Chiggers

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I hate chiggers. But they seem to love me.

I spent a few days paddling cypress swamps in the DelMarVa last weekend, and knowing it was springtime on the coastal plane took care not to sit on the ground or disturb the dirt and leaf litter too much. I used a tall camp chair and a hammock to stay well off the ground and on returning home the chigger bites began to appear and itch maddeningly.

Part of the reason I hate chiggers is that you don’t know that you’ve got into them until it’s too late; they are damn near invisible, you can’t feel them when they bite and the bites don’t start to itch until a day or two later. But once they start to itch they last for days.

Anyone else deal with chiggers? Got a chigger strategy?

I’m headed to the swamps of North Carolina in a week and its prime chigger season there.
 
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Hey. I feel your pain, literally... just got my 3rd case of the year... the bad news is that despite living and working in the south for the majority of the past 30 years, you can't escape them completely. the good news is you can minimize their effects.

First layer of defense is behavior, which you seem to have down... no sitting on the ground, hammock, chair, stay out of their home.

Second layer of defense is Permethrin. getcha some, use it. Everything but underwear and t-shirt... socks, fabric parts of boots/shoes, pants, outer shirt, hat, pack, and hammock. I don't do my tarp, but it probably doesn't hurt. Sulphur is also said to work when dusted on oneself, especially around the sock tops and waistline. Again, I don't do this.

An optional layer is internal... have a friend who swears by sulfur. Got it in powder form (Swan brand) at the pharmacy years ago, and ate a teaspoonful every day starting a few days before going out. Nasty, I don't do it. Garlic and garlic pills are also said to help, but I don't do them either.

3rd layer is treatment... the reason the bites itch supposedly has something to do with a small air tube that gets formed when the chigger buries himself in your skin... old timers swore by kerosene. I personally use gasoline (as I have no kerosene) or white gas from my stove or a lantern, but i'm not supposed to say that because gasoline exposure allegedly causes cancer, etc. etc... I only do this as a last resort, if I can't sleep due to itching... I have used ammonia ("Itch Away" is a product sold commercially for this) with some success. Cortisone crème helps a little, or Lanacaine.

Finally, and no one likes this, you will get used to it... When I was in the military, stationed at places all over the country, i'd get chiggers fairly regularly... I had a semi-permanent ring of bites around my sock top/boot top level on both shins... believe it or not, eventually they quit bothering me... they itched, yes... but it was simply a minor, ignorable itch... not sure why or how that happened... I guess it's kind of like how you get bit by a mosquito early in the season, and it swells up the size of a quarter and lasts for days... a few months later, the welt hardly swells at all and is gone in a few hours....
 
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See,
yet another justification of my preference for colder climes...
I do not know of these "chiggers", nor do I wish to learn other than by reading about them.
At least with black flies, the attackers are seen and felt immediately.
These delayed reactions sound terrible, I'll stick with the black flies, deer flies, horse flies, stable flies, no see ums, and deer ticks.
 
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Stripperguy,

Worst case of chiggers I ever had was while stationed at Fort Drum, NY, just west of Cranberry Lake. That's where I discovered that you can 'get used to them'. The cold climate was no real preventive, but maybe they are slightly less prevalent overall.
 
G

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Guest
Hey. I feel your pain, literally... just got my 3rd case of the year... the bad news is that despite living and working in the south for the majority of the past 30 years, you can't escape them completely. the good news is you can minimize their effects.

My urge to scratch the itch has largely subsided. And you are right, I seem to be less sensitized (or more inured) to chiggers later in the season. Mosquito bites don’t bother me nearly as much as chiggers, perhaps because I am mosquito exposed 9 or 10 months a year. Chiggers are more of an occasional problem.

First layer of defense is behavior, which you seem to have down... no sitting on the ground, hammock, chair, stay out of their home.

I expect that I know from experience where my exposure this last trip comes from. We had a passel of young kids along on a group trip and my hammocks were in constant kid use (I actually brought three, and rarely found one empty to lay in). Those hammocks were often found to be filled with dust and dirt from kid shoes and clothes.

We also had a retriever who loves to play fetch, invariably depositing the dirt covered stick in my lap for yet another throw.

