Sometime ago, many years ago actually, while visiting with friends they regaled us with an account of their honeymoon travels. Seems that they didn’t have a lot of money, so rather than motel it they slept in various parks, and if there was no park nearby they’d simply spread their sleeping bags in farmers fields. This one evening while travelling through the southern states, Alabama, or Georgia, I’ve long since forgotten which state, they spread their sleeping bags in a cotton field. The night was uneventful, but in the morning the wife found that she had multiple insect bites in and about her groin area, as well as around her waist. The bites were both painful and itchy at the same time. In a nearby town they spoke with a druggist who identified the bites as having been caused by Chiggers. Chiggers are the larval, or juvenile form of a type of mite (Trombiculidae). They were told that chiggers burrow into and remain under the skin, and that the only way to get rid of them was to paint iodine on each bite. The iodine would block air getting to the chigger, and eventually it would die. They purchased a large bottle of iodine, and the wife religiously applied the stinging iodine daily to each bite for the duration of their honeymoon. Eventually, the redness and itch went away, but the experience apparently interfered with their honeymoon experience. I remember that we all laughed hysterically at the wife’s misfortune.
The electric hum of the cicada lets us know that it’s August. August into September, and sometimes into October was a time, still is actually, to get in the car and explore. Sometimes we’d lash the canoe to the top of the car and head up to one of Ontario’s parks, and other times we’d drive across western Canada, or head south into the American Southwest.
This one time, actually our first trip down to the American Southwest, we drove and drove, stopping off in St. Louis, then turned west crossing the Mississippi eventually ending up Madeira Canyon in the northwestern face of the Santa Rita Mountains, twenty-five miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona. We were there to research hummingbirds in particular, but of course all bird species were fair game to we avid birders. We observed several species of hummingbirds, Magnificent, Rufous, Broad-tailed, Calliope, Broad-billed, White-eared, etc, and many bird species including Greater Roadruuners.
This one very hot day we went off in search of Painted Buntings, and Cactus Wrens. We eventually spotted them, but not before I’d crawled on hands and knees under bushes to get better views. Successful we headed back to our lodgings in the park to wait out the searing heat of the afternoon. I was sitting in the shade having a beer when I began to feel a discomfort in my groin area as if someone was pricking me with needles, much like a heat rash. I endured the discomfort, but later when showering I discovered dozens of red marks that were not only painful, but uncomfortably itchy. The next day, on our way up to Bryces Canyon we stopped off at a drug store where we were informed that my bites were caused by Chiggers….and I was sold a bottle of iodine.
Years later with the help of the internet I learned that Chiggers do not burrow under the skin, and that the discomfort is caused by an enzyme that is injected under the skin when the Chigger bites. The enzyme decomposes tissue upon which the Chigger feeds. Painting each bite with iodine serves no purpose except to sterilize the area, and create further discomfort.
Incidentally, when I tell this story everyone, except me, laughs hysterically as they picture me painting my groin with iodine, and walking like a cowboy. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons that cowboys wear long jeans, eh?
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