Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fee-fi-fo-fum: Chiggers in the Adirondacks

I remember as a child sometime back in the early 1950s coming back from an outing at Lake Bonaparte covered with mysterious bites. I was miserable, and my mother and the neighbors had no idea what had afflicted me. The best they could come up with was "it must be sand-fleas."

Flash ahead to 1962, and I'm in graduate school in Kansas. I've been hired by my major professor to help him by catching glass lizards, a species he has been studying. I'm a miserable failure because at the end of the day my body is covered with welts. I couldn't sleep for the itching. Poison ivy, I guessed, but when I went to the campus medical center, they immediately diagnosed my problem as aggravated chigger bites.

Flash ahead again to 2006, and we're staying in Wanakena. I spent several hours walking along the "back" road from the Oswegatchie River bridge toward the junction of County Route 61, photographing wildflowers and butterflies along the roadside. Later I was covered with chigger bites and, having encountered the critters throughout the midwest and south, I had no doubts what they were. 

I recalled my late father-in-law telling me there indeed are chiggers in the Adirondacks, but until my own experience, I had remained skeptical.

Adirondack chiggers may be less hungry or, more likely restricted to a brief limited feeding cycle in the northern part of their range, but I've become a believer.

Interestingly, only "yankees" seem to be susceptible to chiggers. Maybe having lived in the south for so long, I've developed a sort of immunity. 

Any other experiences with chiggers in the North Country?


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