Chiggers, popularly called güinas in Jalisco, are nearly invisible larvae of Trombiculid mites, whose bites result in exceedingly itchy red welts. I last wrote about them in 2011 and it’s time for an update.
Before 2010, neither chiggers nor dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes had ever been seen in my community, Pinar de la Venta, which is situated about 1.6 kilometers (one mile) above sea level, but now both of these pests have become permanent residents here. Whether global warming is fact or fiction, I can’t say, but it seems clear that my back yard warmed up slightly about eight years ago and it’s either staying that way or perhaps getting warmer yet. So it seems to me the number of places from which you can escape chiggers in Mexico has been greatly reduced. Get ready to meet them, sooner or later!
Chiggers typically mass at the end of a leaf or weed overhanging a trail and jump aboard as you brush past. However, if the area is without vegetation, they won’t hesitate to crawl all over you, should you make the mistake of sitting directly on the ground or grass instead of on a blanket or on a chair.
Chiggers are almost microscopic, 0.4 to 1 millimeter in size, and you will probably need a magnifying glass to see one (with which you will discover that they are bright red in color, which is why they are also known as Red Bugs or coloradillas in Spanish). Although they are so small, they can run very fast on their long legs and it only takes them about 15 minutes to climb from your shoe to your belt line, a distance equivalent to a human’s climb to the top of a tall mountain. At the belt line they may encounter a tight elastic band and that’s when they decide to stop running and start eating. The waist and the softer parts of the body is where you’ll usually find the red welts.