Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chiggers and Ticks

Horticulture Hotline 03/19/17
  Bill Lamson-Scribner

A friend of mine’s wife got a bad case of the chiggers, and with all the public service announcements about lyme disease, I figure a mention about ticks is not a bad idea. Since deer carry the ticks that cause lyme disease and we have a huge population of deer, a little prevention is always a good idea.

Chiggers and redbugs are in the Trombiculidae family.  They are a mite and not an insect so not all insecticides work on them.  They can be easily controlled with products that contain Carbaryl (Sevin) or Bifenthrin (Bug Blaster, Bifen).  Carbaryl and Bifenthrin will also kill ticks (not insects, eight legs like spiders), fleas and many other pest as a bonus.  Always read, understand and follow product labels.

The larva of the chigger is what bothers most people.  The larva will inject a fluid into the skin which breaks down cells of a person, and then the chigger ingests these cells.  Most people think chiggers burrow into the skin; however, this is an “old wives tale”. 

When I was young, and doing landscape jobs that started with clearing the lots, I would regularly be the dinner of this mite.  Back then, people would treat chiggers with nail polish thinking the mite was burrowed into the skin and this would suffocate the chiggers.  I later found out that I didn’t need to be walking around with pink and red nail polish all over me! 

Chigger larva can crawl around on you for several hours before attaching to your body.  While crawling around on you, if they hit a waist band or the elastic area of your socks, instead of going under or around this barrier, they will usually latch on right there.  They also like warm moist areas.  Using repellants that contain DEET on your clothing and exposed skin will prevent the chiggers from attaching to you.  There is an organic product called Liquid Net that is DEET free and all natural that might be worth trying.  It does not list chiggers on the label; however, it does list mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, no-see-ums, other biting insects.  If Liquid Net works against chiggers, it would be a good all-natural chemical-free alternative to DEET.  

Chiggers, like mole crickets, over-winter as adults in the soil.  Once it warms up, the adults lay eggs which hatch out into the larva.  The larva crawl around looking for about anything to feed on including rodents, birds, snakes, rabbits, toads and humans.  The larva then turns into a big red adult that can be seen on driveways or in the lawn.  The adults do not attack people. 

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.