How To Get Rid of Chiggers

Avoid these pesky red bugs and prevent them from biting in the summer.

| June/July 2005


Dressing like a geek — wearing long sleeves and stuffing your pants into your socks — can be cool because doing so will help you avoid chigger bites. 


It’s summer again, the season when chiggers make cowards of us all. Wouldn’t it be great to skip through fields of wildflowers and roll around in cool grass like the people in allergy medicine commercials do? Anyone that reckless either doesn’t get out much or is too young to know better. Call the rest of us “once bitten, twice shy” because meadows and lush grass often are guarded by chiggers — tiny “red bugs” that leave small and terribly itchy wounds on human hosts in the most delicate and unmentionable places.

Ounce for ounce, the almost-microscopic chigger may cause more irritation than any other critter. Yet contrary to popular belief, chiggers don’t suck blood or burrow under the skin. They eat skin cells, which they dissolve with digestive enzymes. The human immune system defends bitten areas by forming a hard wall of cells, called a stylostome. Conveniently for the chigger, these stylostomes double as strawlike feeding tubes. And there’s the rub — and the scratch — it’s your own immune system’s response that causes the intense itching.

Undercover Chiggers

Chiggers are not true insects — they actually are immature mites — though they do scamper around on six legs in their troublesome larval stage. Like their parasitic tick cousins, chigger larvae attach themselves to hosts to feed by inserting minute mouthparts into skin, usually at hair follicles. Chiggers are found worldwide. In the United States, they are most common in the Southeast and Midwest because they thrive in humid weather amid thick vegetation.

Science seldom turns its microscope on chiggers because, as annoying as they may be, chiggers don’t destroy crops or otherwise cause catastrophes worthy of big research bucks. But the U.S. Army considers chiggers enemies well worth studying. Servicemen in World War II never knew they had been bitten until they came down with scrub typhus, a disease covertly spread by tropical Asian chiggers that causes fever, headaches and swollen lymph glands. Bill Wildman, an environmental health officer at Irwin Army Community Hospital in Fort Riley, Kan., notes the species found in North America do not spread diseases.

Humans are accidental victims of chiggers because most of these mites evolved to feed on reptiles and birds, says M. Lee Goff, curator of the National Chigger Collection, housed at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He and his predecessors have accumulated about 25,000 specimens representing 1,800 identified chigger species. Goff, who also is the forensics science program chairman at Chaminade University in Hawaii, says chigger species in Southeast Asia evolved to feed on mammals and can spread disease because the human immune system does not reject their enzymes and the chigger bites don’t itch.

Goff may be one of the few humans on the planet to admit affection for the pests. “They are actually very attractive little mites. They have a velvety appearance,” he says. But chiggers in a lab are much safer than chiggers around your child’s swing. Fortunately, you can do several things to take much of the chigger itch out of summer.

6/27/2016 10:07:17 AM

Dressing like a geek is definitely a safe way to avoid being bitten by chiggers. However, more is involved. One needs to be very careful as they remove those apparels. They could easily bring them in the home with them. Natural organic pesticides can also be used control their numbers. The link attached to this comment highlights a few other pointers that can be used to control the chigger population.

11/3/2015 1:01:34 PM

First time every heard about chiggers. Thanks for opening my eyes! Usually,when pest related,i search from ,but is even better. thanks!

9/12/2015 12:57:09 PM

I am also in Arkansas. Never dealt with chiggars in California. I bought some stuff in Walmart called chiggarid, about $4 for a small container. Then I realized it smelled similiar to the Muscle Rub (Equate brand) Walmart sells. It had a higher concentration of the same active ingredients and costs half as much for about twice as much. Anyway, take the muscle rub and rub it on your lower legs and feet (if you wear flip flops like I do) and they will leave you alone. I would not do this excessively or on a daily basis as I have heard about such creams related to a death in NY.

7/2/2015 5:18:21 PM

Yes, chiggers really are terrible and make you think twice before venturing outside when you live in North Florida. Staying in mowed areas won't save you either. In previous years I have applied a strong concentration of insecticide using a hose-end sprayer. I stopped doing that due to the nuisance and concern for bees. Sulphur stinks up the laundry. I have also dipped my outdoor work pants in permethrin solution which will last up to six weeks and through several washings. I believe the military uses it. Lately I just use DEET, stay outside no longer than necessary and shower as soon as I come in. Having grown up in the North I don't remember chiggers being an issue and we played outside and rolled around on the ground all the time.

6/17/2015 9:45:55 AM

I am one of the fortunate few that is not bothered by chiggers. I had about two chigger episodes as a child and since then, not a bite. Everyone around me can be covered in chiggers and I am biteless. Whether it's because they don't bite me or if it's because my body doesn't react I don't know. At any rate, it is a wonderful thing. Now, gnats are an entirely different issue...

2/11/2015 4:59:48 PM

Hi all, I am not a doctor so expect no explaining for it. This is the end of the agony inflicted by CHIGGARS.No more suffering for 5 days. And it is one of the few free things in life.Meet your old friend the SUGAR CUBE. You lick the cube once and rub it on the emerging spot for about 30 seconds. And that is it. Forget about it. Too simple to be true? I tell you exactly what I do. I have sugar cubes in my car (for when I walk the with the dog and/or my wife) I have sugar cubes near my bed, in the lounge, practically everywhere. I do consider it very important to apply the sugar as soon as possible. Do not put too much saliva on the cube. One lick. No need to rub (literally) for more than 30 seconds.I use to turn the cube slightly left and right. Wipe away the remaining sugar granules with your dry fingers. I do not want them in my bed. Yes I have been tormented by the invisible biters. I only recently found out that it is not a bite. I read about that on Wikipedia. Cost you nothing and is harmless. Basically the compressed sugar granules act like sponge(osmose) as soon you moisten it a little bit. One last thing. The SUGAR CUBE application I use for the Chiggars has the same result for (and I apply it since at least 50 years) mosquito bites ant bites including the jack jumper(I am living in Australia) bee and wasp stings spider bites I have not been bitten by a snake (yet)so I cannot give you an opinion there. I do repeat time is of importance. I have been doing it more than 30 minutes after the swelling and it is still of some effect . Last thing.Prevention of course is key. Do no roll in the hay!! Cheers Raoul