The worst case of chiggers I have ever seen was amongst a family with whom we tripped, who brought their dig-a-hole-and-lay-in-it German Shorthair and slept with her in the tent.

The worst case I’ve ever had was from the fetch happy retriever, who when ignored would bury my feet in pawed dirt, demanding another throw of the stick.

At this point I’m convinced that dogs in chigger country can be a bad combination. And that any recently disturbed ground is best avoided.

The worst part of chiggers to me is the “never know where” aspect. I’ve done ill-advised plumbing repairs in the crawlspace of southern homes and escaped unscathed, and done carefully elevated swamp campers and endured a weeklong itchy ring of bites in every area where elastic touched my body.

For those who don’t know chiggers they favor digging in around socks, and especially under the elastic waistband of underwear. As a supposed professional coming back from a trip only to be constantly scratching at my nether regions was not a good look.

I believe one preventive solution is loose fitting clothing, and where possible avoiding the compression of elastics. Going barefoot and commando helps. Maybe going buck naked would offer the best approach. I wonder if chiggers are less problematic in southern nudist colonies?

Second layer of defense is Permethrin. getcha some, use it. Everything but underwear and t-shirt... socks, fabric parts of boots/shoes, pants, outer shirt, hat, pack, and hammock.

I’ve got some and will be applying to various items of gear at the next opportunity. I’ve actually had it for several months, but Permethrin is toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms, and especially toxic to cats, and that precludes using it at home among the aquariums and the shop coon cat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permethrin

I’ll try it on the hammocks and the chairs, specific clothing items, hats and shoes (the straps on sandals and flip flops are another chigger target) and the UV lap blankets, which might then serve as bug shields as well as sun shields.

3rd layer is treatment... the reason the bites itch supposedly has something to do with a small air tube that gets formed when the chigger buries himself in your skin. I have used ammonia ("Itch Away" is a product sold commercially for this) with some success. Cortisone crème helps a little, or Lanacaine.

Yeah, chiggers are like something out of science fiction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trombiculidae

I’ve use an Afterbite pen for relief, which I believe is largely ammonia based, and it works for a bit, and have Cortisone and Lanocaine in the group first aid kit. I do wonder if there isn’t some same-locale native plant remedy, something akin to Jewel weed for poison ivy.

When all prevention fails the best solution still seems to be the steely resolve not to scratch the itch. I’m still working on that.
 
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I have a cat, but I keep him in while i'm doing the permethrin work outdoors... directions are "spray, let dry 2-4 hours", but I typically keep it out on the fence overnight, then bring it in the next day... haven't poisoned any of my cats yet, over the years (i'm on #4 right now.)

and I think I was wrong about my anti-itch stuff, and you have it right...AfterBite... btw, you can pull the tip out and refill it with ammonia... GREAT little 'pen'.
 
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Holy Mother of Gawd! I'm glad we don't have those evil little buggers up here!
 
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I read recently that Anbesol is a good blackfly repellent and also post bite of stingy things. I probably have had chiggers but never knew it. I mostly blame red itches in the South from fire ants.
 
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I read recently that Anbesol is a good blackfly repellent and also post bite of stingy things. I probably have had chiggers but never knew it. I mostly blame red itches in the South from fire ants.

I keep a little bottle of Anbesol in the group first aid kit for toothy issues. At $7 for a half ounce it would be a pricey repellent. I’ll keep the post-bite sting/itch relief in mind though.

I’ve had no trouble discerning when I’ve encountered fire ants. The burning sting is pretty much a dead giveaway and the “fire” part gets my attention immediately. Plus fire ants, though tiny, are big enough I can at least see them, often when they are still holding on and injecting venom.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ant

Fire ants are more easily avoided – stay away from mounds in open areas and if you feel a sudden burning sensation get the hell away from where you are standing. I never know when I am getting into chiggers. I’ve never seen one and don’t develop any reaction until at least a day later.

I paddle a blackwater river in flood a few years ago and the high water had forced the fire ants into a linear border along the sides of the river. Just getting the boats to the water’s edge and getting in was an adventure, and for a change no one dawdled while launching.

We saw a fire ant phenomenon on that trip – a melon-sized ball of fire ants, I suppose surrounding the queen, floating on the current. Extreme dead fish polo anyone?

