You know the scene, right? A couple in love, a hot spring day. The sun is shining, a gentle breeze is blowing, the picnic basket is full of goodies. Their pants are short, their feet are bare. There is no need for a picnic blanket, the grass by the pond is tall and soft…
They eat, drink some wine, roll in the grass… And go home covered in love bites.
Well, I don’t know who came up with this, but it ain’t happening where I live. Here is the South, the only bites this couple is going to go home with are chigger bites.
What Are Chiggers?
Chiggers are mites from the family of spiders and ticks (arachnids). They are red and so tiny we can’t see them with the naked eye.
Chiggers live in moist areas around lakes, rivers, and ponds, or close to ground level in grassy fields, gardens, and forests because they need humidity in order to survive.
Are Those Chigger Bites?
Chiggers will climb on you even if you wear shoes and long pants or they will climb on your arms as you work in the garden. Then, they will migrate all over the body in search of the perfect spot to bite.
Once they found a juicy spot, they will insert their feeding tube into your skin and inject enzymes that cause destruction to the skin. They then, feed on the damaged tissue.
They don’t burrow into the skin as many people think. The itching is horrendous and once you scratch the spot you squish the chigger to death. But the itching stays f.o.r.e.v.e.r.
Most of the time, you’ll see the bites behind the knees, in the crotch area, under the arms, or around the ankles. Those are areas of the body where the skin is thin and it is easier for the chiggers to insert their feeding structures.
But as I write this, I have a few glorious bites on my tummy and other areas that are not mentioned above so although areas with thin skin are more common, you can still experience bites in other places.
So how do you know if the bites you see on your body are chigger bites or mosquito bites?
Many times, you’ll see a cluster of little red bites in a certain area. They might be small red dots or bigger, like a mosquito bite. But other times you’ll have a bite here and a bite there.
As opposed to a mosquito bite, you won’t feel the chigger bite as it happens. About 1-3 hours after the chigger injected it’s digestive enzyme the symptoms will occur.
Many times you’ll find the red bumps in areas that were covered with clothes, not exposed areas that mosquitos can reach.
And the itch of a chigger bite is much worse than that of a mosquito bite. It lasts for a few weeks instead of a few days.
Chiggers, at least in North America, are not known to carry any diseases, and the bites themselves do not produce any long-term complications.
However, since the itching is so intense, you mast be careful not to cause yourself wounds by scratching, those open wounds can sometimes get infected by bacteria.
How to Prevent Chigger Bites?
Before we go down the list of things you can do to prevent chigger bites, let me make sure you understand a couple of things:
The first is that I personally did not try all of these suggestions bellow. I collected them from country friends that have some experience with chiggers. I tried a few, and I will note the ones that I did try and worked for me and at the end, I will tell you our before-you-go-outside routine.
The second thing you have to know is that not all the solutions you’ll find here are healthy for you.
For example, to spray yourself with kerosene is obviously not healthy for your skin and is not good for you to inhale. However, if I must go clear an area with two feet tall vegetation on my property on a summer day, I’ll probably do it. Maybe if you ever had to deal with a hundred chigger bites on your body at the same time, you’ll do it too. Mayeb not. It’s your decision to make.
The third thing you should know is that not all the solutions bellow might be safe for your other animals, plants, or young children.
My goal is to simply give you all the options I know of, it’s your responsibility to make sure they are safe for your situation.
OK, let’s go…
1. Wear pantyhose under your pants – some say that the chiggers can’t bite through the pantyhose. make sure to wash this pantyhose very well in hot water once you take it off.
2. Keep grass cut short and your yard clean – make sure to cut the grass on your property short from early spring until Fall when temperatures got under 60F.
3. Dust diatomaceous earth on clothes – chiggers don’t like this stuff I heard. Before you go outside, dust the lower part of your pants and shirt sleeves with some DE.
4. Spread diatomaceous earth on your lawn – another way you can use it is by spreading it on your lawn. Use 5lb per 1000 sqft.
