Itchy outbreak of chiggers (red bugs)

If you go on summer hikes or campouts, you probably know it’s important to protect yourself from chiggers. And that DEET-based repellents work well to keep them at bay. 

Today, though, I’m focusing on chigger control measures for around the house. Why?  Recent soaking rains have kept many folks from regularly mowing the lawn. And if you add in our sauna-like weather, you’ve got the perfect conditions for a chigger outbreak.

By the way, to some they’re chiggars, jiggers, jiggars or red bugs. l stick to the entomologists’ form - chiggers. 

Based on the number of recent calls and emails I’ve received about them, I’ve decided to provide some control tips here, and I invite anyone with other ideas to call into the GardenLine programs this weekend. Incidentally, the controls below will also work on flea, tick and chinch bug problems.    

You have options for tackling these boogers with chemical controls, natural controls, and through your sprinkler system.  If you’ve got a really bad problem or lots of land, this project can be costly. But the methods below will actually work.

First, just for the record, chiggers are not insects. They’re actually mites in the spider family.  And when they are in the larval or baby stage, they are parasitic.  People are most often accidental hosts. Chiggers prefer rodents, birds, toads or livestock. But if a human happens along, walking through tall grass or weeds, they’ll hop on a leg for the ride.

Let’s start with the best DIY method. As with chinch bug control, we want to break the egg cycle.   If applied three times over two weeks, liquid controls like bifenthrin or permethrin will do the job.  There are organic or all-natural controls such as EcoSMART liquid, which has natural oils as the active ingredients.  But, organics can be quite costly to apply over acreage with ready-to-spray bottles.

You might also consider homemade controls with active ingredients like molasses and orange oil, but be very careful with the percentage of orange oil - it can burn grass.  I’m honestly not sure if it’s made anymore, but GardenVille used to have a blend called Anti Fuego, known to work on ants, chinch bugs and chiggers.  I just haven’t seen in sold in Houston for some time. And it, too, can be costly when sprayed over large areas.

If you have a sprinkler system, and the all-natural-oils idea sounds good, there are some new products available that have unique blends of peppermint, clove, sesame, garlic and other oils.  They are also quite expensive.  But if staying organic is your preference, they’ve earned solid reputations. Plus, you get the added benefits of flea, tick, ant and even mosquito control with them.

Don’t forget … if you know of a good chigger control I’m missing, please give me a call on the radio show this weekend.

PHOTOS: Getty Images
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