Now is the time of year when chiggers are going to be most active. If you haven’t, then consider yourself fortunate, because you live a blessed life. Let’s talk about chiggers, what they are, and what you can do to protect yourself from them.
Some people call chiggers red bugs because they are tiny red mites that are less that 1/50th of an inch long. Chigger are mites that are still in their larval stage. The larval stage is the only one that bites. The other stages of the chigger life cycle either lay eggs or prey on small insects. Chiggers like to live in areas that are full of brush and debris. They can be found in leaf litter. If you have areas with tall grass, they’ll like that too. Chiggers mainly bite rodents and rabbits. So, if you have areas that make a good habitat for rodents and rabbits then there is a good chance that you’ll have mites as well. Female mites will lay their eggs in the late winter, which will hatch in the spring. Chiggers will reach peak population in mid-summer and remain active until fall. They’ll be killed off by a hard freeze.
Chiggers only bite, they don’t bury under the skin. When they bite they inject their saliva which has a skin dissolving enzyme in it. As your skin cells dissolve, they drink it up. The saliva that they inject causes irritation, which makes you itch. Chiggers can stay latched on for three or more days, so if you have a chigger bite it’s best to wash that spot with lather repeatedly, and then dab the spot with an antiseptic. That will kill most of the chiggers on you.
Chiggers typically like to bite in tight places. That means you’lloften get their bites underneath your socks, in your waist band, or armpits.
Chiggers are susceptible to dehydration. Therefore, they like to populate areas with shade and high humidity. Removing brush piles and leaves, keeping grass cut, and removing bushes will eliminate areas that they like to live. Blackberry bushes seem to be a particularly favorite habitat. Chiggers don’t like temperatures over 90 (I don’t blame them), so when our temperatures drop as summer ends, chiggers will become more active.
There are some chemicals that can be used as repellents or to kill chiggers. Products containing DEET will be effective at repelling chiggers, mosquitoes, biting flies, gnats, and ticks. You can also spray it on your clothing to keep them off your clothes. Oil of lemon eucalyptus can be used as a repellent, except for children under 3 years old. Products containing permethrin can be used on clothing to kill chiggers and ticks.
Chiggers are very aggravating to have, but hopefully this article has given you some options for how to deal with chigger bites and how to prevent them from getting on you. If you have questions about chiggers contact your county Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.
On September 28 I will be hosting a Radon Education Program. This event will be virtual, but there is some limited in person seating available. Pre-registration is required for this free event. Call the Union County Extension Office at 706-439-6030 to pre-register.