Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Cowgirls & Mustangs: Riding the High Desert in California's Surprise Valley

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chiggers & Ticks: ugh!

August is heat and insects. August also is veggies, berries and flowers. I find it hard to harvest the latter when I know I risk chigger and tick bites. Mosquito bites are just a short time annoyance.

As a teenager living on a farm I spent the summer with itchy oozing boils sprinkled on my body. My parents would take me to the country doctor whose response was “I get them also. Maybe we are allergic to tomatoes.” .

I’ve learned that my migraines were sinus infections due to allergies to grasses, animal dander, pollen etc. I’ve outgrown or prevented these problems. But I still get horrible chigger and tick bites and sometimes I don’t want to leave the house except to jump into the car. Deer sleep in my lawn in spite of my dog. I’m surrounded by forest and pasture. I love gardening and weeding but not in August.

I can handle Japanese beetles, hornets, mosquitoes, ants, slugs, etc. but not chiggers or ticks. The first time my dog suffered with Lyme disease. I spread Sevin over a part of the flower garden where she likes to hang out. I’m organic gardener, compost my kitchen and garden wastes and collect rain water. I felt guilty using Sevin, but I was angry.

Thanks to friends and online info I hope to be better prepared for next August.

Chiggers and ticks (and spiders) are Arachnids. Their bite is similar. They both feed on most animals. Chiggers prefer reptiles and birds.

A well groomed yard free of weeds and brush will not attract ticks or chiggers. My yard is full of weeds, bushes, flowers, and veggies.

My dog is on Frontline, but she still gets bitten by ticks and chiggers. These insects also travel on her coat into our home. I’ve started to spray her coat with herbal sprays when she ventures outside. If she is dirty; I wash her with the garden hose before she enter the house. You may find this excessive but I’ve occasionally watched ticks walk up a wall or across the floor of my home.

Because you can see ticks they are easier to deal with than chiggers. If I feel a tick walking along my leg; my fingers quickly grab the insect and drop it in alcohol or the toilet.

Chiggers are microscopic. I’ve suffered many bites, but never seen the biter. Sometimes I feel them crawling on my body, but I think I’m paranoid. Chiggers move very quickly. Chigger bites do not appear until one to three hours after you’ve been bitten. Chiggers do not burrow in your skin. They take a bite (feeding for three or four days), move on and take another bite. Like ticks, they can live in your clothes. If you have been in a possible chigger area; take a hot soapy shower as soon as possible to wash the chiggers off. Immediately throw your clothes in the washing machine for a hot soapy wash.

The same sprays that deter ticks will deter chiggers. Wear boots and spray your outer garments with herbal sprays. One neighbor wraps her ankles with a kerosene soaked rag. Or put dog herbal tick collars around your pant legs (never on your bare skin). However, medical sulfur powder works best for chiggers. Sprinkle on warm, thin skin areas, especially skin folds. Also sprinkle along openings in your clothes and shoes. The powder is cheap and carried in drug stores. Mix with talcum powder to lessen strong odor. To be continued...