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Chiggers or Lone Star Tick Larvae? That Is the Question

Are those red welts actually chigger bites or are they from the lone star tick larvae? new evidence suggests that the ticks may be the culprit.

In a recent article in The Suffolk Times, writer Peter Boody raises the question whether those chigger bites East Enders think they have may actually be from lone star tick larvae.  In recent years the population of lone star ticks has dramatically increased on the East End therefore expanding the threat of tick borne diseases.   

Now, new anecdotal evidence may suggest that the larvae of these ticks is in fact what many are referring to as chiggers, which cause red welts on the skin.  If this new evidence is in fact the case that what people thought were chigger bites are actually from ticks, then all the more reason to continue treating your property this fall to halt the reproduction of these ticks in the spring season.

Scott Campbell, an entomologist who heads the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Arthropod Borne Disease Laboratory, states that he has never found a chigger anywhere on Long Island.  He states chiggers are found to the south and west in warmer climates.  Lone star larvae begin to hatch in July and are active through the fall months. Chiggers tend to be active in the spring and summer months.  The larvae are laid by the female in clusters therefore creating an opportunity where a person could very likely see dozens of bites in one area of their body.  The larvae don’t carry the tick borne diseases similar to the ones the adults carry, but as they mature they will be a threat to contract these diseases.

To curb the reproduction and maturation of these larvae, fall treatment of properties is imperative. I recommend continuing preventative spraying into the end of October to kill the existing larvae and thus limit the new batch of ticks that could potentially hatch at the start of the 2013 season. 

Other tips as a reminder of property upkeep this fall to curb the nesting of the larvae include:

* Reduce leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn and around the house.
* Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and wood piles.
* Use wood chips to help keep the buffer zone free of plants and restrict tick migration.
* Trim tree branches to let in more sunlight.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jean Dodds October 16, 2012 at 12:06 PM
I appreciate the clarification! A few years ago I heard that Chiggers were not on LI. What we were experiencing were nymph/larval ticks. Recently I've heard "chiggers" used so often that I thought they were finally here. I have personally experienced larval tick bites (there were not chiggers) and they are nothing to mess around with. However, I disagree with the statement, "Even better news, larval lone star ticks are not known to carry any tick-borne diseases." Larval/nymph ticks can cause severe health issues - an allergy to red meat. I have 2 family members that went years wondering why they started, in their mid-40s (food allergies aren't supposed to develop so late in life), to have severe allergic reactions after eating red meat. An article in The Independent last year shed some light (link below & an additional link to a different 2010 article). Now if you Google red meat allergy and ticks you get a slew of results. There isn’t enough press on the issue - we need to get the word out. It may not be the answer for everyone, but I do think a few people might finally find that peace of mind, as my family members did, when they finally understand the true cause of their red meat allergy. http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1t65k/TheIndependent72011/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yudu.com%2Fitem%2Fdetails%2F372048%2FThe-Independent-7-20-11 http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/253939
Blue Heron October 16, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Ugh -- both my husband and my son had them this summer. I was sure they were chiggers, but we could see the tiny larvae under a magnifying glass. Ewwww!
Deborah Klughers October 16, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I went on your website & it says you spray Astro Permethrin. I looked it up and found the following "Environmental Hazards" on the commercial label: "This pesticide is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on crops or weeds." "This product is extremely toxic to fish & aquatic invertebrates." "Drift & runoff from treated areas may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in neighboring areas." Another "technical fact sheet" states, "Permethrin is highly toxic to honeybees, fish, & aquatic invertebrates due to disruption of sodium channels." The EPA states "Permethrin is highly toxic to both freshwater & estuarine aquatic organisms.Permethrin toxicity data show that the compound is highly toxic to honeybees, as well as other beneficial insects." When it comes to ticks, Damminix Tick Tubes® are a good choice. These are cardboard tubes filled with permethrin treated cotton balls. You place them around your property & then mice ( the vector and main host of the spirochete that cause Lyme disease) collect the cotton to build their nests, and the ticks are exposed to permethrin and die.For under $100 you can treat 2-3 acres, or ½ acre of “mouse habitat”. They are available in hardware stores & also online. The harmful effects on non-target species mentioned above should not pose a problem when using the tick tubes as directed.
Richard Pollack October 21, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Assigning a presumed cause to bite-like lesions almost invariably requires discovery and expert evaluation of the villain (if a tick, mite or insect). Basing a conclusion on the manifestation of the lesion is often a wild guess. The list of potential culprits can be narrowed by considering the geographic locale, the ecology, the location of lesions on a person or pet, the season, and the activities in which the sufferer engaged. As pointed out by others, chiggers would be low on the list of likely candidates on Long Island. If the lesion was caused by a tick, one will often (but not always) find the tick still attached. Larval ticks are small enough that they're often overlooked or attributed to a dried mass of blood. Chiggers (larval trombiculid mites) are generally scratched off before a lesion is noticed. Other bite-like lesions result from the bites of fleas, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, bed bugs, as well as to non-biting causes (e.g. contact with certain kinds of plants, or manifestations from metabolic disorders). If a creature is observed, one can obtain a rapid, independent, confidential and expert evaluation by sending it (or uploading digital images) to https://identify.us.com
Bbambi October 21, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Thank you Jean and Deborah for your thoughtful comments. Horses are very vulnerable to the tick nymphs as well.

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