Sunday, July 24, 2011

Signs of Summer

Having been a Midwesterner my whole life, I have had the mixed blessing of four extremely distinct seasons.  This year, here in Bloomington, we've enjoyed a more than 100° Fahrenheit range in temperature between January and July.  Summer has always meant a few things to me:  tremendous thunderstorms, oppressive heat, and the endless droning of cicadas.  This year I have added a dubious fourth member to that hallowed list: chiggers.

I had never gotten a chigger bite that I can recall until a few years ago (I have still yet to get poison ivy, which I don't appear to be sensitive to):  I made the mistake of cutting through some high weeds when wearing shorts, and had a half dozen incredibly itchy little red dots to show for it.

This year, while engaged in field work around town, I have done a very large amount of standing in one place holding an extremely accurate GPS unit, frequently in unkempt yards.  For minutes at a time.  As a result, by the end of the first week of data collection, I had upward of 400 chigger bites.  I never counted them all, but one afternoon in a lull in a meeting I counted the angry red marks on my lower right leg.  From ankle to knee, I had about 90.  I knew there were a dozen more on below my ankle, and that my upper leg was just as bad.  And this was the good leg.   I didn't sleep well for nearly a week afterward, ate antihistamines like candy, and applied quite a lot of various creams.

I also started tucking my pants into my boots, and wearing insect repellent. This worked alright, and I only got a dozen or so new bites the next week, and all of these below the ankle.  Seems the chiggers avoided the spray by going down into my boot, and through my sock.  After that, I applied bug spray, and then tucked my pants into my boot.  That worked even better.

It has probably also helped that it has been exceptionally hot, as chiggers apparently don't like extremely hot surfaces.  And surely all the sweat pouring out of my pores has deterred them from trying to bite me.

To be certain, I have acquired some Chigg Away ("the soldier's choice"), a sulfur containing emulsion to add to my field kit.  I will apply this under my clothes, and then spray on top of my clothes.  This may seem extreme, but consider that one of the reviewers of Chigg Away I came across online (and now can't seem to find) was a soldier who was sent to the hospital after a week in the field, and 200 chigger bites.

I've still been having a good time, however.  And I got to see this rather sullen individual:

Sullen Turtle

I didn't want to annoy it further by picking it up and checking to see if it was a male or female (Eastern box turtle males have an indentation in their shell, to allow them to mount females).  First time I've seen one, so that was nice.

I'll keep everyone update on my personal war on chiggers.
I'm sure y'all can hardly wait.


  1. Post the pic of your God-forsaken legs in the tub!

  2. I do have some sense of decency, you know. Also, you've got the picture, not me.