5. Vinegar – I didn’t try it, but since vinegar can pretty much save the world I am sure this will work. Spray your clothes with vinegar before going to work outside.
6. Insect repellent – some say that just regular insect repellent works for them…
7. DEET – others say you’ll have to go 98% DEET for it to work.
8. Turpentine – spray your clothes with turpentine before going outside.
9. Vick’s VaporRub – apply the ointment on the lower part of your legs and on the arms.
10. Plant Marigolds – apparently, chiggers don’t like marigolds. You kill two birds at once here, your garden will be both chigger free and pretty.
11. Plant Horsemint – another beautiful plant that will keep the chiggers away.
12. Mentholatum ointment – apply on ankles and lower legs and also on arms.
13. Spray kerosene – spray kerosene on clothes before going outside.
14. Skin so Soft from Avon – this is one of the things I tried that really works. It smells good but bugs in general don’t like it at all. I also put this on my kids.
15. Bag Blam – apply on lower legs and arms before going outside.
16. Garlic – just like vinegar, garlic can save the world. Eat one clove of garlic a day and chiggers and mosquitos will stay away. Your immune system will be very strong too.
17. Dust clothes with sulfur powder – this seems to be what most people will stand behind when it comes to dealing with chiggers. Dust this powder on your clothes and shoes before going to work outdoors.
18. Spread sulfur pellets – spread pellets on your lawn. use 5lb per 1000sqft. The suggestion is to do this around the end of May before temperatures get too hot.
19. Sulfur supplement – add sulfur to your diet and the bugs won’t like you.
20. Lemongrass essential oil – apply topically on the lower part of legs and arms.
21. Lavender essential oil – apply topically on the lower part of legs and arms.
22. Geranium essential oil – apply topically on the lower part of legs and arms.
23. TerraShield essential oils blend from doTERRA – I love this blend, it works great for mosquitos, ticks, chiggers and whatever else is out there looking for a taste of your blood. It is natural, and I use this for my kids too. We spray it or spread it topically on our bodies before going outside.
**If you would like to learn where to purchase the best essential oils for wholesale prices, check out my essential oils page.
24. Rubber bands – place rubber bands on the ends of your pants by your ankles and the end of your sleeves by your wrists. This will prevent the chiggers from climbing and taking a walk all over your body.
25. Bug B Gon– Bug B Gon might help control the chigger party on your lawn.
26. Guinea hens – this is a controversial topic. Some people say that chiggers are too small for the guinea to find and eat, others that raise guineas say they don’t have any kind of bug problems on their lawns so maybe the guineas do eat the chiggers or simply scare them away. Anyway, guineas will take care of ticks, fleas, caterpillars and so on so they are a great addition to your homestead.
27. Rub hands all over your body – before you come inside, rub your hands up and down your body to kill any chiggers that are on you and didn’t bite yet.
What we are doing to prevent chigger bites…
We just moved to a new house in the country. No one lived here for years but the chiggers so we have quite a war to fight.
First, we are going to try to treat the lawn with Bug B Gon just to get the situation under control. In fact, we did this a couple of days ago and it seems to work pretty good. Note, I do not have a garden growing here at the moment and we do not have animals here right now. I read that you should water the area or spread before the rain to make sure the product dissolves into the soil before allowing pets back on the lawn, but again, I don’t have animals here at the moment so I didn’t spend too much time researching this.
Next, we might use diatomaceous earth or/and sulfur pellets to make sure they don’t come back and I am now working on getting the coop ready for a few guineas.
I can’t say that we are very good when it comes to wearing shoes but we usually have long pants on and sometimes long sleeve shirts with rubber bands at the ends. We use Skin so Soft and TerraSheild. I apply it to our skin every two hours alternately. I’ll apply Skin so Soft and then two hours later TerraShield and will keep doing this for as long as we are outside. It seems to work great.
