Alabama outside: Chiggers, redbugs and ticks, Oh My!


So the autumn hunting season is just around the corner, which means that it is time for all of us to remember that in our search for something to eat, there are already things that we want to eat.

No, not the elusive Alabama black panther – much smaller, but no less bloodthirsty.

This is the time of year when many, many pigeon hunters, deer hunters, and others who make the mistake of sitting for hours in the grain fields and in the pine straw are forcibly reminded that there are plenty of biting bugs out there.

I forgot to scout a field for pigeons a week ago. I sat under a pine tree for about 30 minutes to watch the birds fly into a cornfield, and when I got up I took a bunch of local residents with me.

On Sunday morning, I woke up with not dozens, but hundreds of chigger bites on my feet, legs and torso. The aggravating thing about it – aside from the constant itch, of course – is that I know better, having made this mistake a few times over the years.

The itching doesn’t go away overnight. It takes three to four days at full intensity, and in the meantime the bites will be fine and make you look like you have chickenpox. It takes a couple of weeks for them to heal completely.

Chiggers are only a bit larger than a pencil point, but they have a medium bite and are able to dig a hole in your skin, inject saliva, and digest a nice little pothole of your flesh in a matter of days. And meanwhile you itches like crazy.

Besides, the chiggers aren’t the worst. We also have many more ticks in many forests than we need, and not only do these creatures cling to you and suckle your blood, they can also give you Lyme disease, which can be very difficult to cure if not detected early.

There are of course simple ways to avoid these diseases. One should never sit in the woods or anywhere with ground cover, but that’s pretty inconvenient for those of us who look almost as excited about fall hunting as we are about fall football.

Better to start off with a high DEET insect repellent like Deep Woods Off!

Next, wear long pants and socks and tuck the pant legs into the socks. Ditto for shirts – tuck them tightly into your pants and spray the repellant around all of the cuffs and around your waistline, as well as around your collar.

Spray your hat on too – I’ve got half a dozen chigger bites on my head.

If you get bitten despite taking precautions, WebMD tells us the best remedy is calamine lotion or cortisone spray. Benadryl capsules can also help you avoid feeling the itchiness. Just be careful with excessive scratching because those tiny hickey can get infected and then you have a whole host of other problems. Doping the bites with nail polish, a folk remedy, is not recommended, although I have gotten some relief from it in the past. Freezing the bites can also help, as can a cool shower before bed.

The only good thing about the autumn infestation of stinging insects is that it doesn’t last and you wake up with the first hard frost happy that the little bloodsuckers have all turned to ice crystals – although they somehow manage to let many heirs hatch in the spring.