Help me, dear people. I need your advice for dealing with chiggers. And if you tell me nail polish to suffocate the critters, I will mock you mercilessly for peddling in old wives’ tales.
I never knew what a chigger was until I moved to Nashville. They are a nasty piece of work which thrive in leafy green environments — like my garden, for instance. If you brush up against a branch or leaf about 2 hours later you will have a tortuous itching welt on your skin, usually near something constricted and inconvenient to scratch like your panty line or bra straps. They itch like a sonofabitch, too — to the point where you may be tempted to grab a knife from the kitchen and cut the motherfucker out. And they last for weeks. Trust me, waterboarding is nothing compared to the brutality inflicted by a chigger.
Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not burrow under the skin, happily devouring your body from within. They are really tiny and cannot be seen with the naked eye, which is how that old wives’ tale got started. My research tells me they eat fluids in the skin cells, which is why they are attracted to moist places like the pantyline and bra line. One researcher explained that they inject a digestive enzyme that hardens the surrounding skin tissue, forming a “straw” to suck out cell fluids. That’s what creates the incredibly itchy red bump which persists for days and even weeks.
I currently have about five such welts, and it’s still the beginning of summer. They will be with me all summer, even after the itching subsides. They leave semi-permanent marks. By September my body will look like someone took a lit cigarette to it.
Folks, I’m just sick of this shit. Every damn summer! Just walking around my garden watering the herbs and setting up the sprinkler will result in weeks of agony. I’m so fucking over it. We don’t have pestilence like this out west. This is one reason I say Tennessee is cursed. I’ll take earthquakes over chiggers and mosquitoes any day.
So I need to know a) what do people do to stop the itching and more importantly b) what do you do to keep from getting bitten in the first place? Keep in mind we have pets and a koi pond and an herb garden. I prefer not to spray toxic chemicals in my garden. One year I sprayed a cedar oil treatment and that seemed to work but not all of the plants appreciated it. I’ve also sprayed garlic oil which is wonderful, although it makes your yard smell like an Italian restaurant for a few hours. But it seems to work better on mosquitoes than chiggers.
I’ve never found citronella to work, but maybe I’m doing it wrong.