the chigger itself. In some cases, the chigger is still present when the bite appears. A 10X magnifier can be used to see the chigger and it may be removed with fine-tipped tweezers. Once it is gone, covering the bite with nail polish, calamine lotion, vaseline or other petroleum jelly, baby oil, or anything else may help the pain and itching, but will neither suffocate the chigger nor help the bites heal any faster. Medication such as antihistamines or corticosteroid creams may be prescribed by doctors, and might help in some instances.[31]


  1. ^ "Trombiculidae Ewing, 1929 (Family)". SysTax - database query. Universität Ulm. Retrieved 2009-03-06.  
  2. ^ Shatrov, A. B.; Kudryashova, N. I. (2008). ""Taxonomic ranking of major trombiculid subtaxa with remarks on the evolution of host-parasite relationships (Acariformes: Parasitengona: Trombiculidae)"". Annales zoologici (Warsaw) 58: 279–287.  
  3. ^ Smith, GA; V Sharma, JF Knapp, BJ Shields (1998). Pediatric emergency care. ed. The summer penile syndrome: seasonal acute hypersensitivity reaction caused by chigger bites on the. 14 (2 ed.). U.S.: Pediatric emergency care. pp. 116–118. Retrieved May 22, 2009.  
  4. ^ Ballantine, Todd (1991). Tideland treasure: the naturalist's guide to the beaches and salt marshes of Hilton Head Island and the southeastern coast. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press. pp. 1–4. ISBN 0-87249-795-X.  
  5. ^ Mandell, Gerald L.; Bennett JE, Dolin R, (2005). "294". in 6th. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases.. Philadelphia: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 0443086869, 9780443086861.  
  6. ^ Goldman, Lee; Dennis Arthur Ausiello (2007). Cecil Medicine (23, illustrated, revised ed.). Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 1032.  
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Durden, Lance A. (2002). Medical and veterinary entomology (3rd ed.). Academic Press. pp. 458. ISBN 9780125104517.  
  8. ^ a b c d Potter, M. F.; P. G. Koehler (March 1995. Revised February 2000. Reviewed January 2006.). "Invisible Itches: Insect and Non-Insect Causes". University of Florida, Depart. pp. 1–4. Retrieved 2009-05-22.  
  9. ^ Scarborough, John (1998). Medical and Biological Terminologies. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 122. ISBN 0806130296.  
  10. ^ Bowman, Dwight D.; Hendrix, Charles M.; Lindsay, David S.; Barr, Stephen C. (2002). Feline clinical parasitology. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 385–86. ISBN 0813803330.  
  11. ^ E.W. Ewing (Oct. 1946). The Journal of Parasitology. 32. pp. 435–440.  
  12. ^ "Aoûtat : Definition" (in French). Vulgaris - medical. Retrieved 2009-05-19.  
  13. ^ Vater, G. (2006). "The geographical distribution of the harvest mite Neotrombicula autumnalis (Acari: Trombiculidae)." (in German). CABI (Bezirks-Hygieneinspektion und -Institut Leipzig, Abteilung Medizinische Parasitologie, 7010 Leipzig, German Democratic Republic.: CABI): 1–2. Retrieved May 18, 2009.  
  14. ^ Hirst, A. (1929). ""On the “scrub itch mite” of North Queensland (Trombicula hirsti Sambon)" — A possible carrier of tropical pseudotyphus". Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 22 (5): 451–452.  
  15. ^ a b c "ArmaXX Pest Control". Retrieved 2008-06-24.  
  16. ^ Gosling, Peter J. (2005). Dictionary of parasitology. Boca Raton: CRC Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-30855-0.  
  17. ^ "ACES Publications : CHIGGERS : ANR-1109". Retrieved 2008-06-24.  
  18. ^ Finke, D.L. (1998-10-01). "University of MD Chigger Fact sheet" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-05/25.  
  19. ^ Chiggers Pediatric Dermatology Basics
  20. ^ University of Florida: IFAS Extension
  21. ^ Chiggers Pediatric Dermatology Basics
  22. ^ Service, Mike. Medical Entomology for Students (4, illustrated, revised ed.). Published by Cambridge University Press, 2008. pp. 250–252 of 289 pages. ISBN ISBN 0521709288, 9780521709286.  
  23. ^ "CDC - Scrub Typhus Reemergence in the Maldives". Retrieved 2008-06-24.  
  24. ^ Takahashi, M; Misumi, H; Urakami, H; Misumi, M; Matsumoto, I (2003). "Life cycle of Leptotrombidium pallidum (Acari: Trombiculidae), one of the vector mites of scrub typhus in Japan (Author abstract)". Ohara Sogo Byoin Nenpo (Japan) 45: 19–30. ISSN 0285-3671.  
  25. ^ Baumann T (March 2001). "New treatment for harvest mite infestation". Archives of Internal Medicine 161 (5): 769. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.5.769. PMID 11231715.  
  26. ^ Ogg, Barb. "Itchy Chiggers". Retrieved 2009-05-19.  
  27. ^ a b c M Bennett, Stuart (2003). "Mites". Self published by author. Retrieved 2009-05-19.  
  28. ^ Ho TM, Fauziah MK (March 1993). "Laboratory evaluation of two commercial repellants against Leptotrombidium fletcheri (Acari: Trombiculidae)". Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health 24 (1): 165–9. PMID 8362291.  
  29. ^ Baumann T (March 2001). "New treatment for harvest mite infestation". Archives of Internal Medicine 161 (5): 769. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.5.769. PMID 11231715.  
  30. ^ a b "Harvest mite infestation in cats". Feline Advisory Bureau. November, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-19.  
  31. ^ Schalock, Peter C. (Last full review/revision December 2006). "Itching: itching and Noninfectious rashes". The Merk Manuals Medical Library. Retrieved 2009-05-19.  

