Spanish Moss, the Unfinished Chigger Story

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<ul><li><p>BioOne sees sustainable scholarly publishing as an inherently collaborative enterprise connecting authors,nonprofit publishers, academic institutions, research libraries, and research funders in the common goal ofmaximizing access to critical research.</p><p>Spanish Moss, the Unfinished Chigger StoryAuthor(s): John O. Whitaker, Jr. and Carol RuckdeschelSource: Southeastern Naturalist, 9(1):85-94. 2010.Published By: Eagle Hill InstituteDOI:</p><p>BioOne ( is a nonprofit, online aggregation of core researchin the biological, ecological, and environmental sciences. BioOne providesa sustainable online platform for over 170 journals and books published bynonprofit societies, associations, museums, institutions, and presses.</p><p>Your use of this PDF, the BioOne Web site, and all posted and associatedcontent indicates your acceptance of BioOnes Terms of Use, available</p><p>Usage of BioOne content is strictly limited to personal, educational, and non-commercial use. Commercial inquiries or rights and permissions requestsshould be directed to the individual publisher as copyright holder.</p><p></p></li><li><p>SOUTHEASTERN NATURALIST2010 9(1):8594</p><p>Spanish Moss, the Unfi nished Chigger Story</p><p>John O. Whitaker, Jr.1,* and Carol Ruckdeschel2</p><p>Abstract - There is a widespread belief in the southern parts of the United States that Trombiculidae (Chiggers) are common in Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss) (Bromeliaceae). However, no chiggers were found among the 3297 organisms col-lected from T. usneoides and T. recurvata (Ball Moss) in trees and from the ground on Cumberland Island, GA. The organisms included 1721 Acari (mites), and in order of decreasing abundance were Psocoptera (barklice), Collembola (springtails), Ara-neae (spiders), Coccidae (scales), Thysanoptera (thrips), Formicidae (ants), Isopoda (sowbugs), Diplopoda (millipedes), Coleoptera, and Lepidoptera larvae. The mil-lipede Polyxenus fascicularis (Polyxenidae) and the ensign scale insect Orthezia tillandsia (Ortheziidae) were of particular interest because of their rarity and host specifi city, respectively.</p><p>Introduction</p><p> There is apparently a widespread belief in the southeastern United States that there are numerous chiggers in Tillandsia usneoides (L.) L. (Bromeliaceae) (Spanish Moss). Several Spanish Moss websites make state-ments such as chiggers are noteworthy (, contains hundreds of chiggers in each bunch, and so should be handled with care (, the prevalence of red bugs or chiggers is legendary (http://edis.ifas.ufl .edu/FR005), and redbugs, or chiggers, are also common resi-dents in Spanish-moss on the ground and may cause an unpleasant, itching rash on the skin if the plants are handled (http://www.sfrc.ufl .edu/4h/Span-ish_moss/spanmoss.htm). However, Benson (2004) had this to say: Chig-gers In Spanish Moss? ... Ive never found any credible supporting evidence for this supposed fact. Even though chiggers that attach to humans (there are several species) are common on lizards and skinks, including those that can climb trees, it is not likely that the mites would be living in the hanging moss as part of their life cycle. The adult mites would have to live in the moss and deposit their eggs there for the larvae (chiggers) to be present and attach to passing vertebrates. And if a chigger were attached to a lizard that climbed a tree and the chigger fell off, it would molt into the next non-biting stage of the life cycle. It would be interesting to fi nd Spanish Moss with chiggers actually living in it, and not just stories from what adults were told when they were growing up. There is little literature on the inhabitants of Spanish moss. Rosenfeld (1911, 1912) presented information on insects and </p><p>1Department of Ecology and Organismal Biology, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809. 