As spring and summer approach, it’s helpful to brush up on our buggy knowledge. It can be ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, fleas or fire ants. Not really a fun topic, but it definitely pays to be prepared. Whether you’re in your backyard or hiking or camping, you will come in contact with a number of pests. Identifying them, taking precautions to avoid them, and knowing how to treat them will save you time, sickness, and much annoyance.
Let’s Talk Chiggers…
Chiggers are immature mites that are related to spiders. They belong in the same class as scorpions and ticks. In Texas, chigger usually refers to mites from the genus Eutrombicula. They cause most of the itchy bites you may get after walking through brushy or grassy fields.
There are two species of chiggers that are particularly troublesome for Texans. One can be found in grassy or wooded areas. And the other can be found in moist areas, like swamps or rotted logs. Their distribution may be spotty, meaning you may find a bunch in one area and none in a different similar area.
While you’ll make an acceptable dinner, they don’t prefer humans. They would rather have small mammals, birds, or rodents as hosts. And when they do attach to humans, they often do not survive more than a day or two, mostly because we notice and scratch them away.
However, you’ll make a find host if there are no others nearby. Chiggers will attach to clothing and spend hours searching around on the human host before finding a place to feed. Bites are most common around tight clothing or areas with thinner skin. Sock lines, the waist, near the groin, behind the knees, and armpits are all common places to see chigger bites.
Despite what people believe, chiggers do not burrow in the skin. Instead, the skin around the bite area will swell around the pest, making it look like the chigger has burrowed in.
- The best defense is a good offense.
- Wear loose fitting clothes, long pants and long sleeve shirts, with pants tucked in to hiking boots.
- After hiking or camping, wash with warm soapy water to reduce bites and severity of bits. You can scrub your skin to remove any mites that may have stuck.
- Use insect repellents that contain DEET. (This is the go-to piece of advice for most any inspect or pest.)
- Use products especially designed for clothing for longer lasting results.
- For home use, insecticides can be purchased and sprayed over the lawn.
Scrubbing the area with soap and water after contact is the most helpful treatment option. However, antihistamines are also useful and anti-itch creams help too. For severe or prolonged pain, contact your doctor for further recommendations.