Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not burrow under your skin, they bite and hang on. There is a reason most chigger bites can be found on the ankles, behind the knee or around the waistband, they have a very delicate mouth and can only pierce thin skin or where skin wrinkles. But it’s not the chigger’s bite that causes the itch; it’s the chigger’s saliva. A chigger’s saliva contains an enzyme that basically liquefies the tissue, and this is what the chigger feeds on. Chiggers, if not treated, can feed for 3 to 4 days before satisfying their need, but most chiggers don’t last that long on humans as scratching chiggers will either brush them off or kill them.
Chiggers are not bugs or any other type of insect. Chiggers are the juvenile (or larval) form of a specific family of mites, the Trombiculidae. Mites are arachnids, like spiders and scorpions, and are closely related to ticks.
Chigger mites are unique among the many mite families in that only the larval stage feeds on vertebrate animals; chiggers dine on us only in their childhood, and later become vegetarians that live on the soil.
Chiggers are tiny–less than 1/150 of an inch in diameter. More than a thousand of them could line up across this page and still leave room for two or three hundred more. At this size, chiggers are almost invisible to the unaided eye. However, when several chiggers cluster together near an elastic waistband or wristwatch they can be seen because of their bright red color.
Chiggers are born red; they do not become red from feeding on blood as some believe. An engorged, well fed chigger changes to a yellow color.
Under the microscope, you can see that the chigger is an ugly little creature (if it was larger, it could star in any science fiction movie). Although adult chigger mites have eight legs, the troublesome young chiggers have only six.