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Hello, this is Donna Teasley, horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center.

Picking blackberries, picnics, hikes, camping trips, fishing on a river bank are all great activities for the summer, and harmless, so you think! But, there’s an almost invisible danger out there just waiting for the oblivious outdoorsman. Meet the chigger: a tiny eight-legged mite that will quietly attach itself to your skin and cause misery for up to three weeks.

Chiggers live in tall weeds and grasses, blackberry thickets and wooded areas. It’s the larva of the chigger that bites humans. The larvae have claws which they use to attach themselves to the skin when someone brushes up against vegetation. Itching can start within a few hours and last for up to three weeks.

Contrary to popular beliefs, chiggers don’t burrow under the skin. Using products such as clear nail polish to smother the mites don’t work. Antiseptics should be used and anti-itch products are also helpful. If exposure is suspected, an immediate hot shower is suggested.

The use of insect repellents can help prevent chigger bites. Apply to shoe tops, cuffs and neck openings and don’t forget waistbands. Also, when picking blackberries, long sleeved shirts and pants are recommended with shoes and socks. Tuck pant legs in to socks. When hiking, stay in the middle of the trail and refrain from sitting on fallen logs.

This is Donna Teasley with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center. If you would like more information about this program you can call us at 764-9480.