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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - December 03, 2015

From: Mission, KS
Region: Midwest
Topic: Pests
Title: Avoiding insect bites while gardening in Kansas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I recently moved into Mission, Kansas(Johnson County). Every time I go do any yard work I get a couple of insect bite looking spots on body. They are somewhat painful and very itchy. One of them got infected and I had to go on an antibiotic. I asked around few people around the area but no one seems to know what it could be. I will really appreciate any kind of preventive care advice. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Since I'm not in Kansas I can't give you a definitive answer on what might be biting you.  My first thought, however, is that it could be chiggers. If the bites are occurring on your ankles and leg—especially under your socks, the elastic of your underwear or anywhere your clothing is tight—it might be chiggers.  In general, there are several recommendations for avoiding chiggers and other insect bites outdoors.

  • Wear long pants, long sleeves and gloves while gardening.
  • Use an insect repellent before you go out.  You can buy powdered sulphur at the pharmacy.  Put a small amount in a plastic bag, put your socks inside the bag and shake it before putting them on.  If possible, stuff your trouser legs into your socks.  Or, use a commercial insect repellent containing DEET before you go out.  Spray the commerical repellent on your shoes and pants legs near your ankles and on your long sleeves. 
  • Shower and wash your clothes as soon as possible when you finish your gardening.

K-State Research and Extension has an article about chiggers, Pests That Affect Human Health: Chiggers, that tells you how to treat their bites and how to avoid getting bitten.  Mother Earth News also has advice about how to avoid chiggers.

Visit the K-State Research and Extension webpage for Johnson County.   On this page you will find a link to their Gardening Hotline where you may either telephone or email them questions.  They may have a better idea about what insects might be biting you.

 

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