WON Landing Page OCT 2022

Babbs in the Woods: Chigger City, SD — Population? Millions and millions

My sister and I stood in the kitchen at the lodge in South Dakota waiting impatiently for her fancy schmancy coffee maker with the grinder included to color some water brown for us. We’d been up late the night before and needed a caffeine boost to head out to the prairie again in the morning to find dog towns.

Our annual summer vacation tradition includes prairie dog eradication efforts in central South Dakota. Thanks to my sister and her husband, we have a home base, a headquarters, surrounded by hayfields and pheasants – and infested by chiggers.

She lifted her nightgown and really, I didn’t want to look but I did anyway. About a two-foot band of chigger “bites” covered her body from mid-stomach to mid-thigh – all around. “Holy cow!” I exclaimed. She grabbed the Windex from below the sink and started spraying herself in front. “Spray my behind!” she commanded.

Later that night, she sat in a bleach bath and reported that her efforts had been greatly rewarded, even though she appeared to be two shades lighter from her waist down. I did not verify those results. Meanwhile, our “organic and holistic” sister (who was not with us at the time) remains horrified at the prospects of after-effects of Windex and bleach in our chigger sister’s bloodstream.

I did not realize that chiggers lived and thrived in South Dakota. I am quite familiar with them here in my home in the Ozarks. Chiggers, aka trombiculidae, are referred to as red bug, scrub-itch mites and of course, in their larval stage, chiggers.

A primer on chiggers

From (what else) Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia …

After crawling onto their host, they inject digestive enzymes into the skin that break down skin cells. They do not actually “bite,” but instead form a hole in the skin called a stylostome and chew up tiny parts of the inner skin, thus causing severe irritation and swelling. The severe itching is accompanied by red pimple-like bumps (papules) or hives and skin rash or lesions on a sun-exposed area. For humans, itching usually occurs after the larvae detach from the skin.

It’s been a couple of weeks, and my sis reports that all she has to deal with now are thousands of scabs. Of course, if you want to offer your chigger advice, please feel free to do so here. ~Barbara Baird

My sis and me in front of the D&E cafe in Wood, SD. That's her husband's hat. Photo by Jason Baird.

  • About Barbara Baird

    Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. Her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at https://www.ozarkian.com.


The Conversation

  • Shannon E says: August 7, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Mrs. Barb
    I recently had an ecounter with what we call “red bugs”. I don’t know how but they were all over my backside. As most have already said it was not fun. The best itch relief i found was benzocane cream. It’s a tad bit stronger than cortizone and not quite as toxic as bleech. hope this helps.

  • The Hunting Consultant says: August 3, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    I lived in Mountain Home, Arkansas for a little less than a year and discovered chiggers for the first there. We are now back in Wyoming and Chigger free.


  • Nancy Jo Adams says: August 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    CHIGGERS are a way of outdoor life here in the South! What works for me? …..White Distilled Vinegar, a rag and a good rub down in the affected area. The acid in the distilled vinegar help return the nasty little acidity bites to a tolerable PH level until they heal. But I have used fingernail polish and/or Duct Tape…yes, Duct Tape…that seems to fix EVERYTHING in the SOUTH. 🙂 Cut small squares and put them over the bites where air cannot get to the bite, it seems to help very well.

    As far as preventing the bites all together, I just use deet on my hunting boots. I don’t like to put deet on my skin, so I only spray it on my pant legs and boots.

    Oh, and Zink is also good for fading age/sun spots and helps heal on the cellular level. Hmmm….where did that come from?

    Nancy Jo

  • Babbs says: July 30, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Yes, Tracey, we do investigative journalism here at The WON and spare our readers no gory details.

    Tammy … WOW! I didn’t know you talked like that in print. 😉 Big wink atcha.
    And … thanks for the Zinc tip!

  • Tammy says: July 30, 2010 at 11:32 am


    Love the Ozarks!!!. Been there, done that &%$?>(*.%#+%. I was working out in the garden and clearing brush and the next morning was pink all over. If I had not know better, I would have thought I had the chicken pox again. Tried Lye Soap, no relief. Took a bleach bath and was relieved tremendously.. Someone told me that if you are low in Zinc, they will attack. Now to keep from being attacked again, I take a Zinc Pill religiously everyday. It works.

    Good Luck

  • tracey says: July 29, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    i could have done without the burrowing in the skin part.. gross! glad it’s all over!

  • Babbs says: July 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Does this mean, NorCal, that you will not come to Missouri to hunt turkeys with me?

  • NorCal Cazadora says: July 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I am horrified. It’s too soon after my tick nightmare to even contemplate this scene!

  • Kathlene says: July 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    LOL. I love that hat.

    That is too much. I did not know chiggers grew that far north. But I did find a nest or three in Kansas when Dorothy, Toto and I were looking for the Tin Man one summer. We followed them or they followed us to Missouri. Whichever the case maybe I think they crossed with some rabbits along the way, because they were thicker than thieves there.

    That is when I started trying to burn them off with lighted gasoline, then putting it out with an ice pick. It was not a pretty sight to say the least.

    Please do not go skinny dipping in bleach and window cleaner. Good grief, that stuff will kill you if the chiggers don’t. Don’t you know they use to fight wars with that stuff?

    That is when threw my hands in the air and spent most of one night on the internet looking for a cure and found one. If you will forgive a shameless plug for the good guys that actually do give what they say give them try.

    http://chigger-treatment.com I hope this helps you all. It sure saved my life. It is well worth the couple of bucks they ask for it, believe me.

  • Women's Outdoor News says: July 29, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Gretchen … I figured you’d have a battle plan, girl. And hey, The Hunter’s Wife, when you write “a fun summer night on a Florida beach,” what do you mean? 😉

  • The Hunter's Wife says: July 29, 2010 at 9:34 am

    I’ve been to the emergency room from them after a fun summer night on a Florida beach. OUCH!!! Nothing like trying to enjoy nights out on the town spraying Benadryl all over yourself. I tried everything … seems the Benadryl did help stop the itching for about 2 minutes. LOL Can’t remember how many bottles I went though.

  • Gretchen Steele says: July 29, 2010 at 9:31 am

    An arteest is born! Oh Barb – Chiggers here are big PITA – literally; Do I have advice not really – I can tell you a thousand things that don’t work.. and not too much that does.
    My battle plan is prevention ( folks who don’t look too close think the flea collars around my ankles are really those little rubber bracelety things) then scrub and I do mean scrub with a brush and antibacterial soap as soon as I get in from the field…think of it as a exfoliating spa treatment if it makes all the scrubbing more bearable. Then there’s always the duct taping all of the openings of your clothes shut method .. but if you don’t add the tin foil hat to that ensemble it just looses something in translation..
    Thanks for making me grin!