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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: Chiggers Can Make Summer Very Itchy

Missouri Department of Conservation
Only 1/150th of an inch in diameter, tiny chiggers are hard to see without a microscope. The larval form of a type of mite, chiggers are red, but not from dining on blood as many people think.

Learn how to discover nature with ease as you take the itch out of summer. Every Missourian knows chiggers are the worst pests in the summer months. First they appear as annoying red bumps then the itch begins and spreads.

Chiggers are not bugs or any other type of insect. They're a juvenile form of a specific family of mites. Although they're almost invisible to the unaided eye...when several chiggers cluster together near an elastic waistband or wristwatch you might see their bright red color.

A chigger bite itches so intensely because the chigger injects saliva into its victim after attaching to the skin. The saliva contains a powerful digestive enzyme that literally dissolves the skin cells it contacts. It is this liquefied tissue, not blood, that the chigger ingests and uses for food.

Chiggers are most active in afternoons when ground temperatures are between seventy-seven and eighty-six degrees. They're completely inactive when temperatures fall below sixty and they actively avoid objects hotter than ninety-nine degrees. A sunny rock is a safe place to sit in a chigger-infested area. 

An easy line of defense against chiggers is tightly woven socks, long pants, long sleeve shirts and high shoes or boots. Tucking pant legs inside boots and buttoning cuffs and collars tightly will keep wandering chiggers on the outside of your clothes. Mosquito repellent will also repel them.

Itching usually peaks a day or two after a chigger bite occurs. But if you take a good scrub in a warm soapy bath as soon as you arrive home you can wash off chigger before they bite and remove any attached and feeding chiggers before you start to feel the itch.
There is no creature alive that can cause more torment for its size than the chigger. But using these precautions, you can itch less this summer and get more enjoyment from your outdoor activities.

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