Chiggers are tiny mites of the Trombiculidae family, also known as harvest mites, red bugs and berry bugs. They are called chiggers in their larvae stage when they feed on warm-blooded animals' skin cells. Chigger bites cause intense itching and potential secondary dermatitis problems. Homemade remedies vary from bathing to oil spray to alcohol-based rubs.
Six-legged larval stage chiggers attach themselves to human skin for feeding. They detach themselves when engorged, and grow into eight-legged nymph mites. Adult chiggers feed on insect eggs or soft bodied invertebrates in the soil. Chiggers congregate in grass and move onto passing human hosts. Unlike ticks, they are fast moving. They do not burrow into skin and they do not feed on blood.
Chiggers are more active in the afternoon when soil temperature is between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Walking on designated paths through grassy wild areas avoids chigger contact. Avoid the grassy borders between fences and wooded areas. Wearing long sleeves and pants tucked into shoes protects the skin from chiggers. Fabric with a tight weave also provides a protective barrier. Showering immediately after visiting a chigger-infested grassy area removes the mites before they attach to skin.
Chigger mouthparts attach to skin and release digestive fluid that softens cells. The digestive fluid causes itching and skin irritation. Using DEET insect repellent kills chiggers, but it is also highly toxic and may harm health if improperly used. Homemade remedies to kill chiggers include applying clear nail polish or petroleum jelly to suffocate them. The Missouri Department of Conservation also recommends using sulfur powder as a deterrent. Epsom salts, isopropyl alcohol and mouthwash relieve itching and remove chiggers from skin.
Neem Seed OIl
Azadirachtin is the chemical compound in neem seed oil that stops chiggers from feeding. Rub or spray neem oil solution on skin before walking in a grassy, chigger infested area. The mites do not begin their feeding behavior and are then easily removed with soap and water washing. Vigorous rubbing with a washcloth loosens chiggers that have attached to skin.