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If you live in Missouri, you just went “Mmhmm… damned things!” to the subject line. Those that don’t live in Missouri just went “A wha…?!?”.
The creature to the left (a picture lifted from the Missouri Department of Conservation) is an image of a “chigger” enlarged 1500 times. The chigger, a bastardization of the word chigoe, is the larval form of the Harvest Mite. You tend to find them in tall grass and you learn to try to avoid it like the plague.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, it appears that if Cocker Spaniels run through a nest of them, get them on their paws, and then place said paws on your back, you can get the Chiggers transfered to your back. Once they are there, they inject you with a powerful digestive saliva, liquefy your skin cells and drink them. You are then left with days or weeks worth of the worst itching you have ever experienced. The MDC has a great description of it:
Savage scratching begins. Every welt becomes a persistent, exquisitely itching preoccupation that continues to irritate for days and even weeks. You probably recognize these symptoms of chigger bites. Yet we never see the culprits responsible for this summertime agony.
My father was the lucky person to get hit, and I would take a picture of his back, but believe me, you don’t want to see it. Just believe me he looks like hell and wants to scratch like no one’s business. All of this made me realize though how few of my readers have ever had this distinct pleasure.
I have had them only once, years ago, when we visited an old, rural cemetery to find some family. They got both my ankles and I had the marks for weeks. So much fun.
So, if you ever find yourself in Missouri… avoid the tall grass.