Misery is your company after chiggers find you

Matt Markey.
Matt Markey.

There are a lot of powerful forces in the outdoors world that seem to have as it as their mission to make our lives uncomfortable, or in some cases, downright miserable.

Many of them attack the surface of the skin — sun, wind, salt, and the frost and furnace of temperature extremes — and they all blast away at our outer protective layer.

Then there are the creatures and critters that will poke, pierce, puncture, permeate, prick, and perforate our epidermis in search of nourishment, revenge, or a place to call home.

During the course of the last half century, it feels like I have been sampled by most of them.

There were the leeches in the lakes of the remote Canadian wilderness that seemed to just be waiting for a warm-blooded American with Type AB blood to stick his foot in the water so they could attach themselves and go vampire on him.

While surf-fishing in Bimini, a tiny wisp of an island about 50 miles east of Miami, the concern focused on sharks and barracuda, but the stinging contact was delivered by jellyfish. Their tentacles have millions of nematocysts that pierce the skin and inject you with venom, and burning welts result.

The smaller blue gills in the backyard pond seem to get ornery and nip at the flesh every once in a while, and this might be the revenge part we referenced earlier, because their parents likely ended up in the skillet last fall.

Poison ivy and I just agree to disagree.

My grandfather taught me how to identify it following a nasty rash from the West Virginia woods at age 10, and that three-leaf logo is imprinted in my mind. Starting earlier than that, a squadron of bees, wasps, hornets, and their ilk have all taken their shots at me and scored, but ice usually minimized their punch.

My introduction to fire ants came 30 years ago in Florida after a long day of bass fishing on the chain of lakes near Disney World in Orlando.

After pulling the boat out of the water at dark, we moved it to a sandy parking area to tie things down and drain the bilge when it suddenly felt like someone had sprinkled hot embers on my bare feet. The flashlight beam revealed dozens of fire ants enraged that I had stepped near their castle.

Hunters will encounter a murderer’s row of nasty bugs in the woods and fields, especially in the fall when a hard frost has yet to arrive and reduce the insect ranks. There have been a few ticks hitch a ride through the years while I’ve been deer hunting, squirrel hunting, or working the bird dogs, but a pair of fine-tipped tweezers have orchestrated a quick divorce, and no significant adverse effects followed.

Mosquitoes seem to have been using cell phones to let each other know I was coming, because from Key West to Hudson Bay they are always there to greet me.

The Canadian buzzers are especially bold — they will land on your hand while you are holding the high-powered repellent.

Canada also is king when it comes to the black fly. That is a rather generic sounding name for a relentless, savage of a bug.

They cut your skin to get blood to nourish their young and leave boil-like wounds. Canada has at least 110 species of black flies, without figuring in the exchange rate.

A close cousin of the black fly is the aptly named no-see-um, which is a biting midge. When you check into a motel in Ontario and think you have escaped the mosquitoes and black flies, the no-see-ums come right through the screens to finish you off.

As no-see-ums demonstrate, one of the more amazing aspects of nature’s biters is the punch packed by the tiniest bugs, which brings us to my most recent encounter and the new Mr. Big in the misery rankings — chiggers.

While on a snake hunt on South Bass Island, I felt pleased that the ordeal ended with the biologists showing a dozen or so snake bites, and the journalist none. They would measure and tag the snakes and then release them, but that didn’t matter — they got nailed repeatedly.

My celebration was premature, however, since their snake bites were hardly visible the next day, while I was rippled with chigger bites. Each one of the dozen and a half bites felt like my skin had been injected with Blazin sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings. The intensity of the itching was something I had not experienced before. Three weeks later, they persist.

Chiggers are the larval form of a mite, and from the same insect group as spiders and ticks. They love grassy fields, like the place the snake collecting took place in, and are notorious for hitching a ride on your socks, sleeves, or pants, and then migrating to your skin.

They are smaller than tiny — less than 1/‚Äč150th of an inch — so you don’t see them or feel them until the damage is done. There’s no quick cure, so all you can do is treat the itching, and suffer.

So it is without reservation that I seize this opportunity to apologize to all of the mosquitoes, fire ants, black flies, no-see-ums, and other skin assaulters that have chomped on my flesh through the years, and declare chiggers the new champion. I’d prefer a snake bite any day.

FISHING REPORT: The ODNR reports that yellow perch fishing has been productive about two miles north of the Toledo water intake, near the turnaround buoy of the Toledo shipping channel, northeast of West Sister Island, and northwest of the “A” can of the Camp Perry firing range. Perch anglers also are having success on Northwest Reef, northwest of Green Island, on the dumping grounds east of Marblehead, directly off Cedar Point, and in the area east of Kelleys Island. Perch spreaders baited with shiners and fished near the bottom are the best bet.

Walleye fishing has been the best northeast of Niagara reef and “C” can, northwest of “B” can, northwest of Green Island, and along the Canadian border northeast of Kelleys Island. Worm harnesses or divers and spoons have produced fish trolling, while drift fishermen are getting walleye with mayfly rigs or weight-forward spinners tipped with worms.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: or 419-724-6068.