No one ever says, “I got bit by a chigger.” That’s because it’s impossible to get just one chigger bite. And there is good reason for this. Chiggers are less than 1/150th of an inch in diameter. More than 5000 of them could line up on a piece of copy paper and there would still be room for hundreds more. Chiggers are invisible to the naked eye but if you lay a piece of white paper in your backyard and they begin to congregate, you could see them because of their red color. Chiggers are most often found in areas where there are an abundance of weeds and thick vegetation and in shady, moist places.
One of the biggest myths about chiggers is that they get into your skin and die in your tissue which forms the itchy red bump. According to Caitlin Spilinek and Barb Ogg with the UNL Extension, ” the red dot that is in the middle of a welt from a chigger is due to the way chiggers feed. Chiggers insert a specialized mouthpart at hair follicles or skin pores and can only insert it in thin skin or where skin folds.” That is why we see so many chigger bites around our ankes, in the back of our knees, around clothing lines, or under armpits.
To reduce the number of chiggers on your property, take into consideration the following tips:
1. Keep weeds cut back especially around areas that retain moisture or around lakes and ponds.
2. Severe chigger infestations can be sprayed. Be sure and check with your local extension service to find out the best products to use and the best time of the year to apply these insecticides.
To reduce your risk from getting bitten, take some precautions. Before going out to areas that could be infested, apply repellent to your clothing, socks, and shoes. Wear loose fitting clothing and avoid sitting on the ground. When returning from the outdoors, take a shower as soon as possible. Also, launder all clothing as chiggers will stay in clothing and be a menace should you decide to re-wear before washing.
And in the event, you do get “attacked” by chiggers it is advised to apply rubbing alcohol and use an over the counter anesthetic. Baking soda pastes, calamine lotion, will also soothe the itch…..and despite what you might have heard, do not use fingernail polish as it does nothing to treat the itch and does not kill the chigger.