Chiggers, or harvest mites, are microscopic, reddish arachnids that hatch and flourish in damp, shady areas, like tall grass, dense foliage, straw, and leaves. They infest any person or animal that comes near them. They attach themselves to the pore, or hair follicle on the skin and inject their digestive enzymes. Their saliva, also a kind of digestive enzyme, causes an allergic reaction, leading to itching of the skin. These insects, once fully grown, detach themselves from the host and feed on plants, where they lay their eggs. They can feed on a variety of hosts ranging from humans to rodents, and generally flourish in the warm seasons, from spring to early fall. There are quite a few ways to get rid of these insects. These include:
Destroying their Shelter and Breeding Grounds
Chiggers find shady and moist areas for their shelter. To prevent their growth, such areas must be kept dry, well drained, and open. Yards should be well trimmed, and the grass should be cut low. Piles of leaves, bark, and fences that start to decay, should be immediately removed. Waste and extra foliage should be washed with a mixture of soap and water, to kill adult chiggers and their larvae. This process should be repeated once a week, for at least a month, to ward off newly hatched larvae. If indoor plants are infected with chiggers, soak them in any insecticidal soap which is labeled safe for plants.
Wearing Protective Clothing
For humans infected by chiggers, a thorough bath should be taken to get rid of the insects on the skin. Clothes should be thoroughly washed as well, to destroy the larvae present in the clothes. When visiting an unmaintained area which has tall grass and dense foliage, close fitting garments, that leave no exposed skin, should be worn. When returning from such areas, these clothes should be washed in hot water. Pants should be preferably tucked inside the socks, and shoes that have no ventilation, should be worn.
While moving around in a chigger infested area, it is always recommended to wear repellents. Products like sulfur powder and DEETs (N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) are very effective repellents. These should be applied on your clothes and shoes only, and never directly on the human skin. Citronella oil is a good repellent which can be applied on the body. Use of body deodorants with a strong smell are also said to be effective in warding them off.
Remedies for Chigger Bites
Chigger bites are very itchy and bothersome. They leave raised red welts (skin rashes) on the skin that remain for a few weeks. People suffering from chigger bites, should not scratch it. Cold water to cool the skin should be applied. Application of calamine lotion and petroleum jelly is also considered helpful. Other things that can be applied are:
- Nail polish
- Green tea extract
- Hydrocortisone skin cream
If these methods seem too tough and time-consuming, one can get insecticides sprayed in the yard or garden, but be warned, this may cost a lot. Instead, try the above mentioned methods, and keep your home, yard, and garden chigger free.