“There was a little chigger and he wasn’t any bigger than the head of a very small pin.
But the bump that he raises just itches like the blazes – and that’s where the rubbin’ comes in!”
A day in the blackberry patch or a simple walk in the woods may be followed by a week of insufferable itching caused by chigger bites. Chiggers, also known as redbugs, have three life stages. Only the stage after the chigger eggs hatch feeds on humans. This larval insect looks for warm blooded animals from which to consume skin cells.
Humans, with tight waist bands and socks are the perfect chigger lunch! The tiny miscreants sink their mouthparts in the skin and inject saliva to dissolve the cell membranes so they can feed. The chemical injection causes a welt and severe itching.
It is untrue that chiggers embed themselves in the skin. They drop off after feeding – so the practice of putting fingernail polish on the bump to suffocate the critter does no good.
Warm cloths and a topical anesthetic are the only effective itch remedies. To treat chigger infestations in backyards or around mountain cabins, spray the grass with garden insecticide (click for sources), using label directions.
Chiggers rarely crawl into shrubbery so direct the spray near the ground. If you suspect chiggers are present, do not walk in the grass without applying an insect repellent to ankles, arms, legs and sock tops. Chiggers do not attach immediately, so a hot soapy shower after a walk will wash most of them down the drain before they bite.