An Update On Pine Straw

05/13/2008 03:09 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about pine straw and the division in the state of Georgia between what I call the red counties (that gather up pine straw in the forests of South Georgia) and the blue counties (that dutifully spread the pine straw in their gardens, although they have no idea why they are doing this), a blog which I loosely tied in to musings about the goofy names of prescription medications ("Where Do They Come Up With All Those Goofy Names for Prescription Meds Anyway?"), which is supposed to be the main topic of this blog. Anyway I got some interesting feedback from our South Georgia/North Florida contingent about the topic of pine straw.

Steve (Dusty) wrote:

"I love the description of the pine straw business. Growing up in NW Fla., raking pine straw was one of my least favorite chores.

"Imagine my amusement years later when I learned people would go through neighborhoods asking homeowners if they could "harvest" their pine straw!

"If only there were a big market for grass clippings and dog poo!"

Stephanie wrote:

"That's really funny. But, it's mostly the undocumented workers who gather the pine straw in south Georgia -- it's the legislators who own the companies they work for. So, technically, I am not sure that pine straw could be considered a red-community product. It's more a foreign national product. You actually spread pine straw to smother out weeds and to help the soil retain moisture, but what is kind of ironic is that when it gets too dry and heats up in the southern summer sun, pine straw can spontaneously combust. People in south Georgia almost never, ever use the stuff -- mostly because it's prime real estate for chiggers and if you've ever been bitten or infested by chiggers, then you can understand why south Georgians steer clear of pine straw."

[editorial note: the illegal immigrants would actually prefer to spread the pine straw in metro Atlanta as well. Some times the professionals get confused about the actual balance on their credit cards and tell the illegal immigrants that they don't have enough money to pay them to spread the pine straw and so they spread it themselves].

Writing from presumably somewhere out there in the Blue States, SkooterLiddy said:

"I like that -- the fault line of Georgia below which red staters gather pine needles for blue state-types north of the fault line to scatter in their gardens in a symbiotic relationship. Brings to mind a query from half a generation ago: "Why can't we all just get along?""

And after reading the posts about pine straw I naturally asked the question: What is a chigger?

Here are some definitions from the web:

(chig·ger) the six-legged red larva of a mite of the family Trombiculidae; they infest many vertebrates, especially mammals ...

small tropical flea; the fertile female burrows under the skin of the host including humans
harvest mite: larval mite that sucks the blood of vertebrates including human beings causing intense irritation.

Here is a picture of a chigger.

Here is another description from

"My father revealed that everyone in the family had bad cases of chigger bites. Meanwhile, I began to get kind of feverish and the itching was intense with 50+ bites to contend with. I stayed up all night in my motel room watching old reruns of Leave It to Beaver. Awful!

"Since then we have learned various tricks to avoid the bites. One is to tuck pants legs into socks, so the chiggers end up crawling up your pants rather than your leg. Another is to spray your shoes, socks, and the bottom of your pants leg with insect repellant before a walk. Another is to always shower, with plenty of soap, after every walk in the woods.

"In closing, I'll mention one sure sign that you have chigger bites: the bites are most common at your belt line. The chiggers walk up your legs and body until they meet an obstruction (like the tightness around your belt) and that is where they tend to stop and dig in)".

Hmm. Sounds almost as bad as some of the side effects that people can get from prescription pharmaceuticals.