If one takes a bath in salt water every night before retiring, he can keep fairly rid of these unwelcome guests. A surer preventive is to rub kerosene on the wrists, neck, ankles, and abdominal region. Powdered sulphur dusted into one's drawers and stocking legs will do if one keeps out of the bushes. Naphthaline may be used successfully in the same manner.
The country people sometimes rub themselves with salty bacon-rind before going outdoors, and claim that this is a preventive; also that kerosene will do as well. If one keeps an old suit of clothes expressly for chigger-time, puts the suit in a closet, and fumigates it thoroughly with the smoke of burning tobacco stems, no chigger will touch him. Alas! that the preventives should all be so disagreeable.
When chiggers have burrowed underneath the skin, neither salt, nor oil, nor turpentine, nor car-bolized ointment, nor anything else that I have tried will kill them, save mercurial ointment or the tincture of stavesacre seed, both of which are dangerous if incautiously used. After much experiment, I found that chloroform, dropped or rubbed on each separate welt, will stop the itching for several hours. It is quite harmless, and pleasant enough to apply.
Moderately strong ammonia, or a saturated solution of baking soda, will suffice if applied as soon as the itching is felt, but they are useless if treatment is delayed. In the latter case, I would use tincture of iodine. It is said that collodion brushed ovei each welt wrill act as a specific, but I have had no chance to try it.
The chigger seems particularly fond of the butterfly-weed or pleurisy-root. It is seldom much of a nuisance until the middle of June, and generally disappears in the latter part of September.
The chigoe or sand-flea of Mexico, Central America, and South America, is a larger and more formidable pest than our little red-bug. It attacks, preferably, the feet, especially under the nail of the great toe, and between the toes. The insect burrows there, becomes encysted, swells enormously from the development of her young, and thus sets up an intolerable itching in the victim's skin. If the female is crushed or ruptured in the tumor she has formed, the result is likely to be amputation of the toe, if nothing worse. She should be removed entire by careful manipulation with a needle. This chigoe is a native of tropical America, but seems to be gradually spreading northward.
About 1872 it was introduced into Africa, and spread with amazing rapidity over almost the entire continent. It will probably soon invade southern Europe and Asia.
The wood-ticks that fasten on man are, like the chiggers, not true insects, but arachnids, related to the scorpions and spiders. They are leathery-skinned creatures of about the same size and shape as a bedbug, but of quite different color and habits. They " use " on the under side of leaves of low shrubs, and thence are detached to the person of a passer-by just as chiggers are. They also abound in old mulchy wood, and are likely to infest any log that a tired man sits on. They hang on like grim death, and if you try to pull one off your skin, its head will break off and remain in the epidermis, to create a nasty sore. The ticks that infest birds, bats, sheep, and horses, are true insects, in no wise related to the wood-ticks, dog-ticks, and cattle-ticks. The cattle-tick is responsible for the fatal disease among cattle that is known as Texas fever.
Preventive measures are the same as for chiggers.
To remove a tick without breaking off its head, drop oil on it, or clap a quid of moistened tobacco on it, or touch it with nicotine from a pipe, or stand naked in the dense smoke of a green-wood fire, or use whiskey externally, or hot water, or flame; in either case the tick will back its way out. The meanest ticks to get rid of are the young, which are known as " seed-ticks." They are hard to discover until they have inflamed the skin, and then are hard to remove because they are so small and fragile. A man may find himself covered with hundreds of them. In such case let him strip and rub himself with kerosene, or, lacking that, steep some tobacco or a strong cigar in warm water and do the same with it. They will drop off.
The punkie or " no-see-um " of our northern wildwoods, and its cousins the biting gnats and stinging midges of southern and western forests, are minute bloodsuckers that, according to my learned friend Professor Comstock, live, " under the bark of decaying branches, under fallen leaves, and in sap flowing from wounded trees".
With all due deference to this distinguished entomologist, I must aver that they don't live there when I am around; they seem particularly fond of sap flowing from wounded fishermen. Dope will keep them from biting you, but it won't keep them out of your eyes. Punkies are particularly annoying about sunset. They seem to know just when and where you will be cleaning the day's catch of trout, and that you will then be completely at their mercy. At such times you will agree that they beat all creation for pure, downright cussedness. Oil of citronella will protect your face and neck, but you can't have it on your hands when cleaning the fish, Punkies can't stand a smudge.
The common house-fly, which, as Dr. Howard suggests, should be called the typhoid-fly, is often a great nuisance in camps. Screening of tents and of food supplies is the only sure remedy. Burning insect powder (pyrethrum) will drive them out of a tent or cottage, and that is also a good way to get rid of the wood cockroaches that sometimes are attracted by the lights of the camp and proceed to make themselves offensively at home.
Sometime you may elect to occupy an abandoned lumber camp while on an outing. My advice is, pass it by: not all its inhabitants have moved away. Any shack in the woods may harbor bedbugs. If you must use such a place, don't forget the kerosene can.