Chigger Bite Treatment
Let’s say you accidentally fell into a field infested with chiggers. You rolled around a bit and now you are covered with chigger bits. You are going out of your mind, swearing you are never going to step outside ever again, and by the end of the first day you are ready to move to heaven where, most likely, there are no chiggers.
Let’s see how we can keep you with us a bit longer…
28. Vicks Vaporub – apply on bites.
29. After Bite – apply on bite as directed.
30. Ssssting Stop – apply on bite as directed.
31. Vinegar – use a cotton ball to dab vinegar on bites.
32. Baking soda – mix baking soda with a bit of water or coconut oil to make a paste and apply on bites.
33. Aloe vera – good old aloe vera can help heal the skin. It might help with the itching only a little bit but it will definitely help the skin heal faster. It’s best to use your homegrown aloe vera, but if you don’t have a plant you can get aloe vera gel here.
34. Comfrey ointment – comfrey leaf has many skin healing properties. Apply to skin as directed.
35. Baby oil – some say applying baby oil on bites helps with the itch.
36. Nail polish – many people suggest applying nail polish onto the bites. It is based on the misconception that chiggers burrow into the skin, and so by applying nail polish you suffocate them, but chiggers don’t burrow into the skin… Still, I’ve tried it and there is something in the nail polish that does help with the itch and also seems to dry the bite rather fast.
37. All Good Goop Organic Balm – this product was recommended to me and it looks promising even though I didn’t try it yet.
38. Calamine lotion – apply as directed.
39. Chiggerex – might be a bit more geared towards chigger bites… Apply as directed.
41. Benadryl cream – apply on the skin as directed.
42. Orajel – apply on bites. This will help with the itch by numbing the area.
43. Epsom Salt – add Epsom salt to a warm bath as directed and soak for 20 minutes.
44. Epsom Salt cream – apply on bites.
45. Lye Soap – scrub your skin good with old fashion lye soap.
46. Bleach – add one cup of bleach to the bathtub and soak for 20 minutes. I know, it sounds awful but some people say it really helps. I haven’t tried it yet.
47. Essential oils– last but not least, my beloved essential oils that I turn to for just about anything. To support a healthy skin and help with itching you can use lavender, melaleuca, peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, basil, and thyme. Some essential oils need to be diluted before applied topically.
Here is what we are doing to treat chigger bites…
To handle the first couple of days we use Benadryl. My husband and I can usually handle the itch but if my kids have “accidentally” rolled around in chiggerville and are covered in bites, I give them kids Benadryl every 5 hours for the first couple of days.
We soak in an Epsom salt bath once or, preferably, twice a day for 20 minutes. This really helps to dry the bites, but it takes around three baths until you feel the difference.
We use essential oils, Benadryl cream and Chiggerex for the itch and aloe vera and essential oils to help heal the skin.
The reality is that country living is not always as romantic as it sounds. You got to deal with creatures that you don’t find in the city.
I remember watching an episode of Alaska The Last Frontier a while ago. I was looking at the amazing views and the way of life those people have and I was thinking how amazing it all looks and how I would like to live there, like that, too.
Then, all of a sudden they filmed one of the guys there standing in a swarm of mosquitos, trying to breathe without them going in his mouth. He explained how, because everything is so moist in the Summer when the ice is melting, they need to deal with gazillions of mosquitos.
If there is one bug I hate just as much as chiggers is mosquitos. Suddenly the view wasn’t that amazing anymore.
But if you are anything like me, you’ll take chggerville (or mosquitoville) over too-many-peopleville any day. So at least now you have a few things you can do if you happen to live in or visit the village.
Did I forget anything? Tell me in the comment bellow how do you deal with chiggers.
Lady Lee is a single mother of four, she was born in Israel and raised in an agricultural commune called a Kibbutz. From a very young age, she was very interested in agriculture and farming.
She is a former IDF fitness trainer and is passionate about simple, natural living. She now lives in NC with her four kids, dog, cat, goats, ducks, and chickens.