Monday, June 29, 2009

Mom's Back!

Mom finally got home yesterday afternoon. She had a great time despite getting bitten by almost every insect on the island. The worst thing that bit her wasn't even an insect and she hadn't been on the island for more than a few hours when the inside of her left ankle starting itching. It turns out that she got bit by chiggers - yuk!

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, chiggers first show up as annoying red bumps. Mom was actually sitting inside the biologist's cabin when the bumps first appeared. She started scratching the bumps and they grew. Soon hard red welts appeared and she couldn't stop scratching them.

This scary looking creature is not even a bug or any other type of insect. Chiggers are the larval form of a mite, the Trombiculidae. Whatever it is, it looks scary. Mites are arachnids, like spiders, and are closely related to the one thing that Mom fears most - ticks. The strangest thing about chiggers is that they only bite us in their childhood and when they are adults they become vegetarians. Go figure!

These little guys are teeny tiny - less thatn 1/150th of an inch in diameter. This makes them almost invisible to the naked eye which is why Mom never saw them. She told me that she was looking for music on her ipod when the chigger attach happened. Chiggers usually don't work alone and they like to get together near an elastic waistband, wrist watch, or sandal strap in Mom's case. Their piercing mouth parts are short and delicate, which means they can only penetrate thin skin or when the skin wrinkles and folds.

So if their bite is so small, why all the itching? This grosses me out, so skip this paragraph if you have a weak stomach, have just eaten, or are pregnant. This information is from the Missouri Department of Conservation:

"The reason the bite itches so intensely and for such a long time is because the chigger injects saliva into its victim after attaching to the skin. This saliva contains a powerful digestive enzyme that literally dissolves the skin cells it contacts. It is this liquefied tissue, never blood, that the chigger ingests and uses for food.

A chigger usually goes unnoticed for one to three hours after it starts feeding. During this period the chigger quietly injects its digestive saliva. After a few hours your skin reacts by hardening the cells on all sides of the saliva path, eventually forming a hard tube-like structure called a stylostome.
The stylostome walls off the corrosive saliva, but it also functions like a feeding tube for the hungry chigger. The chigger sits with its mouthparts attached to the stylostome, and like a person drinking a milk shake through a straw, it sucks up your liquefied tissue. Left undisturbed, the chigger continues alternately injecting saliva into the bite and sucking up liquid tissue.

It is the stylostome that irritates and inflames the surrounding tissue and causes the characteristic red welt and intense itch. The longer the chigger feeds, the deeper the stylostome grows, and the larger the welt will eventually become. The idea that the welt swells and eventually engulfs the feeding chiggers is also a myth. Many people have seen a small red dot inside a welt (usually under a water blister), but this is the stylostome tube and not a chigger body.

The time required for a chigger to complete its meal varies with the location of the bite, the host and the species. If undisturbed, chiggers commonly take three or four days, and sometimes longer, to eat their dinner. This is not surprising when you consider that this is the first and last meal of the young chigger's life."

This is one more reason that I never want to go to Wassaw Island. I know the chiggers would seek me out and dine on me for days. I would cry like a baby and probably pass out, thus ruining Mom's week of turtling. Nope, I am staying right here when I belong - chigger free and loving it.

Mom's ankle looks a lot better than it did last Monday when it was fully red and welted. She told me that it looked like a really nasty rash with red dots in the middle. Nice description, huh?

In addition to the chigger feeding fest, Mom has mosquito bites from chest to ankle. She even has some where her skin wasn't exposed leaving her to surmise that they bit right through her clothes. She sprayed insect repellent all over her body and at times she used up to three different kinds at once. She even tried the other volunteer's repellent but nothing worked. Mom thinks that: a) the mosquitos love Yankee blood or b) she has some sort of natural insect repellent deficiency. Either way, she looks like she has chicken pox. I am keeping my distance because you just never know.

Mom also has bruises everywhere. She can only account for one - as she was getting off the beach vehicle on Thursday night she hit her leg on a bench. Where did the other bruises come from? Turtles? Alligators? Mom did see an alligator on the beach but she swears it didn't attack her. Hmmmm. Maybe she just bruises easy.

Overall, Mom had a great time turtling. The weather was hot (just like Mom likes it) and she had fun with the crew. Unfortunately she didn't see any snakes, despite the thousands of frogs and toads that covered the island. Even after it rained one day no snakes appeared. Yes - this really upset her. There was a crazy lightning storm last Monday and although Mom did not take any pictures of it, Kris did, so hopefully she will send them to me to post.

I'm glad Mom's back because I really missed her. Dad was gone one day while Mom was gone so I had to go hang out with the poodles down the street. Mom and Dad had better stay home with me for the rest of the year or I am going to track down some chiggers to put in their clothes.


Tweedles -- that's me... said...

We are so happy that your mom is home safe and sound and that you are back too. That was quite an explanation of the chiggers and stuffm and mosquito's, oh that itching can drive you insane!
But I am sure it was beautiful, even if she did have to hide under cans of repellent!
We missed you both! Welcome

Stubby said...

Hi Tweedles! I missed you too and am glad that I can get back to blogging. I need to stop by your blog to catch up on what you've been doing. I'm going to stop by this afternoon before my nap.

Stubby xoxo

Pearl said...

Hi Stubby!
Ohhhh I was so excited to see a comment from you on my bloggie! Your momma is HOME! I bet you missed her somethin' awful!

Those chiggers sound pretty nasty. I was gagging a little at the 'milkshake' comparison! :)

Can't wait to catch up with you and see pictures from the trip! Show me the turtles!!!!

Melissa and Emmitt said...

hi stubby!
you mom is one tough kid! all i can say is ouch and i am so glad she still had a great time!
we missed you both.
m & e

Stubby said...

Hey Pearly Poo! I missed you something terrible and I'm so glad that Mom is back so that I can blog.

Those nasty chiggers sound like a pugs worst nightmare, don't they? Mom said that they were bad but she didn't find out what they were until midweek. Needless to say, she stayed far away from the part of the cabin where she was attacked.

Mom did take some pictures on her trip, but she came back without any turtle pictures. Can you believe it? I can't either but what can I say?

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Melissa and Emmitt! Mom is one tough kid alright and all in the name of science. Emmitt knows that us old guys could never handle the 115 degree heat index that Mom had on her second day there - yuk!

I missed you guys and am still trying to get caught up on all the blogs.

Stubby xoxo

The Great Rock Eater said...

So glad your back and your mommy had a good time!! I agree that mommy and daddy should have to stay home with you for the rest of the year!!! It's only fair =)

Salinger The Pug said...

HI Stubby!
We're so happy to hear that mom is back safe and sound and on the road to recovery from her trek into Wild Kingdom!!!

UNFORTUNATELY she didn't see any snakes???? UNFORTUNATELY??? Sounds to us like she had every kind of luck on her side! ;-) know a lot about chiggers! Innnnnteresting!!!

Talk soon!


kim said...

Hi Stubby,

I'm glad Mom is back and is in relatively good health now. She needs to talk to Wayne about the chiggers in Arkansas. There are stories to tell and hear... :-)