Chiggers, A Hard Lesson Learned

Land pride RCF 2060Learning about farming and country life, getting new mowers and building ponds have been fun for us but everything we learn on this adventure to becoming farmers isn’t always fun, case in point, finding out about chiggers.

Since my wife and I have spent the majority of our lives living in the city we knew nothing about chiggers. But while we were there, working on the farm during our vacation in October, we were rudely introduced to these mites and it was a hard lesson learned that won’t be soon forgotten.

The first day back to the farm I had repaired our old Mott flail mower and I did it out on the grass lying on my back most of the time. After about an hour I started getting these big red welts on the back of my neck and back that itched like crazy. I didn’t know what it was, thought maybe it was fleas. I didn’t see or feel anything bite me. We went back to the motel that night and I got some Benadryl cream  that helped with the itching. I took a shower and went to bed.

The next morning my wife noticed she had gotten bitten. Chiggers can be passed to other people by bed linen or close shin contact.  This happened every morning, we woke up everyday with new bites and believe me we were quite troubled by this whole ordeal because we didn’t know what was happening. We thought maybe it could be bed bugs and looked all around the motel room but couldn’t find any trace of bed bugs. Needless to say we had a bad week and didn’t sleep well at all. The motel didn’t change our sheets the whole time we were there so we kept finding new bites each morning.

We didn’t find out what they were until we got home and I did some research on the internet and found out about chiggers. Chiggers are invisible to the naked eye. After chiggers feed on you they fall off or just hang out on your body until they get hungry again. The way to get rid of them is to take a very hot shower and use a loofah pad to scrub your body very hard and this well help to dislodge them and then wash all your clothes and bed linen’s in very hot water and dry them very well. We then wore Deep Woods Off on us all day and night, even at bed time and that seemed to do it. It seems that the state of Iowa is one of the states that has lots of chiggers.

Needles to say, I won’t be lying down on the bare grass in Iowa ever again, unless something is between me and the ground. I told my friend Tom who lives by our farm about our run in with the chiggers and he said ” Welcome to the country”.

So after our ordeal with chiggers and me having the flu when we went back to the farm to see the finished pond, I was thinking, as I was lying in bed at the motel with a 103 temperature, do I really want to do this farming thing? I have to be honest with you, at that moment I didn’t want to do it anymore. But now that I have recovered from the chiggers and flu, my answer  is yes, I still do, even though the hard part of this journey is yet to come. No one said it was going to be easy.

About Gordon Milligan

I am a retired conductor for a commuter railroad in Chicago IL, I now live in and have bought a 40 acre farm in South Central Iowa that I have built from the ground up. My wife and I are trying to raise and grow most of my own food using sustainible and organic methods. I have a blog that journals my journey to becoming a farmer.
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12 Responses to Chiggers, A Hard Lesson Learned

  1. Jewels says:

    “A hard lesson learned” indeed, I bet you’re relieved that ordeal is over. I loved living in the country, but I have to say that any predicament related to insects horrifies me, and there’s definitely lots of different bugs in the country. Thankfully we never dealt with chiggers. Hope you never have to encounter them again…

  2. Thanks Julie, I hope there isn’t any other bugs we don’t know about that will cause problems like these did. We plan to be much more careful from now on working on the farm.

  3. Langela says:

    I have lived in Iowa nearly all of my life and only got bit by chiggers as a child, when I would roll down the hill in the summer. I am outside a lot in the summer working in the gardens and such, so take heart, Gordon, you’ll be fine. Mike always puts a piece of cardboard under him if he has to lay on the ground, but it’s more for dirt than anything. Things may change once you’re there all the time and have things mowed up nicely around the place.

  4. Thanks Langela, I am sure it will be fine too. We have owned the land since 2009 and have worked there many times. This was the first time we have ever had a problem.

  5. I agree with Langela, Gordon. I had some itchy ankles as a kid, running around barefoot. I put rubbing alcohol on them to clear things up.
    I’ve ran around barefoot more the last couple of years and haven’t had a problem. I think things are seasonal and in cycles and highly localized. The biting gnats were terrible around here this year late spring and early summer, but then they always go away. We never have mosquitoes at our house because we are on the top of a hill.
    You’ll figure out all the nuances of your farm, including the insects. I like to think that’s part of the fun. 🙂

  6. Zephyr Hill says:

    Chiggers are HORRIBLE! Especially if you’re really allergic to them, which it sounds like you both are. I am, too. I rode on the tractor fender once when Herb was bush-hogging the hunting preserve next to us, under tons of trees and through long grass. I got devoured–something like 100 or more bites–while he was unscathed. I used to say they love me because I’m sweet, but I actually found out that insects like sour blood, so I guess I can’t say that any more! Hopefully that’s the last time a chigger will get you!

    • I agree Susan, chiggers are HORRIBLE! I am allergic to them, my wife’s bites didn’t swell up as big as mine. I also posted this on Tractor by the Net and I wanted to share what someone commented there. I thought it was a very funny story here it is.

      Well, I can certainly empathize the uncomfortable nature of chiggers. Being #4 of 5 brothers semi annual visits to “granny’s farm” always involved skinny dipping. One time we just threw our clothes on the grass and jumped in the Warrior River and had a great time. We got out and put our underwear, cut offs and t shirts and went about the business of exploring the woods and hills of north Alabama. The next day chiggers had infested our privates and let me tell you I wouldn’t wish that in anyone. If the CIA had used chiggers instead of water boarding they’d probably know far more than they did back then. That was no fun. After 3 days of itching craziness granny unveiled her 100% cure for chiggers……zippo lighter fluid! Of course we were all raw from scratching the itch. When that lighter fluid hit the privates I think I could have outrun a Harley 1200 at least for 1/8 of a mile. Man that burned! Next day no chiggers. I don’t recommend granny’s solution to anyone. The luffa, hot water, and repellent sounds far more ergonomic than zippo.

  7. cathylee says:

    I grew up with chiggers. I understood that they were in bermuda and pasture grasses but not in St. Augustine. Not sure that is true but seemed to be accurate based on my on experience. They tend to climb up and find spots that are warm like the back of the knee and yes the elastic and underwear areas. They climb up and find a favored spot before latching on. They chew and secrete digestive material which causes the irritation. The tried and true treatment we used was to put a dot of fingernail polish on each spot. This kills them (suffocates them) and the spots resolve quickly because the secretion of the digestive material ends. Dusting your lawn with sulfur repels them.

  8. John says:

    Dear Gordon:

    You might find the following link to be interesting and I hope it might also be helpful:

    You know I would also be wary of certain spiders and ticks too – – especially “Deer” ticks which can carry Lyme Disease.

    I have been around countryside settings for a long time now – – and in the Military too – – and I can tell you I never venture outdoors in grassy or wooded areas in the warm weather without my trusty “Deet” and – – of course – – – lots of calamine lotion.

  9. pobept says:

    For some reason this has been a really bad year for chiggers. Use Lots of insect repellent containing DEET,, hot soap showers often, even in the middle of the day,
    Happy Holiday Season

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