10/6/2014 11:28:43 AM

I went hiking 3 days ago and now I have chigger bites that started on my legs, and every day I find more bites that just appear. I also got into some seed ticks, but I thought I got all of those off. They weren't on my legs, just got on my wrist when I went to pick a flower. Does that mean the chiggers are still on me?

9/7/2014 11:13:13 AM

Coconut oil can help relieve the itch and heal the lesions and rashes places too!

7/9/2013 9:25:47 AM

Apple cider vinegar, the worlds best thing ever, is GREAT for chigger bites. I have a friend who surveys, often in the absolute wildest spots of Louisianna, Mississippi and Arkansas. He, his eyeman and supervisor were often covered with chigger bites, as well as mosquito, deerfly and midges. Now, at least once a day, M strips in the field and sprays himself all over with full strength ACV. "M's naked again!" they say. "I'm not gonna itch tonight!" he replies.

7/6/2013 12:36:50 PM

Instead of buying lots of expensive essintial oils I just purchased a bottle of All NAtural Bug Repellent from this site. premixed and ready to rock and roll against biting bugs. I like it because there are no chemicals,pesticides, or pyrethins, a real bad nasty if you look it up. And I can use it on my grandkids or pets. And one thing else, spray it on bites and feel the relief almost instantly.

7/6/2013 11:00:22 AM

My wife and I recently had the "fun" of being bitten by chiggers in FL on a trip out west. After the itching started we rubbed on Corn Huskers Lotion. We rubbed it in for at least a minute on all the bites. After about 10 minutes the itching pretty much went away. We continued to use the lotion for several weeks and it took the itching away. Twice before I had chigger bites and nothing worked. It was so great to find something that actually gave us some relief.

5/25/2009 11:41:20 AM

I visit home ,in Missouri every Summer or Fall. The past 3 years ,I have gotten into the Chiggers real bad. Upon conversing with one of my aquaintences,the subject of the pesky little critters came up. This fellow is an avid outdoorsman and has a no bite solution for defence aginst Chigger bites. First of all find some place that sells the old lye soap,(Silver Dollar City) in South Missouri was mentioned. Bath with it daily as you normally would. The residual on your skin will keep the little bugs at bey. Next ,rub a anti-perspirant around your legs and on your anckels before doning your clothes. Anti-perspirants block pores and thus disallow the little critters the point of access to your skin.

Lisa D.
7/25/2008 1:50:59 PM

When my son was in the military they used to go into the 'field' and were advised to swallow the head from a regular kitchen match. It seems that this small amount of sulphur, ingested, will repel most ticks and chiggers. I picked blackberries recently here in the foothills of the Ozark Mtns in Arkansas and didn't suffer a single bite!

Lisa D.
7/25/2008 1:44:58 PM

While my son was in the military they often went out into the 'field'. Before going, they were advised to swallow the head of a regular kitchen match. It seems that this small amount of sulphur repels most ticks and chiggers.

James Horner
7/24/2008 5:35:53 PM

When I was small, my Sister and I would roll in the grass and be eaten alive with chiggers. My Grandfather soaked a reg in kerosene and wiped our arms and legs with it. Instant relief. Don't use it to lavishly and shower after. No problem.

7/24/2008 2:03:12 PM

The best thing to get rid of chiggers is a Hot Tub. Found that getting the water over 101 degrees really makes them mad. Get the water about 102 degrees and they die in less than 5 minutes. The itch goes away too. The bite/chigger will itch like crazy for the first couple minutes then its gone completly.

7/24/2008 8:47:56 AM

The best tip we ever got for chigger control was simply to shower nightly during chigger season, scrubbing the body very well everywhere with a rough washcloth. This scrapes them off before they can do too much damage. But, alas, it's easy to forget to shower *every* night to fight these pests...

p f hogue
7/24/2008 8:23:52 AM

bleach and water mix will stop the itch, wash area with a 3 cups water to 3 table spoons bleach. wet area down good and let air dry.

Virginia F.
7/23/2008 3:17:08 PM

I grew up in rural Georgia and my Deddy taught me to chew several pine needles (and swallow the juice)to prevent chigger bites when we went blackberry picking, etc. From what I remember it worked. Guess your breath smelled differently? He thought it got in your blood and was abhorrent to the little buggers. After you got all the juice out you rubbed the chewed needles on your clothes. I used to watch my brothers 'pick' chiggers off of their bodies with the point of a pocket knife when they got home from working for the forestry service one summer. Ok. Now I'm twitchy - itchy. Hee hee.

D Pete
7/23/2008 2:02:04 PM

while in the Navy stationed in Virginia i came down with the chiggers. I was in torment for a week until I found that a little nail polish applied over the red spot cooled the itch plus when I pulled off the polish after it dried it pulled the lil critter off with it.

7/22/2008 11:28:48 PM

i live in arkansas WE HAVE CHIGGERS i have found that pure tea tree oil, the kind you find a any pharmacy, seem to work the best, rub on skin and it not only helps stop the iching it helps promote healing much quicker

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