External links


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Chelicerata
Classis: Arachnida
Subclassis: Acari
Ordo: Acariformes
Subordo: Prostigmata
Cohort: Parasitengona
Subcohort: Trombidiina
Superfamilia: Trombiculoidea
Familia: Trombiculidae
Subfamiliae: Apoloniinae - Gahrliepiinae - Leeuwenhoekiinae - Trombiculinae
[list of subfamiliae after Shatrov & Kudryashova (2008)]

Overview of genera

Aplodontophila - Axiogastia - Dermadelema - Endotrombicula - Eutrombicula - Guntheria - Iguanacarus - Kayella - Longisetacarus - Loomisia - Microtrombicula - Neotrombicula - Oaxacarus - Serratacarus - Tanautarsala - Trombicula - Vercammenia - Whartonacarus ...



  • Brown, W.A. 2007: A new taxon of African chigger, Tanautarsala callithrixa gen. nov., sp. nov. (Acari: Trombidioidea; Trombiculidae; Trombiculini), from the Callithrix monkey Chlorocebus sabaeus (L.) from The Gambia. Systematic & applied acarology, 12: 223–228. Abstract
  • Koçak, A.Ö.; Kemal, M. 2009: A replacement name in the family Trombiculidae in Acarina. Centre for Entomological Studies Ankara miscellaneous papers, 147-148: 15-16. Internet Archive
  • Pomeroy, L.V.; Loomis, R.B. 1984: A new genus of trombiculine chiggers (Acari: Trombiculidae) from western North America. Journal of medical entomology, 21: 268-273.
  • Shatrov, A.B.; Kudryashova, N.I. 2008: Taxonomic ranking of major trombiculid subtaxa with remarks on the evolution of host-parasite relationships (Acariformes: Parasitengona: Trombiculidae). Annales zoologici (Warsaw), 58: 279-287. doi: 10.3161/000345408X326591 [only abstract seen]

Vernacular names

English: chiggers


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