Arachnid questions

Dear entomology friends, I just heard a couple of strange things I’d like to confirm. My friend believes he has become allergic to red meat because of tick bites, not just meat but all saturated fats including coconut oil. So I told this to a holistic friend who told me he once watched seed ticks burrowing into his skin. He says he was able to kill them with tweezers but not remove them. Now in my area a “chigger” is a young tick that bites like a flea and then drops off; people haven’t heard of the ones that live under the epidermis you treat with Chigarid that smothers them. I think they believe it’s a myth. Just a few months ago if you looked up “chigger” on Wiki it showed a child covered in flea-like bites saying a chigger is the first animal. Now that article has changed, it says the mite digs a stylostome from outside the skin causing irritated swelling after the tick is gone. In the area I grew up in, a chigger can live under the skin for weeks moving from one place to another to get away from the chigarid; it wasn’t an external mite I failed to notice. I think there’s a lot of confusion out there as to what a chigger is, one expert writing an article to replace an article on a different animal, all of them trombiculid mites.


Yes, ticks can cause a meat allergy; specifically, bites from the Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) in the US and the Paralysis Tick ( Ixodes holocyclus) in Australia (there may be other species, I’m double checking based on wiki here.) Its called Alpha-gal syndrome and is part of the reason I’m absolutely paranoid about ticks despite living in an area where Lone Star Ticks don’t occur.

As far as chiggers go (god I’ve always hated that name, I think we should all agree to just refer to them by a different common name, I see Berry Bug is an option, that seems nice) I feel like there’s a lot of folklore and word of mouth that’s going to be hard to get past.


Alpha-gal syndrome is definitely real - I have a couple of friends who’ve had it for >10 years unfortunately. The reaction is to a sugar, though, not a saturated fat. As far as I know, alpha gal is only found in meat of some mammals, so it should not have anything to do with saturated fat or plants. The CDC (and other medical sources) are doing a decent job with Alpha-gal syndrome now (after sort of ignoring it for a few years): so there’s lots of good info out there.

That’s not to say that your friend isn’t allergic to other things like coconut; it just wouldn’t be due to alpha gal. They should be able to go to an allergist and get confirmation of both alpha-gal and any coconut allergies.

As for the chiggers, I think people use that term for any bite caused by a small, often unnoticed insect or arachnid, that causes itchy bumps that last for tooooo long. I’ve had “chiggers” multiple times, and they’re the worst. I fear them more than any poison ivy/oak/sumac, mosquito, or fire ant. But despite that, I’ve never actually sampled one from my body and IDed it - just identified the symptoms as chiggers. I expect most folks are the same. That’s common names for ya!


Oh, I didn’t even notice the comment about coconut oil. Yeah the coconut oil causing issues is probably an unrelated allergy

All terrestrial mites are air breathers and would have to have access to the exterior of the skin to avoid suffocation. There is a psychiatric condition called delusional parasitosis, in which the patient is convinced that invisible insects live under their skin; often, the patient actually causes skin irritation by obsessive scratching or applying harsh pesticides – then insists that the irritation is proof that the insects are real. But any real insect or arachnid that lived under the skin would have to have an opening to the outside air, and would not be able to move from place to place subcutaneously.


This condition is refferred to as ‘mammalian meat allergy" in Australia. Apparently having the condition means that the person will react to beef, pork and lamb but not poultry or fish. Also I guess they can eat snake meat or frogs’ legs.

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