Chigger Season!

AgriLife Logo

Check out this great article about chiggers written by Mike Merchant of Insects in the City .

If my phone calls are any indication, this appears to be a whopping chigger season.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  You should count your blessings.

Chiggers are my personal worst nightmare. They are tiny mites, barely visible to the eye, that live on the soil surface and, in their larval stage, are parasites on humans and other vertebrate animals. Chigger bites itch terribly for 1-2 days, then slowly shrink to mildly itchy red marks that take 1 or 2 weeks to disappear. The only good thing I can say about chiggers is that, as far as we know, they don’t carry disease.

Bites typically occur in the most sensitive of places, especially around areas of tight clothing (belt line, sock line) and thin, sensitive skin (you can imagine where).

So why do chiggers seem worse this year? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s been our high humidity and above average temperatures the past month. Chiggers love hot and humid.

The most common places to encounter chiggers is in bramble patches, woods and fields with long grass. But in a year like this, chiggers can be a problem even in manicured lawns. Chiggers are often said to prefer shaded areas, but workers in our blazing-sun-drenched turfgrass plots at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center in Dallas have annual problems with chiggers beginning around late May and early June.

Your first protection against chiggers is a good repellent. DEET, our most popular mosquito repellent provides significant protection against chiggers.  Dusting sulfur is a cheap and convenient alternative for some. Traditionally old-time Texans make it a habit to carry around an old sock filled with sulfur (in the pickup truck of course). When getting out of the truck they swing the sock against their shoes and lower legs to dust themselves before they set off to ride, roundup, plant, fix bob wire, or whatever else good Texans do these days.

The larval chigger (circled) is the only biting stage in the chigger life cycle. Larval chigger season runs from May through August in north Texas. Drawing modified from Mullen and Durden, Medical and Veterinary Entomology. Artist: Rebecca L. Nims.

Here are my three tips for self protection in chigger country:

  • Use a good repellent, applying to your shoes, socks and pants legs before stepping into chigger danger.
  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks to make it harder for chiggers to get in your pants and find the tender places.
  • Scrub yourself well in the shower after you think you might have been exposed. Chiggers typically take several hours to settle down and begin feeding. If you can shower before they begin chowing down, you can reduce the number and severity of bites.

If you have chiggers in your lawn or backyard, consider using a liquid insecticide spray like bifenthrin. These sprays can significantly reduce chiggers.  Before spraying, mow your lawn. This reduces humidity on that critical soil surface and makes it easier for sprays to contact the chiggers.

If your lawn is full of dandelions, clover or other flowers, make sure you spray for chiggers in the evening to avoid spraying pollinators, like honey bees, while they are foraging. Follow all label directions to avoid harm to good insects.

Good luck, and may the chiggers stay on the other side of the fence for you this year. For more information about chiggers, see our factsheet, E-365.

 

 

Master Gardener Fundraiser

AgriLife Logo

five below

Spring has sprung!  Looking for inexpensive garden decor and plant kits? Shop five below in Sherman from March 31 to April 15 and 10% of the total dollars spent will be donated back to the Fannin County Master Gardeners.  Just print the flyer and present at checkout.  Thanks for supporting your local master gardeners!

Print

 

GARDENING IN MARCH

March Gardening Tips and Tricks

 

 

 

 

GARDEN TIPS

  • Apply pre-emergent to lawns during the first two weeks of March and water in lightly. Do not use a pre-emergent on grass planted last fall.
  • Be ready to protect tender young plants from late killing frosts with frost cloths.  
  • Watch for fire blight in pears and apples. Branches will suddenly die back from their tips and the leaves will turn dark and stay in place. Cut out the dead branches and be sure to clean your pruners with a 10-percent bleach solution between each cut to avoid spreading the disease.

PLANT

  • This is your last chance to get those cool season leafy green and root crops such as spinach, chard, turnips and beets in the ground. Plant these in the first two weeks of the month.
  • Hold off on the warm season vegetables until after the average date of the last killing frost which is March 26 in our area. These vegetables like warm soil (60 degrees or warmer), so even though you plant the seeds early, they may not germinate until later, or they could rot in the ground.     
  • In the landscape, decide which shrubs and trees you want to add to your yard and shop the nurseries early for the best selection. Nurseries may be able to order any special varieties you want.
  • Purchase cool season annuals such as sweet alyssum as soon as they appear in the garden centers for the longest color.
  • Warm-season annuals such as marigolds, moss rose, pentas and copper plants will be available later in the month.  Remember, these plants like warm soil, so even if they are planted early they will sit until the soil warms up to their liking before they really start to grow. Spend this time getting your beds ready by loosening the soil, pulling winter weeds and working in needed soil amendments such as compost.

 

PRUNE

  • Continue basic clean-up of dead or damaged branches and shaping of shrubs and trees.
  • Remember, most spring-flowering shrubs such as forsythia bloom on their growth from the previous summer so don’t prune your blooms away by cutting back the branches at this time.  

 

FERTILIZE

  • For pecan trees, apply an all-nitrogen fertilizer, mainly near the drip-line at one pound per inch of trunk diameter at ground level.  
  • Fertilize any annuals with a half dose of high-nitrogen fertilizer one week after planting.
  • When the buds begin to swell on trees, shrubs and groundcovers, apply a lawn-type fertilizer.
  • Avoid weed and feed products.
  • Wait to fertilize spring-flowering trees and shrubs until immediately after they finish blooming.

For horticulture questions call 903-583-7453 or email fanninmastergardeners@gmail.com.  

Helpful sites http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/

2018 Garden, Lawn and Home Expo

AgriLife Logo

Saturday, March 24, 2018
8:30 am – 4:00 pm

Bonham Civic Center
Hwy 121 & Hwy 56

Admission: Free/Donations Accepted

Speaker Sessions Free

  • 9am Michael Cook, Denton Co Viticulture Specialist “Backyard Viticulture: Growing Grapes in North Texas”
  • 11am Steve Chamblee, Candor Gardens “Texas Tough 50
  • 1pm Steve Chamblee, Candor Gardens “Great Garden Ideas
  • 2pm Blake Shook, Texas Bee Supply “Hobby Bee Keeping

Food Trucks, Vendor Booths, Silent Auction and Door Prizes

Fannin County Master Gardeners’ Horticulture Conference

Outside seminar with horticulturalist

Bonham Civic Center
Hwy 121
Bonham, Texas 75418

E-Mail: fannin@ag.tamu.edu
Phone: (903)583-7453

Speakers:

Dr. Mike Merchant, Beneficial Insects in the Landscape

Ashley Hartman, North Central Texas College Horticulture Director

Cody Maxwell, Lawn and Turf

Admission: Free / Donations Accepted Speaker Sessions Free