Question of the Week Number 2: June 22, 2017
“Neil, we’re being eaten alive by chiggers. How can we get rid of them?”
I was asked this question by several people in the past few days. Chiggers are just about everywhere, and they will be for a few more weeks. I normally figure their worst months are May, June and early July, but the season can vary depending on weather. It finally turned hot and dry a couple of weeks ago in the eastern half of the state, and out they came.
Chiggers are microscopic mites (8 legs, as opposed to insects’ 6 legs). They hide in tall vegetation and weeds and in bermudagrass lawns that are seldom mowed. You’ll rarely see them being a problem in St. Augustine turf. As you walk through the grass and weeds they climb onto your shoes and clothes (or arms if you’re pulling weeds) and start their climb.
Several hours later you’ll start feeling the bites and severe itching. Initially they’ll be under the elastic in your socks, then up your calves. Within 12 to 18 hours you’ll find a ring of them biting you beneath the elastic band in your underwear – anywhere your clothing constricts.
The best thing you can do if you fear you might have been in an area infested with chiggers is to take a hot shower as quickly as possible. Use lots of suds with your soap and scrub vigorously. Use one of the chigger ointments or anti-itch creams to help stop the irritation. It should go away within a couple of days.
It’s impractical to spray a large backyard to eliminate chiggers. If it’s a small space there are labeled products, but in most cases it’s better simply to protect yourself by applying DEET insect repellent to your ankles, calves and arms before you go outside. Then apply additional sprays to the outside of your clothes as double coverage. With the current mosquito issues in Texas anyway, it’s good to have that protection.
This publication from Clemson University will give good background information on this annoying pest of the outdoors in summertime.