According to independent laboratory tests commissioned by EWG (Environmental Working Group), popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola, and snack bars come with a hefty dose of the weed-killing poison in Roundup.
You'd think the news that popular breakfast cereals contain the cancer-causing poison glyphosate would sound an alarm, yet I have seen several disinformation articles down-playing the issue with titles such as "How Much of an Herbicide Is Safe in Your Cereal?" and "Don't worry, your cereal probably won't poison you with pesticides".
Really? Come on humans, we certainly can do better for our kids and the environment.
After picking blackberries two weeks ago, and subsequently suffering from the itchiest bites I have ever sustained, I am ready to share the results of my latest inquiry into...
Chiggers=Really Itchy Bites!
It looks like a tick, but only if you use a microscope; these practically invisible mites are the larvae stage of an 8-legged arachnid. Boy's Life states: "Red bugs, chiggers, berry bugs, scrub-itch mites and harvest mites are all terms used to describe members of the family of insects known as Trombiculidae. These reddish-orange mites can be found worldwide, but they really enjoy hanging out in damp, grassy and wooded areas, especially at the edges of forests." Approximately 50,000 species have been described, although there are an estimated 1 million species currently living.
I was lucky, I only picked up about 15 of these tiny creatures while out picking blackberries (which, to add insult to injury, were infested with fruit fly larvae); I woke up in the middle of the night with an intense itching in my belly button-seven bites-and the next morning found an additional eight bites around my waist and in the inside of my elbow and knee. (I am NOT including photos, as my bites are red, crusty, and oozy: impressively disgusting.)
I wondered...spider or flea bites? or, ewwww, bedbugs?
My research led me to confirm a textbook case of chiggers (which I had never heard of) and to the prolonged and continuing study of the most effective way to stop the confounded itching.
First, from Dragonfly Woman:
Unlike many blood feeding insects and their relatives the ticks, chiggers have very short mouthparts. Those little dangly bits at the front end of the chigger in the picture above are the chelicerae, their mouthparts. Now imagine the chigger in that photo shrunk down to a milimeter or a half milimeter in size, their actual size. Like I said – very short mouthparts! Chiggers don’t just eat the top layer of skin cells though – they go for the good stuff underneath. To do this, they pierce the skin with their chelicerae, then inject saliva to digest the tissue and expand the wound. The goop that is produced is slurped up by the chigger. Remarkably, they also inject compounds into the wound that cause an immune response in the host animal, one that hardens the tissue around the bite site. In essence, the hardened tube-shaped structure that forms (called a stylostome) is a straw that expands deeper and deeper into the host. The chigger injects more saliva and sucks up more liquified tissue as the stylostome gets longer and longer. That’s right! Chiggers have tiny mouthparts, but they use their host’s own immune system to enlarge their mouthparts into a stylet like those of mosquitoes or a beak like those found in the true bugs! Now if that isn’t amazing, I’m not sure what is.
So the chigger bites you, dissolves some of your tissue, and eats it. Big deal, right? Wrong! These tiny little creatures are capable of producing some truly awful allergic reactions. These aren’t the send you to the hospital, carry an epi-pen with you kind of response in most people. Instead you itch. You itch like you’ve never itched before. Some people get massive itchy welts. The itching is intense, so severe that people have been known to gouge welts out of their skin as they scratch and many people have reported that the pain of doing this and the ensuing scars are much easier to deal with than the itch of the bites. Now the itching wouldn’t be so bad if it were just a few bites, but most people don’t get that lucky. Instead they get tens or hundreds of bites from many individuals at one time (chiggers tend to be clustered together) that are located in inconvenient places (want to be observed scratching your armpit or your bra straps vigorously hundreds of times per day?) and don’t go away for 5-10 days. That’s right – these little tiny animals can cause massive itching for 10 days or longer! (Are you itchy yet?)
Along with experimenting with all of the above remedies, I would take 25-50 mg of Benadryl when the itching became intolerable (and also when my belly had a dessert-plate sized rash on it, which was most of the second week) once or twice a day, and especially before going to bed. I kept a bag of frozen peas and used that often, along with Ibuprofin. In addition, I dapped the wounds with tea tree oil and honey, for their antibacterial goodness, and also tried Cortisone*10 cream with aloe, and Aveeno's Anti-Itch concentrated lotion with triple oats and calamine. Taking an oatmeal bath is a lovely temporary solution, but-honestly, nothing really works.
I am two weeks in and considering using the Swiss Army knife cure. Arghhhhh.
Hmm, I had no idea-really. So...googled it, and the first answer came from "Ask an Entomologist"
This second image is a still-shot of a really cool gif created by Seattle's Eleanor Lutz (and if I ever figure out how to embed the gif, I will update this post!) Meanwhile:
I will have more interesting bug research for you soon, but wanted to lead with some fun facts. Enjoy! (and be sure to check out Tabletop Whale for additional awesome science illustrations!)
In case you missed it:
How to honor the victims? Get the poisons out of the schools!
Blueberry Borage coffee cake with coffee ice cream
Farmers' Market veggies with fresh-caught salmon
Back-alley blackberries and parking strip golden raspberries
Rye-sourdough pancakes with kefir cream and berries
It's funny, if you asked me what the main colors were in our backyard garden, I would describe to you the borage, peppermint, and lavender purples, the California poppy oranges (and pink), and brilliant red clover...but, after tidying up the yard yesterday, I noticed that there were SO many white flowers everywhere! Some of them are really tiny, like the yarrow, cilantro, and buckwheat, but others are just lovely anomalies; I absolutely adore the white California poppies and the elegant white foxglove!
I know that I should probably name all these sweet blooms for you, but it is SUNNY outside, so I must get back out and soak up that Vitamin D while I can.
Enjoy the tour!
The USDA is accepting comments concerning the ultra-lame GMO labeling currently being considered at Regulations.gov. Why would anyone have a problem with honest labeling that allows consumers to make informed choices? Please take a moment to submit comments!
To simplify the talking points, here is a repost from Beyond Pesticides:
As a consumer, I have a right to know whether my food is produced using genetic engineering. As USDA finalizes labeling regulations, please ensure that labels are honest, transparent, and informative by adopting the following policies:
If you have been following the GMO labeling controversy, you will probably not be surprised that the proposed labels do not contain "GMO" or "genetically modified organism"; rather, the friendly sunshiny and smiley face green labels will have the letters "BE" for bioengineered. Additional insult comes with the proposal that QR codes would have the technical information, requiring a person to scan all their produce in order to ensure that they are not purchasing GMOs. The final punch is a giant loophole stating that processed foods containing GMO ingredients will not have to label their products.
When I first saw these prototype BE/GMO labels, I mistakenly thought that these were (real) bee friendly labels; they are definitely not! Don't be fooled by this USDA/Monsanto&DuPont attempt to keep consumers in the DARK: buy organic and buy local. Support your farmers and biodiversity, not frankenfood.
Want to learn more? Visit the Center for Food Safety.