North Texas is seeing a chigger infestation unlike anything the region has seen in nearly 30 years.
Based on filed reports and calls to Texas A&M AgriLife, experts there say this year is the worst for chiggers. Dr. Mike Merchant with AgriLife Center in Dallas said the warm temperatures and high humidity of June are a likely reason for this year’s chigger population explosion.
“You don’t feel chigger bites immediately. It’s a delayed gift,” said Merchant, who is an Urban Entomology Specialist. “You are at home in the evening after you’ve been outdoors and you start to get a little itch and it gets worse and worse and then you start to see these big red bumps.”
The tiny insect gets embedded in your skin and can stick around up to two weeks causing painful and annoying itching.
“Chiggers are my personal worst nightmare,” Merchant said. “They are tiny mites, barely visible to the eye, that live on the soil surface and, in their larval stage, are parasites on humans and other vertebrate animals.”
They live in places you and your family will likely visit during the summer like picnic areas, summer camp, ballparks, hiking trails, parks and playgrounds. They can be found in dense, long grass but can also pop up in landscaped areas where animals are present.
“The chigger will bite a thin point in the skin which is usually around the base of a hair follicle and then that skin gets irritated and starts to swell and swells around the chigger and it buries the chigger in the skin,” Merchant said. “Bites typically occur in the most sensitive of places, especially around areas of tight clothing (belt line, sock line) and thin, sensitive skin (you can imagine where).”
While the bites can be annoying, they are not usually a health concern.
“The only good thing I can say about chiggers is that, as far as we know, they don’t carry disease,” Merchant said.
Here are Merchant’s three tips for self-protection in chigger country:
• Use a good repellent, applying to your shoes, socks and pants legs before stepping into a potential chigger area.
• Tuck your pant legs into your socks to make it harder for chiggers to get in your pants and find the tender places.
• Scrub yourself well in the shower after you think you might have been exposed. Chiggers typically take several hours to settle down and begin feeding. If you can shower before they begin chowing down, you can reduce the number and severity of bites.
You can also treat your front yard with insecticides spray like Bifenthrin. Make sure you mow your lawn before spraying.