Friday, December 01, 2006


After climbing off of the boardwalk the other day to show some Cub Scouts a raccoon skull, it was discovered that another creature has emerged due to the warmer weather...chiggers! Half of the Beidler Forest staff is unaffected by chiggers and did not know that they existed until the staff doubled in size. The new staff members are certified chigger magnets whenever they venture off of the boardwalk into the forest!

A detailed explanation of the chigger life cycle can be found here. Basically, the chigger is only parasitic during its larval stage. When a human or a variety of other animals enter an area with chiggers, the larval chiggers rapidly swarm onto the host and begin searching for a good feeding spot. On humans, chiggers prefer areas of thin skin (ankles, behind knees, in front of elbows, armpits, abdomen, groin) or areas where clothing is tight (socks, elastic areas of underwear, waistbands, thighs in tight jeans). The chiggers find a skin pore or a hair follicle and feed be delivering powerful digestive enzymes and then sucking up the liquefied cells. Yum! The enzymes cause the surrounding cells to harden into a straw-like feeding tube. The combination of these two actions causes the incredible itching (in many people). The chigger will drop off in one to four days, but the itching can last for over a week. Since the chiggers tend to group together in their environment, it's unlikely that a person will only have a few bites. The cumulative effect of multiple itching bites can be maddening.

There are some on staff that welcome the impending cold front and the tremendous effect it will have on reducing the active chigger population.

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