What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Yes, what is THIS bug?
Hello bugman,
Thank you for your wonderful site for people who want to find out what bug they found. I’ve been searching your site in the past month trying to identify the bug we encountered, but no success. After the caught bugs spent a few weeks in a container in the fridge, I was able to put them under a microscope and take some pictures. The last one was caught before it sucked blood. They are about the size of a pinhead, about 1/2 mm. See: http://www.vandeven.us/bug Click on the pics for enlargement. What do you think….? My friend thinks she got this bug while visiting a friend, countryside of Virginia. They were sitting outside in a two-seater swing with cushions that remain outside. They have lots of birds that they feed, and two outside cats. Something itched her ankles and they got up and left. She had a few bites in the two days, but by the time the week was over she had some 200 bites all over, mostly on her ankles, further on legs, waist, groin, and on her sides between armpit and waist. She found a few bugs, but not the 50 or 100 that you would think would cause all those bites. We thought they were chiggers or bedbugs, and we did all that was recommended to get rid of those. But now that I have seen them under the microscope, I see they are neither. They must be some mite, bird mites, maybe??? I hope you can help us resolve this mystery of “the week of 200 bites.”
Williamsburg VA

Ed. Note: Before we had a chance to answer, Lianne wrote back.
Dr. Barry OConnor replies
Hi Bugman,
I wrote you earlier today about an unidentified bug. I kept searching and found Dr. Barry OConnor mentioned on your site. So I went ahead and sent him my pics and story. Below is his reply. I still don’t understand how my friend could have over 200 bites and find only 4 lone start ticks, but I do think Dr. OConnor is right about the tick. So maybe there was another coincidence that we just never will find out… Thanks, and all the best with your site!

Hi Lianne – Your photos are of larval ticks. Although the specimens are damaged, in your area, the most likely species to bite people in this stage is the “lone star tick”, Amblyomma americanum. These are very common in the eastern USA, and the bites are hard to prevent. The bites themselves are painless, but one can develop an allergic reaction after some time that would cause itching. One should do a “tick check” daily after walking in tick-infested areas and remove any that are found. The larvae, sometimes called “seed ticks” are small, but they should still be removed carefully to be sure the mouthparts are not left in the skin. You can’t really rule out chiggers as the cause of most of the bites, especially if they were very “itchy.” The pattern you described would be consistent with chiggers, which should be common as well in your area. Chiggers are quite a bit smaller than larval ticks, and their bite fairly quickly causes the “itchy” immune response. People tend to scratch off the actual chigger before they really get the itch, but by then the damage is done! Lone star ticks only have the “star” in the adult female stage; the white area seen in ventral view in these larvae is the excretory product, guanine, stored in the gut. I hope this helps! All the best! – Barry

Wow Lianne,
Thanks for the fabulous images, marvelous information, and expert opinion.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Virginia
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