2Cumberland Island Museum, PO Box 7080, St. Marys, GA 31558. *Corresponding author -</p></li><li><p>Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 9, No. 186 </p><p>spiders in Spanish Moss from swamps in the vicinity of Mansura, Avoyelles Parish, central Louisiana, probably from trees although this was not specifi -cally stated. Rosenfeld examined the Spanish Moss by placing unspecifi ed but weighed amounts onto white paper or oilcloth on a table. He collected the inhabitants directly from the table and then (any hidden organisms) by tearing the moss into fi ne shreds and holding them up to a window for light. He examined 6 samples of insects from December (n = 2) and January (n = 4) and found 2539 insects and 255 spiders. He examined 5 samples from June and found only 54 insects and 12 spiders. A total of 65 species of insects in 60 genera and 40 species of spiders in 28 genera were collected. He con-cluded that both insects and spiders were more abundant in winter than in summer because they were using this habitat for hibernation. Because of the methods used, most of Rosenfelds information was on larger insects and on spiders. He presented no information on other invertebrates, such as mil-lipedes, sowbugs, mites, etc., nor much on smaller organisms of any kind. Rainwater (1941) also presented information on insects in Spanish Moss from Louisiana, including numbers of species as follows: Thysanura (1), Orthoptera (4), Neuroptera (1), Homoptera (5), Hemiptera (40), Coleoptera (70), Lepidoptera (5), Diptera (3), and Hymenoptera (17). Rainwater re-ported no Acarina, Collembola, Psocoptera, or Thysanoptera, even though we found them to be fairly common. Rainwater did, however, report them from other habitats. Young and Lockley (1989) collected monthly samples of Spanish Moss from Mississippi over a 13-month period from 3 Quercus nigra L. (Water Oak) trees (Fagaceae). They found spiders (approx. 600), beetles (600), chalcidoid wasps (500), and miscellaneous insects (300). The original purpose of this paper was to determine the numbers and species of chiggers (larvae of mites of the family Trombiculidae) in Span-ish Moss from Cumberland Island, a barrier island in Camden County off the coast of southern Georgia. The second objective was to determine the various invertebrates associated with Spanish Moss from that locality. This paper will include information on chiggers, or lack thereof, and a general summary of the results. Data on other mites, ants, spiders, and other inver-tebrates will be published at a later date.</p><p>Materials and Methods</p><p>Description of study area Cumberland Island is a barrier island along the Georgia coast separated from the mainland by 3 to 5 km of salt marsh and tidal rivers. The island is approximately 27 km long and 5 km wide at its widest point, and supports much upland maritime forest. The Spanish Moss samples were collected from within and under Quercus virginiana P. Mill. (Live Oak) trees, adjacent to open, developed areas. Storms frequently dislodge these epiphytes causing them to fall to the ground where they would normally provide a specialized habitat, but on </p></li><li><p>J.O. Whitaker, Jr. and C. Ruckdeschel2010 87</p><p>the island they are usually quickly consumed, especially by feral horses. We covered fallen samples with a wire exclosure to prevent them from being eaten. The arboreal samples were taken from above the feral-horse browse line, i.e., above 2 m. Similar amounts were collected from the ground below the trees during each collection. Four samples of Spanish Moss and 1 sample of T. recurvata (L.) L. (Ball Moss) were collected each month for one year from the northern end of Cumberland Island. These included an arboreal sample of Spanish Moss and one from below the same tree from each of two sites. The sample of Ball Moss was from one of these same trees. The samples consisted of approximately 1 liter, were placed in plastic bags, and as soon as possible were run through Berlese funnels to collect the invertebrates. The inver-tebrate samples were then placed in alcohol until they could be sorted, counted, and identifited.