Chigger – Control
“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. Some say that amputation will cure the itch temporarily:).
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.
Chiggers quickly die if they are dislodged from the host, but the itch from the bite will continue until the body neutralizes the saliva and repairs the tissue damage. The dissolved tissue will continue to ooze out of the wound each time the wound is scratched. The fluid that oozes from the wound solidifies into a hard “cap.” This cap is a distinct feature of chigger bites and is not associated with things such as mosquito bites.
Very hot water quickly applied to and removed from the itchy spot and a topical anesthetic are the only effective itch remedies. To treat chigger infestations in backyards or around mountain cabins, spray the tall grass and low shrubbery with garden insecticide (click for sources), using label directions.
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.
Press Play to hear a catchy song about chiggers!