Chigger mites are microscopic in size - about 1/20 inch.
Chiggers are bright red with hairy bodies that appear velvety.
Chiggers have long legs and are very fast crawlers. They make their home in tall grass and in low, damp vegetation areas such as woodlands, berry patches, orchards, along lakes and streams, and even in dry areas such as lawns, golf courses, and parks. Chiggers climb onto people as they walk through these kinds of areas and commonly attack campers, hikers, bird watchers, berry pickers, fishermen, soldiers, and homeowners.
During the larval stage the mite is referred to as a chigger. It is during the larval stage that this mite is a parasite on humans and many animals, including other mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. The chigger does not burrow into the skin, but instead inserts its mouthparts into a skin pore or hair follicle to liquefy tissue and draw it out of the host along with blood and other liquids. Chigger bites cause red welts and severe itching. Adult chiggers are predatory and feed on other mites, insect eggs and also tiny insects.
In spring, females become active and lay up to 15 eggs per day. These eggs hatch into six-legged, parasitic larvae which, climb onto vegetation to more easily find a host. After feeding on a host for four days, the chiggers fall off and become eight-legged nymphs, which mature to the adult stage. Nymphs and adults feed on eggs of springtails, isopods, and mosquitoes. The life cycle of the chigger is 50 to 70 days and adults can live up to a year.
Chiggers are most abundant during late spring and summer. They prefer to feed on parts of the body where clothing fits tightly including the waistline and under socks. They also prefer areas with thin and tender flesh such as armpits, ankles, back of the knees, front of the elbow, or the groin.