Aaaah! We have been introduced to lots of new (to us) critters big and small as we make our way across the U.S. The one I have the least fondness for... chiggers, Trombiculidae, or harvest mites. I have great disdain for their cousins the ticks, and maybe these mites don't deserve the venom I reserve for ticks and all the disease they carry, but man I hate Chiggers right now. When we visited Memphis our hostess asked if we had yet met the chigger. No, but soon we'd have the displeasure. It's high chigger season in the south and Congaree and some of the other dampish places we camped out were teeming with 'em. For those of you who have not made their acquaintance, chiggers are small difficult to see larval mites that get on your skin from low vegetation usually in the humid late spring and early summer weather. They don't suck your blood like ticks but they do consume a bit of skin. It seems that some of the stuff that helped dissolve your skin for dinner gets left behind and that's what gives the host an often intensely itchy red bump or even a small blister or welt. They typically crawl up until they find some particularly thin skin or meet a barrier. That means itch city at the hem of your underpants or right up in'yer armpits. It was my feet that got it in Congaree. The camp area was all perpetually wet mowed grass and weeds, perfect for chiggers.
When the little itch bumps turned up in quantity a day latter we thought, "fleas?!" Then with a bit of internet research we confirmed our second hunch, "Ah, so these are chigger bites." The nasty little chicken pox like bumps were a perfect match to the pictures on the internet. I too had the incorrect assumption that chiggers burrow into your skin and suck blood. It was a relief to read that when you start to itch the chiggers are already long gone. The bumps do not contain evil little worms that will burst out later, nor is their any reason to try to "suffocate" the critters. There's nothing in there but your own skin's inflammatory reaction. When you are itchy it's too late. Grin and bare it. Now I know more about prevention, and I'll keep my pants tucked into my socks when hiking in Congaree. In addition I learned that taking an immediate shower after exposure can wash the beasties off before they get to digesting little bits of you. It seems they are slow like ticks and taking measures to get 'em off early will do a world of good. At the time I am writing this we are recovering from our l'il bumps, but the memory of the squirming desire to scratch won't fade for a while.
By the way, we have thwarted the ticks so far. In North Carolina where we camped out, there was one little bloodsucker I found waiting on the edge of the tent rain fly just above the door. That one got squashed. I hope we can keep the rest of them off. Ig, I hate ticks.