Nobody enjoys the severe itchy sensation that follows bug bites, and chigger bites are some of the most uncomfortable bites you can have. Unfortunately, these red bugs are prevalent and live in most areas of the United States, especially the Southeastern and Midwestern states.
So, how can you prevent chiggers and protect yourself from chigger bites? Keep reading to learn more about what chiggers are and how to identify their bites and ideal living conditions.
What Are Chiggers?
Chiggers (Trombiculidae) are small mites that thrive in wooded or grassy areas near water, especially during warm temperatures. These arachnids are “cousins” to ticks and spiders and are nearly invisible to the naked eye.
If you do spot one, adult chiggers are usually bright red and yellow or orange during the larval stage. As larvae, they’ll have six legs. As adults and nymphs, they’ll have eight legs.
Chiggers hatch from eggs as larvae and feed on skin tissue from a host, either animal or human, as mites, before leaving the host and developing into an adult mite. Unfortunately, their bites can be painful and are often itchy for days, even developing into small welts or blisters in some cases.
What Does a Chigger Bite Look Like?
Chigger larvae look for human or animal hosts and will attach to human clothing, then move to your skin to feed. Once on your skin, chigger larvae release a liquid chemical into your skin, which kills skin cells. As dead skin cells collect, they form a tiny straw, also known as a stylostome, which the chigger uses to drink your skin tissue.
These bites are very itchy because humans respond poorly to the liquid chemical or digestive enzyme chiggers release when they bite. The first 24 to 48 hours after the bite is usually the most uncomfortable and itchy.
If you suspect a chigger has bitten you, look for speckled lines of pimples or red spots on your skin. Unlike bed bugs, chigger bites are more likely to be concentrated in one area, especially where clothing is tight against your body.
You’ll also notice intense itchiness in the bite area approximately three hours after the initial bite. Anti-itch creams, a cold compress, calamine lotion, and over-the-counter antihistamines can help treat chigger bites and relieve your discomfort.
How to Prevent Chiggers
If you suspect you have a chigger infestation or want to take measures to prevent them, we recommend the following steps:
- Chiggers love wooded areas. If you live in a grassy or wooded area, take extra care to keep up with your landscaping. Trim back overgrown trees, tall grass, and bushes to reduce the number of shady areas on your property. Keep up with weed pulling to prevent thick vegetation, an ideal chigger habitat, from forming.
- Take a hot shower as soon as you get inside. If you’ve been outside hiking or enjoying the warm weather, shower immediately to rid yourself of any bugs that may have gotten on you. Use hot and soapy water and rinse your body repeatedly.
- Place your clothing into the washing machine immediately after coming inside to prevent any unwanted pests from escaping. When you run the load, use hot water to take care of any bugs.
- Remove trash. Chiggers and many other pests prefer damp, dark areas while waiting for prey. Trash cans are ideal places for pests because moisture naturally collects under newspapers, wrappers, food, and other trash. Take care to remove your trash regularly, and don’t leave trash scattered around your property.
- Celebrate cold weather. Chiggers won’t survive during a freeze or frost. If you’re struggling with chiggers now, be patient and wait for temperatures to drop.
- Get professional pest control help. If you have a chigger infestation or live in an area at high risk of chiggers, consider a pest control service. A professional can spray your property for fleas, mosquitoes, harvest mites, and more, allowing you to get rid of chiggers near your home.
How to Prevent Chigger Bites
Chiggers usually bite humans where skin and clothing are in close contact, particularly bra lines, waistbands, sock lines, anywhere with exposed skin, or anyplace where your skin folds.
Common chigger bite areas include:
- Lower legs
- Behind your knees
Reduce your risk of chigger bites using the following tips:
- Spray a bug spray with DEET or a DIY insect repellent to protect yourself from insect bites.
- Wear protective clothing, such as tall socks, long sleeve shirts, and long pant legs.
- Treat your clothing with insecticides to repel chiggers and mosquitoes.
- Limit your time outside in grassy, wooded, and wet areas during late spring and the summer months.
- Take other preventative measures like spraying your property with pesticides to reduce the number of chiggers nearby.
- Avoid walking through vegetation or tall grass while you’re hiking. Choose plant-free paths or hard surfaces to walk on when possible.
- Stay in sunny areas. Chiggers dislike bright sunlight, so you can reduce your exposure by staying in the sun.
You can also create your own chigger repellent spray using a combination of your favorite essential oils, witch hazel, and water. Simply spray yourself and your clothing with this home remedy to repel these irritating bugs.
Another way to take your protective clothing to the next level is by adding a pair of tights or pantyhose underneath your pants. Chiggers can’t bite through pantyhose or tight material, protecting your skin.
Lastly, do your best to avoid scratching the affected area. We know that chigger bites cause intense itching, but you can put yourself at risk if you break the skin on the bite, potentially leading to an infection.
While not considered hazardous to human health, chiggers are still a giant nuisance. Nobody wants to suffer from itchy red bumps, and being wary of going outside during the beautiful summer months is a downer. Take time today to assess your home and what you can do to reduce the risk of a chigger infestation.