A chigger is the larval form of the harvest mite. They are small (about 1/16 of an inch long), bright red arachnids (if you squish them on your clothes, they leave a bright red stain). In the spring, adult harvest mites lay eggs in the soil and the larval chiggers hatch shortly after. The adult harvest mite isn't as annoying as the larval chigger -- they don't bite.

Chiggers feed on low vegetation but rely on animals (including humans) for protein.

Contrary to popular belief and folk-remedy, chiggers don't actually burrow into your skin... they head for ankles, behind the knees, the groin, and areas under tight clothes such as the elastic bands of pants, socks and underwear. They attach themselves to the opening of a hairshaft and inject saliva under the skin (which has anti-clotting properties). Most people consider the chigger embedded, but the skin actually swells around the chigger. The bright red bugs are well hidden by red irritated skin which swells up around them. The saliva they inject causes itching (sometimes severe and sometimes lasting for weeks), though usually by the time it starts to itch, the chigger has detatched itself from the body. They aren't big, and they don't suck blood for long before jumping ship, and then burrowing into the ground to sleep for a while. Then they wake up in fall to feed, sleep in the ground during winter, then they lay eggs again in spring.

The best way to prevent chigger bites is to wear clothes that cover as much of your body as is comfortable when you are going to be in a chigger infested area. Insect repellents work, those with deet are most effective. Be particularly generous with the repellent around pant cuffs, socks, and waistbands.