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The chigger mite is about 1/150th of an inch in length, meaning it is only barely visible to the naked eye. The juvenile forms, which bite humans, have six legs, while the adult forms have eight legs. Chigger mites are red in color, and the juvenile (biting) forms require a relatively humid environment, so they are most commonly located in vegetation that is near ground level. When human skin or clothing comes in contact with low-lying vegetation that hosts chiggers, the mites can infest the human and migrate on human skin in search of a feeding area.
Chiggers most commonly bite in areas of thinned skin such as wrinkles and folds. Therefore, chigger bites are commonly observed in the crotch and groin areas, in the armpits, and in the folds behind the knees. The ankles are also a common site for chigger bites. Other areas that are commonly bitten by chiggers are areas where the compression of clothing (such as belts) presents barriers to their migration.
A popular myth about chiggers is that they burrow into the skin and remain there, but this is incorrect. When the chigger bites, it inserts its feeding structures and mouth parts into the skin. They inject enzymes into the host skin that destroy the host tissue. The area then hardens, and a feeding tube, called a sylostome, develops at the bite area. Chiggers can feed on the skin for a few days through this structure if they are not disturbed.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2014
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