If you have developed itchy red bumps, especially around elastic-gripped areas and without any forewarning sting or burn, the culprit was almost certainly chiggers.

Fire ants have been steadily expanding their distribution since their introduction in the 30’s.

http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/docs.htm?docid=9165

Long term warming trends and rising soil temperatures do not bode well for halting that spread. I have not gotten into them in their few known locations in Maryland, but southern Virginia and the Carolinas are a different story.

I guess the same may hold true for the distribution of chiggers

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl...QyyUYXNHMT_4AOPj4DQBA&ved=0CDMQ9QEwAQ&dur=765

Get ready Yankees; we’uns down south have some treats headed your way. No need to reciprocate with a gift of blackflies.
 
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the ones that bother me most are the plain southern ants... little black harmless-looking ones... til they bite. then they're almost as bad as fire ants... never understood why southern ones bite and northern ones don't... anyway, AfterBite/ammonia works on all of them. hadn't heard/thought about anbisol, but it stands to reason; it's a numbing agent.
 
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the ones that bother me most are the plain southern ants... little black harmless-looking ones... til they bite. then they're almost as bad as fire ants...

I have never gotten into those, or at least never experienced a bite or reaction. And hope I never do.

The worst ant problems I have had all involved hard rains or floodwaters. Beyond the aforementioned fire ant swamp paddle the worst ant issue I’ve had was actually at home, returning from a rainy Florida trip with wet gear, unpacking the tent and discovering that a flooded colony of teeny tiny black ants had taken residence in the tent poles.

All of the tent poles. Each ant carrying an egg. All 100,000 of them.

I didn’t actually count, but that’s what it seemed like. Getting them out of the slender, shock corded poles was an ordeal. An air compressor followed by high pressure water eventually did the trick.

I am cautious of ant activity or mounds when setting up camp down south, and am slowly learning that ants and high water are not a good mix. Perhaps hammock dwellers have an advantage.

Camping further north or at high(er) elevations ants seem far less of an issue. Or maybe I’ve just been lucky there too.
 
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A home remedy for chiggers is a typical spray bottle filled with water, one teaspoon of Dawn dish liquid and one teaspoon of canola oil. This concoction will kill the little buggers on anything they are climbing on. Spray your chairs, rocks etc. we have them real bad around the house this year and this solution is the only thing I have found that works. The poisons I have tried have not worked, but this stuff worked.
 
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A home remedy for chiggers is a typical spray bottle filled with water, one teaspoon of Dawn dish liquid and one teaspoon of canola oil. This concoction will kill the little buggers on anything they are climbing on. Spray your chairs, rocks etc. we have them real bad around the house this year and this solution is the only thing I have found that works. The poisons I have tried have not worked, but this stuff worked.

Dang I wish I’d read that before spending the last two weeks in eastern North Carolina. The chiggers were well out and my reaction to the first dozen bites was ugly. A couple of them looked like I’d grown a third nipple on my waistline. The last couple dozen weren’t so bad; I’d either become inured to them or learned to stop scratching.

Socks and shoes were best avoided. I wore thick soled flip flops for the entire time and had only a few bites on the top of my feet where the straps rest. My partner wearing shoes and socks was eaten up from the ankles down.

June is later in the season than I typically spend time in the south. While the chiggers were ugly and the mosquitoes annoying at dawn and dusk everything else was out in full force as well; the ground temps were prefect for snakes to emerge (I almost ran over a 3 ½” canebrake rattlesnake with a Gator tractor), the hummingbirds were abundant (max in one field of view was at least 7) and the frog species calling after the rains more numerous than I could count.

Summertime in the south; it’s worth seeing at least once.
 
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My dad was an entomologist. While chiggers aren't insects (they're the larval form of a mite), he'd had plenty of experience with them. He told me to liberally slather rubbing alcohol on my legs after I'd been in places where chiggers are common. Don't be shy with the alcohol. You want to put it on enough that it takes 30 to 60 seconds for the alcohol to evaporate. That does two things: the rubbing action brushes some of the mite larvae off your skin, and the alcohol kills any that remain. The trick is to use alcohol sooner, rather than later. I don't wait to start itching, but it can work then too, if you catch it soon enough. Chiggers can hang around to nosh on us for four days.

Pete
 
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