</p><p>Results</p><p> A total of 3297 invertebrates was taken during these studies (Table 1): 2878 from Spanish Moss and 419 from Ball Moss. These included 1614 mites from Spanish Moss, and 107 from Ball Moss. No chiggers (Trombicu-lidae) were collected. Chiggers may be found in Spanish Moss elsewhere, but they are absent or at least very uncommon in Spanish Moss on the north end of Cumberland Island. Total numbers of individual invertebrates over the seasons ranged from 493 (fall) to 1134 (spring) (Table 1). The range of invertebrates collected was greater for Spanish Moss (457 [autumn] to 924 [spring]) than it was for Ball Moss (34 [winter] to 210 [spring]). More organisms were found in Spanish Moss on the ground (1754) than in trees (1124), and more were found in Spanish Moss in trees than in Ball Moss in trees (419).</p><p>Acarina Mites formed the single largest category of organisms from the Spanish Moss samples. A number of species are involved, and these should form the basis for a later paper. Ten ticks were found, but have not been identifi ed as yet. There was no major difference between numbers of mites by season, except that there were slightly fewer in autumn (winter = 476, spring = 501, summer = 532, and autumn = 212). There were always more mites in Spanish Moss on the ground than in the trees (Table 1). </p><p>Araneae (spiders) Unlike Rosenfeld (1911), we found the fewest spiders in Spanish Moss in the winter (n = 11) as compared to the other seasons (spring = 36, summer = 42, autumn = 50). There were more spiders in the samples from the tree than on the ground in every month. </p><p>Collembola Springtails were much more common in the Spanish Moss on the ground (167) than in the trees (Table 1), with only 10 being found in the moss in the </p></li><li><p>Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 9, No. 188 Ta</p><p>ble </p><p>1. In</p><p>verte</p><p>brat</p><p>es o</p><p>f Till</p><p>ands</p><p>ia u</p><p>sneo</p><p>ides</p><p> (Spa</p><p>nish</p><p> Mos</p><p>s) a</p><p>nd T</p><p>. rec</p><p>urva</p><p>ta (B</p><p>all M</p><p>oss)</p><p>, col</p><p>lect</p><p>ed o</p><p>ver a</p><p> per</p><p>iod </p><p>of o</p><p>ne y</p><p>ear o</p><p>n C</p><p>umbe</p><p>rland</p><p> Isla</p><p>nd, C</p><p>amde</p><p>n C</p><p>ount</p><p>y, G</p><p>A. T</p><p>.u. =</p><p> T. u</p><p>sneo</p><p>ides</p><p>, T.r.</p><p> = T</p><p>. rec</p><p>urva</p><p>ta</p><p> W</p><p>inte</p><p>r (D</p><p>ec.</p><p>Feb.</p><p>) Sp</p><p>ring </p><p>(Mar</p><p>.M</p><p>ay) </p><p>Sum</p><p>mer</p><p> (Jun</p><p>eA</p><p>ug.) </p><p>Aut</p><p>umn </p><p>(Sep</p><p>t.N</p><p>ov.)</p><p>T.u.</p><p> T.</p><p>r. T.</p><p>u. </p><p>T.r. </p><p>T.u.</p><p> T.</p><p>r. T.</p><p>u. </p><p>T.r.</p><p> Tr</p><p>ee </p><p>Gro</p><p>und </p><p>Tree</p><p> Tr</p><p>ee </p><p>Gro</p><p>und </p><p>Tree</p><p> Tr</p><p>ee </p><p>Gro</p><p>und </p><p>Tree</p><p> Tr</p><p>ee </p><p>Gro</p><p>und </p><p>Tree</p><p>Aca</p><p>rina:</p><p> mite</p><p>s </p><p>45 </p><p>418 </p><p>13 </p><p>99 </p><p>330 </p><p>72 </p><p>156 </p><p>358 </p><p>18 </p><p>81 </p><p>127 </p><p>4Ix</p><p>odid</p><p>ae: t</p><p>icks</p><p> 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 2 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 8 </p><p>0A</p><p>rane</p><p>a: s</p><p>pide</p><p>rs </p><p>8 3 </p><p>8 29</p><p> 7 </p><p>27 </p><p>29 </p><p>13 </p><p>10 </p><p>30 </p><p>20 </p><p>10D</p><p>iplo</p><p>poda</p><p>,Pol</p><p>yxen</p><p>us fa</p><p>scic</p><p>ular</p><p>is </p><p>7 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>2 0 </p><p>0 8 </p><p>4 0</p><p>Isop</p><p>oda:</p><p> sow</p><p>bugs</p><p> 0 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>12 </p><p>1 34</p><p> 26</p><p> 0 </p><p>8 2</p><p>Col</p><p>lem</p><p>bola</p><p>: spr</p><p>ingt</p><p>ails</p><p> 0 </p><p>27 </p><p>4 2 </p><p>78 </p><p>10 </p><p>7 54</p><p> 9 </p><p>1 8 </p><p>1Th</p><p>ysan</p><p>opte</p><p>ra: t</p><p>hrip</p><p>s </p><p>11 </p><p>13 </p><p>2 59</p><p> 15</p><p> 15</p><p> 16</p><p> 4 </p><p>2 11</p><p> 15</p><p> 6</p><p>Col</p><p>eopt</p><p>era:</p><p> bee</p><p>tles </p><p>Col</p><p>eopt</p><p>eran</p><p> larv</p><p>ae </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>17 </p><p>1 3 </p><p>27 </p><p>18 </p><p>1 </p><p>Elat</p><p>erid</p><p> (clic</p><p>k be</p><p>etle</p><p>) lar</p><p>vae </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0</p><p> C</p><p>ucuj</p><p>idae</p><p>: Ory</p><p>zaep</p><p>hilu</p><p>s sp</p><p>.: </p><p>0 1 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>2 0</p><p>Saw</p><p>toot</p><p>h G</p><p>rain</p><p> Bee</p><p>tle </p><p>Cur</p><p>culio</p><p>nida</p><p>e: s</p><p>nout</p><p> bee</p><p>tles </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 2 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>1 0</p><p> El</p><p>ater</p><p>idae</p><p>: clic</p><p>k be</p><p>etle</p><p>s 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>3 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>Chr</p><p>ysom</p><p>elid</p><p>ae: l</p><p>eaf b</p><p>eetle</p><p>s 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>Col</p><p>eopt</p><p>era,</p><p> uni</p><p>dent</p><p>ifi ed</p><p> sm</p><p>all </p><p>3 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 2 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 2 </p><p>0 0</p><p>Hom</p><p>opte</p><p>ra </p><p>Orth</p><p>eziid</p><p>ae: O</p><p>rthe</p><p>zia </p><p>tilla</p><p>ndsi</p><p>ae </p><p>41 </p><p>4 4 </p><p>58 </p><p>10 </p><p>2 5 </p><p>15 </p><p>9 27</p><p> 18</p><p> 0</p><p> C</p><p>icad</p><p>ellid</p><p>ae: l</p><p>eafh</p><p>oppe</p><p>rs </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>1 0</p><p> Ju</p><p>veni</p><p>le le</p><p>afho</p><p>pper</p><p> 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p> 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>Coc</p><p>cida</p><p>e: s</p><p>cale</p><p> inse</p><p>ct #</p><p>2 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p> 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>Psoc</p><p>opte</p><p>ra: b</p><p>arkl</p><p>ice </p><p>11 </p><p>19 </p><p>1 17</p><p>5 19</p><p> 62</p><p> 41</p><p> 13</p><p> 1 </p><p>12 </p><p>8 8</p><p>Orth</p><p>opte</p><p>ra: c</p><p>ricke</p><p>ts, r</p><p>oach</p><p>es, a</p><p>nd a</p><p>llies</p><p> G</p><p>rylli</p><p>dae:</p><p> cric</p><p>kets</p><p> 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>Bla</p><p>ttida</p><p>e: ro</p><p>ache</p><p>s 0 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>2 0 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>Uni</p><p>dent</p><p>ifi ed</p><p> Orth</p><p>opte</p><p>ra </p><p>0 0 </p><p> 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p> 0 </p><p>0 </p></li><li><p>J.O. Whitaker, Jr. and C. Ruckdeschel2010 89</p><p>Tabl</p><p>e 1,</p><p> con</p><p>tinue</p><p>d </p><p>Win</p><p>ter (</p><p>Dec</p><p>.Fe</p><p>b.) </p><p>Sprin</p><p>g (M</p><p>ar.</p><p>May</p><p>) Su</p><p>mm</p><p>er (J</p><p>une</p><p>Aug</p><p>.) A</p><p>utum</p><p>n (S</p><p>ept.</p><p>Nov</p><p>.)T.</p><p>u. </p><p>T.r. </p><p>T.u.</p><p> T.</p><p>r. T.</p><p>u. </p><p>T.r. </p><p>T.u.</p><p> T.</p><p>r. </p><p>Tree</p><p> G</p><p>roun</p><p>d Tr</p><p>ee </p><p>Tree</p><p> G</p><p>roun</p><p>d Tr</p><p>ee </p><p>Tree</p><p> G</p><p>roun</p><p>d Tr</p><p>ee </p><p>Tree</p><p> G</p><p>roun</p><p>d Tr</p><p>eeD</p><p>ipte</p><p>ra: t</p><p>rue fl i</p><p>es </p><p>Cer</p><p>apog</p><p>onid</p><p>ae: b</p><p>iting</p><p> mid</p><p>ges </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 10</p><p> 5 </p><p>0 4 </p><p>4 1 </p><p>1 4 </p><p>1 </p><p>Chi</p><p>rono</p><p>mid</p><p>ae p</p><p>upae</p><p>: mid</p><p>ges </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 2 </p><p>3 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0</p><p> Sc</p><p>iarid</p><p>ae: d</p><p>ark-</p><p>win</p><p>ged </p><p>fung</p><p>us fl </p><p>ies </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0</p><p> D</p><p>ipte</p><p>ran </p><p>larv</p><p>a 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>9 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 </p><p>Uni</p><p>dent</p><p>ifi ed</p><p> Dip</p><p>tera</p><p> 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>3 0 </p><p>0 2 </p><p>0H</p><p>emip</p><p>tera</p><p>: tru</p><p>e bu</p><p>gs </p><p>Uni</p><p>dent</p><p>ifi ed</p><p> Hem</p><p>ipte</p><p>ra </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 0</p><p> M</p><p>irida</p><p>e: p</p><p>lant</p><p> bug</p><p>s 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 5 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 </p><p>Red</p><p>uviid</p><p>ae: a</p><p>ssas</p><p>sin </p><p>bugs</p><p> 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 5 </p><p>3 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0N</p><p>euro</p><p>pter</p><p>a: n</p><p>erve</p><p>-win</p><p>ged </p><p>Inse</p><p>cts </p><p>Hem</p><p>erob</p><p>iidae</p><p>: bro</p><p>wn </p><p>lace</p><p>win</p><p>gs </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>1 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0</p><p> N</p><p>euro</p><p>pter</p><p>an la</p><p>rvae</p><p> 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0H</p><p>ymen</p><p>opte</p><p>ra: b</p><p>ees,</p><p> was</p><p>ps, a</p><p>nd a</p><p>nts </p><p>Uni</p><p>dent</p><p>ifi ed</p><p> Hym</p><p>enop</p><p>tera</p><p> 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>9 1 </p><p>0 3 </p><p>2 0 </p><p>4 1 </p><p>0 </p><p>Form</p><p>icid</p><p>ae: a</p><p>nts </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>36 </p><p>23 </p><p>56 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>2Th</p><p>ysan</p><p>ura/</p><p>Dip</p><p>lura</p><p>: bris</p><p>tleta</p><p>ils, e</p><p>tc. </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0</p><p>Lepi</p><p>dopt</p><p>era:</p><p> mot</p><p>hs </p><p>Lepi</p><p>dopt</p><p>eran</p><p> larv</p><p>ae </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 2 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>4 4 </p><p>4 2 </p><p>0 1</p><p> Le</p><p>pido</p><p>pter</p><p>an a</p><p>dults</p><p> 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 1 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0 0 </p><p>0To</p><p>tals</p><p> 12</p><p>7 48</p><p>7 34</p><p> 45</p><p>2 47</p><p>2 21</p><p>0 33</p><p>7 54</p><p>6 13</p><p>9 20</p><p>8 24</p><p>9 36</p><p>Ove</p><p>rall </p><p>sum</p><p>mar</p><p>y </p><p>Win</p><p>ter </p><p>Sprin</p><p>g Su</p><p>mm</p><p>er </p><p>Fall </p><p>Tota</p><p>lT.</p><p> usn</p><p>eoid</p><p>es </p><p>Tree</p><p> 12</p><p>7 45</p><p>2 33</p><p>7 20</p><p>8 11</p><p>24 </p><p>Gro</p><p>und </p><p>487 </p><p>472 </p><p>546 </p><p>249 </p><p>1754</p><p> Su</p><p>btot</p><p>al </p><p>614 </p><p>924 </p><p>883 </p><p>457 </p><p>2878</p><p>T. r</p><p>ecur</p><p>vata</p><p> Tre</p><p>e34</p><p> 21</p><p>0 13</p><p>9 36</p><p> 41</p><p>9To</p><p>tal </p><p>648 </p><p>1134</p><p> 10</p><p>22 </p><p>493 </p><p>3297</p></li><li><p>Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 9, No. 190 </p><p>trees. However, they appeared at a greater rate in the Ball Moss in trees than they did in the Spanish Moss. There were 2 samples of Spanish Moss in the trees per month and these yielded 10 springtails, whereas the single sample of Ball Moss in the trees per month yielded 24 springtails. </p><p>Diplopoda (millipedes) One of the most interesting organisms found was the tiny millipede, Polyxenus fasciculatus Say (Fig. 1), which is in a suborder of its own, Psela-phognatha. It looks more like a caterpillar than a millipede. This species was always in low numbers, but it was most abundant in Spanish Moss in trees in autumn (n = 8) and winter (n = 7) (Table 1). These organisms are not com-mon (listed as rare by Pratt [1935]) but are found under stones and bark in the southern states and on Long Island. They are very small (about 2.5 mm) with 13 pairs of legs. They cannot roll into a ball, and do not have odor glands. There is one genus in the family, with 1 American species. Twenty-two individuals were found during the present study, all in Spanish Moss, 18 from the trees and 4 from the ground. </p><p>Isopoda (sowbugs) A total of 44 sowbugs of two species was found in the Spanish Moss, mostly in summer and fall, and all but 1 were on the ground.</p><p>Coleoptera Many beetles were found as follows: (a) various unidentifi ed larvae (n = 70) mostly in the Sp