Oh how I hate chiggers! If you haven’t experienced them, they are nearly invisible bugs that live in grass and brush during the summer. Their bite, while not technically a bite, leaves a red itchy welt but you don’t know right away that you have become the host to a chigger. They are attracted by the carbon dioxide that animals and humans produce and like to attach in hot areas like waist bands and arm pits and anywhere you have elastic.
They feed on you (again, not technically a bit) and then drop off to resume their life cycle. They are often gone by the time you realize you have one of these welts, but they itch like crazy. Ground temperatures need to be warm and in our area (Eastern Kansas) they seem to appear around Memorial Day and stay into early September. That is not a scientific report but is based on my experience. When Memorial Day arrives I go into Chigger defense mode since prevention is always preferred.
Chigger defense mode is as follows:
Dress defensively. Wear long pants and sleeves and tuck your pant legs into your socks. I know, it is dorky but it keeps things from crawling up inside your pant legs. Do some research for clothing choices available that are cooler options than jeans or a long sleeve T-shirt. Try to get out as early as possible to beat the heat. I also wear chigger boots (tall rain boots). I even have second set that I keep in the car “just in case”. Chiggers lay eggs in clusters and don’t move far. You can have a chigger free area of grass right next to a chigger convention. One time I was house hunting (wearing sandals) and went out on the back patio with the realtor. A small snake surprised us and I jumped off into the grass for 30 seconds. I got 14 chigger bites. Keep your chigger boots by the back door so they are easy to grab on your way out to the garden.
Use insect repellent. You can probably find some natural repellents but I admit I use one with the lowest level of DEET. The key is that I spray the rubber boots so I am not spraying my skin. If I have to be on/in the grass with my hands, I might spray a shirt and my gloves, let them dry and then put them on.
Shower off as soon as you can after working outside. Now here is the thing. I recommend scrubbing with a wash cloth because just standing under the water may not remove them. Wash your clothes that you wore outside.
Never ever walk on grass unless you know it has been treated or you are defensively dressed/sprayed.
Consider mulch or gravel around garden beds or create a container garden on patio or deck. While I do have beds in the grass, I also have a section of garden that has mulched pathways and a side garden where I have additional potted herbs and vegetables. In the heat of summer, those seem to need daily watering and I can go to that part of the garden without defensive dressing.
During chigger season, I keep insect repellent and spare boots in my car, just in case. If we go somewhere and park along the street, if I am on the passenger side, I ask the driver to let me out in front of a driveway before parking so I don’t have to walk across the grass. It may seem neurotic but if I can avoid the misery of chiggers, so be it.
If you are one of those people that chiggers don’t like, you are lucky! If you have suggestions as to how to prevent chiggers, I’d love to hear them.