Chiggers – Everything I Knew About Chiggers Was Wrong!

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chiggers1 For the past 50 years everything I was told about killing and removing chiggers was ‘Wrong.’
First off chiggers are not insects, chiggers are mites. Chiggers (aka: berry bugs, harvest mites, red bugs, scrub-itch mites) have eight legs not six.
Chiggers have 4 stages in their life cycle. Egg, larvae, nymph and adult stages. Note while in the larvae and nymph stages chiggers have six legs.

Only the larvae stage chiggers bite humans. Nymphs and adults are harmless to humans. The chigger larvae are almost invisible to human eye sight being only about 1/150 of an inch in size. Adults are much larger at about 1/60 of an inch.

chigger life cycle Chiggers ‘Do Not’ burrow into or get under your skin and are easy to remove by bathing in soap water and washing using a wash cloth. However removing the chigger(s) will not stop the itching caused by their bite. Chiggers seek out tender skin, attach to the surface, inject a saliva containing a digestive enzyme and drink your dissolved skin tissue. After feeding on a blood meal they drop to the ground and molt into nymphs before a final molt turns them into 8-legged adults, whose only purpose is to mate and lay eggs.

Missouri University Extension Service said Chiggers survive best in brushy, grassy or weedy areas that retain some moisture during the day. Their distribution within any area is some what patchy. They are most active in warm afternoons and when the ground temperature is about 77-86F. They become inactive below 60F, and the chigger larvae that bite us are killed below 42F.

Your best defense against chiggers is to avoid them. Avoid wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts and sandals when going into chigger habitats. Tightly woven fabrics reduce the threat of chiggers penetrating clothing. Tuck pant legs inside boots, and button cuffs and collars tightly to keep chiggers on the outside of clothing. This increases the time that chiggers are exposed to any repellents you have applied to your clothes. Remove clothing as soon as possible after exposure to chigger habitats, and launder it before wearing it again. A warm shower with a vigorous skin massage, taken within an hour or two after exposure, greatly reduces the number of irritating bites. If itching has already started, however, it is probably too late for bathing to do much good.

If you enter chigger-infested areas, chemical repellents can be used with good results. Any insect repellent containing DEET (diethyl toluamide) or picaradin will be effective. Apply it to clothing from the feet up, and reapply every two to three hours to maintain its effectiveness. Sulphur powder is also effective when applied to clothing but has a strong odor that makes it less desirable. Warning Permanone, also sold as Coulston’s Permethrin Tick Repellent, contains the pyrethroid insecticide permethrin and should be sprayed on clothing and allowed to dry before the clothing is worn.

Mowing lawns short and removing unnecessary shrubs or weeds will decrease suitable chigger habitats and is the most effective form of area control.

Controlling chigger populations by spraying infested areas has limited effectiveness and gives temporary control of only a few days or weeks, depending on environmental conditions. A variety of over-the-counter products are labeled for chigger control. The active ingredients in these products all end with the suffix -thrin and are similar in effectiveness. A single application during late April through June is best. Treating your entire lawn is of little benefit because chiggers avoid direct sunlight and normally will not infest areas that are mowed short or otherwise well maintained. Focus treatment on the unkempt areas of the lawn and lawn edge.

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Why is common sense so uncommon?
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10 responses to “Chiggers – Everything I Knew About Chiggers Was Wrong!

  1. Hi. Thanks for reading my pretty lame blog! Chiggers are mites I think (here that is) Oh how I wish Chiggers were Fruit Flies! They’re not as troublesome, more of a nuisance. Do you have them there? S.

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    • Thanks for taking time to visit my tiny blog and for for your comment(s).
      NO… thank goodness At least that’s one insect that I don’t have.
      Happy gardening

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  2. Chiggers sound awful. I’m so glad we don’t have them here on Vancouver Island. I won’t be importing any livestock either, so I hope to “steer” clear of them.

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  3. At least we don’t have to put up with them in West Texas. hope your garden grows well. John Tucker

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    • YUK … we never had chiggers until I hauled in 2 longhorn feeder calf’s that came from southeast Oklahoma. Now the place is covered up with the little biting blood suckers!
      I got a 3 inch rain over 3 day’s, I hope you get wet soon.

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  4. A paste of baking soda and water applied to the bites will greatly reduce the itching/blistering. A trick my grandmother used for bee stings that I applied to chigger bites from working outside.

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  5. Always something to learn here. Thank you.

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