If you live in the south, chances are you’ve been bitten by a bug you can’t even see, leaving you with an itchy, red rash. Chiggers, AKA red bugs, are known scientifically as trombiculid mites. These pests aren’t even technically bugs – they’re actually arachnids and related to spiders and ticks.
Chiggers are found in every country around the world. They prefer environments that are moist and grassy, such as fields, forests, berry patches, and lawns. They are tiny and can usually only be seen with a microscope. Adults are 1/60″ in length and have 8 legs. Larvae are smaller, usually less than 1/50″ and are wingless and red with 6 legs. The larvae will turn yellow after eating. Chiggers are common in late spring, summer, and early fall. They are active when temperatures are between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit and will die off when temperatures drop below 42.
Adult chiggers don’t bite. The larvae will hatch and then clump together on leaves and grass. As you walk through these areas, they attach to you. They then crawl around until they find bare skin and use their claws to make tiny holes in your skin. They inject saliva into the hole that turns your skin cells into mush which they then eat, leaving you with an itchy, red rash. They can bite anywhere on your body but will typically cluster around legs or waists.
Chiggers don’t spread disease to humans but scratching the rash can lead to infection.
Because they’re so hard to see, it can be difficult to even realize you have a problem with them until after you’ve already been bitten. Prevent chigger bites by:
- Use insect repellent that contains DEET or wear clothing that has been treated with permethrin. Be especially vigilant to apply around cuffs, necklines, and the tops of socks.
- Use natural remedies to get rid of them, including oils made of citronella, tea tree, jojoba, eucalyptus, geranium, and lemon grass.
- Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks.
- Walk in the center of trails rather than along the sides.
- Shower as soon as you return indoors from outside.
- Wash clothes in hot water and dry on high heat.
If you have a problem with chiggers or any other pests this summer, contact your local pest control company for an inspection and appropriate treatment plan.