It's the scourge of berry pickers and those who frequent the woods this time of year.
Chiggers first show up as annoying red bumps before the maddening itch begins on the body.
There is no creature alive that can cause more torment for its size than the chigger.
The savage scratching begins and can last for weeks if untreated.
Lots of folks believe chiggers are some type of bug. Folklore tells us they burrow under our skin and die, that they drink our blood and that they can best be killed by suffocation with nail polish or bathing with bleach, alcohol, turpentine or salt water.
Surprisingly, all are just plain wrong.
Chiggers are the juvenile (or larval) form of a specific family of mites, the Trombiculidae, closely related to ticks.
Chiggers dine on humans only in their childhood, and later become vegetarians that live on the soil.
Chiggers are very, very tiny creature (if it was larger, it could star in any science fiction movie).
Chiggers attach by inserting minute specialized mouth parts into skin depressions, usually at skin pores or hair follicles.
The bite alone is not the source of the itch.
The chigger injects saliva into its victim after attaching to the skin, depositing a powerful digestive enzyme that literally dissolves the skin cells.
It is this liquefied tissue, never blood, that the chigger ingests and uses for food.
A chigger goes unnoticed for one to three hours after it starts feeding. After a few hours, the skin reacts.
It begins to suck up the decomposing skin cells like a milkshake.
If undisturbed, chiggers commonly take three or four days, and sometimes longer, to eat their dinner.
On human hosts, chiggers seldom get the chance to finish their meal, which is its once-in-a-lifetime dinner.
They are capable of getting all over a person's body in just a few minutes.
The first line of defense against chiggers is the right kind of clothing. Shorts, sleeveless shirts and sandals are nearly suicidal.
Wear tightly woven socks and clothes, long pants long sleeved shirts, and high shoes or boots. Tucking pant legs inside boots and buttoning cuffs and collars as tightly as possible helps keep the wandering chiggers on the outside of your clothes.
When you get home, change clothes as soon as possible, and wash them.
Regular mosquitoe repellents will repel chiggers. All brands are equally effective.
Unfortunately these repellents are only potent for two to three hours and must be reapplied.
By far, the most effective and time proven repellent for chiggers is powdered sulphur. Chiggers hate sulphur.
The best precaution against chigger bites is simply taking a warm soapy bath with plenty of scrubbing as soon as possible after exposure.
Warm soapy water is all that is necessary to remove and kill chiggers. There is no need, and it is rather dangerous, to apply household products.
The only ultimate cure is time, since there is nothing you can do to dislodge the chigger's feeding tube.
In the meantime, local anesthetics such as benzocaine, camphor-phenol and ammonium hydroxide may provide you with several hours of comfort at a stretch.
The most popular home remedy for which there is little justification is to dab nail polish on the welt.