Redbugs (Family Trombiculidae)

WHAT IS A REDBUG or CHIGGER?  A redbug is actually a baby mite.  It is only 1/50 inch long and very hard to see.  Chiggers are arachnids and related to spiders.

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  Grown-up mites do not bite people; they eat insects and insect eggs.  It’s the babies that need the protein from your skin to grow.  Redbugs do not burrow into your skin.  They attach to your skin in places where your clothing is tight, like your ankles, waist, knees, and armpits.  After they are attached, they inject saliva (spit) into your skin.  This spit dissolves a little bit of your skin, and they drink up the liquid skin, not your blood.  Redbug spit is very irritating and itchy.  It will cause the skin to swell up, hiding the redbug.  After about three days, the baby redbug is full.  It drops off and grows into a nymph (an older mite that doesn’t bite).  The itching caused by redbugs is an allergic reaction to the redbug’s saliva.  Try not to scratch it, because it can get infected. 

HOW DO REDBUGS REPRODUCE?  Female redbugs lay about 400 eggs in damp spots on the ground.  This is usually a place with lots of sticks, moss, and shrubs.  When the eggs hatch, the babies crawl up on the sticks and the moss.   When an animal walks by, the babies jump on.   Redbugs will bite mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. 

HOW CAN YOU AVOID REDBUG BITES?  To keep redbugs from biting you, you can tuck your pant legs into your socks and use insect repellent or sulfur powder, especially on your ankles.  You should also hike on nature trails instead of straying into wild areas with lots of moss and shrubs on the ground.  Redbugs rarely travel more than 500 feet from the spot they were born in.  If your picnic area is infested, just move your blanket 500 feet away.  As soon as you get home, take a hot shower and lather up with soap a few times.  This will remove any redbugs that have not bitten in yet.  Anti-itch medicines will reduce some of the itching.  Painting nail polish over the bite does not kill the redbug.


Chigger Digger, “Chigger Information,”, 7/26/02
Kids’ Health “Hey, A Chigger Bit Me,”,
McGavin, George C.  Am. Nature Guides to Insects. 
New York:  Smithmark Publishers Inc., 1992.
Milne, Lorus and Margery.  National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. 
New York:  Chanticleer Press, Inc., 1995.
Ticks and Chiggers
.  A pamphlet by the Florida Department of Natural Resources.
Townsend, Lee & Mike Potter.  “Chiggers.”  Extension Entomologists at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. (11/6/96).
University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Services.  “Chiggers.”  (11/6/96)

Provided by the Pelotes Island Nature Preserve

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