Chiggers (Trombiculidae) are mites, similar in behavior to ticks, but they don’t feed on blood – they eat the skin. In their larval phase, chiggers live a parasitical life, often infesting yards and gardens, which is why homeowners wonder how to get rid of chiggers in yards.
Chiggers aren’t dangerous in most cases but the itching they cause following a bite can be unbearable. That’s why they must be eliminated and prevented from infesting your home and, in this article, I’ll be sharing how to do precisely that.
- Where Do Chiggers Live?
- What Attracts Chiggers?
- How To Prevent Chiggers Infesting Your Property
- Removing Chiggers in Your Home
- Preventing Chigger Bites
- Final Thoughts on Chiggers In Yards
- FAQs How to Get Rid of Chiggers in Yards
Where Do Chiggers Live?
These mites are found throughout the whole world, aside from sub-Saharan Africa, parts of the Middle East, and arctic areas. They’re most common in warm and humid climates.
When it comes to habitat, they like damp areas with low shrubs and tall grass, while they’re often found in weeds as well as the foliage of various plants.
Their concentration is, simply put, ‘chaotic’. You might find plenty of chiggers concentrated in a small area – a few shrubs, for example – and then not see any chiggers for a mile.
It’s not uncommon to find chiggers in the yard or in the garden, especially if it’s somewhat overgrown or has a lot of tall grass and shrubs.
Chiggers are most active during early summer as vegetation is the heaviest then.
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What Attracts Chiggers?
Chiggers aren’t too picky with their habitat. As I mentioned above, all they need is tall grass and shrubbery. However, they won’t inhabit areas with no food and shelter. Let’s take a look at what might attract them to your yard:
Heavy Vegetation and Brush
Heavy vegetation, such as shrubbery, uncut grass, bushes, and orchard, is a common place to locate chigger. That said, they can also be found — on occasion — in low vegetation, and it’s not uncommon to receive a bite or two after you have been to a park or on the golf course.
Why is heavy vegetation necessary for these mites? Because they wait for an animal passing by to attach themselves and feed. Doing this in low grass is much more difficult, if not impossible.
Aside from that, adult chiggers feed on plant material and small arthropods (and their eggs) – all of those things are found in dense vegetation. The chigger that humans are bitten by is the larva chigger.
Chiggers are often found in areas that contain food waste for two reasons. Firstly, food waste attracts other animals. You’d be wrong to think that chiggers depend on humans to feed – they’ll attach themselves to any animal that passes by.
Secondly, food waste often provides good cover, especially if there’s food wrapping around (which usually retains moisture). So, not only is food waste very ugly to see in a yard, but it’s actually an attractant for chiggers.
Chiggers display parasitic behavior only during their larval phase. At that time, they’ll attach themselves to a host and eat skin cells. This is why host animals attract them as their skin cells are the only source of food.
What do I mean by host animal? Well, anything with skin will do. Humans, dogs, cats, horses, rats, and field mice, as well as birds. The last three species are especially concerning.
It would be almost impossible to completely safeguard yourself from chiggers. But what are you supposed to do? Never go to the garden again?
What you can do is minimize host animals such as rodents and birds, and by doing that, you’re minimizing the chance of chiggers breeding in your yard.
How To Prevent Chiggers Infesting Your Property
Now that we know what attracts these pests to your garden, let’s see what you can do to prevent them from nesting there.
Regularly Mow Your Lawn
As explained earlier, chiggers love tall and dense vegetation. This includes tall, unmown lawns. Although they’re sometimes found in low-grass areas such as golf courses and parks, it’s important to point out that this is an exception, not a rule.
It’s easier for them to attach themselves to host animals in tall grass.
Mowing your lawn is bad for chiggers and good for you for two reasons. Firstly, it makes it more difficult for them to attach themselves to an animal. Secondly, mowing the lawn regularly promotes air circulation and the area dries out faster.
Just like all animals, chiggers need water and also like some moisture, so they don’t do well in particularly arid areas. This is also connected to breeding, as females lay eggs in plentiful and slightly moist vegetation – dry lawns are no good for that.
So, keeping your lawn regularly mown just a few inches above the ground is a great way to control them.
Remove Overgrown Areas
Overgrown areas, be they shrubs you planted or weeds that have grown on their own, need to be removed as soon as possible. They provide chiggers with everything they need to thrive.
Firstly, overgrown areas often retain moisture more than maintained areas. They also provide chiggers with tall vegetation which is perfect for transferring themselves to a host.
Another bad thing about overgrown areas is that they’re usually thriving with life. Birds love shrubbery and they’ll sometimes build nests there. Rats and mice are also attracted to them. This provides chiggers with plenty of host animals.
If you’re looking at how to get rid of chiggers in the yard, cutting down on overgrown areas is one of the first things you have to do.
Keep Your Garden Tidy & Free From Rubbish
The main reason you likely want to maintain a tidy garden is to keep it beautiful, but when it comes to chiggers, it’s just as important.
Untidy gardens attract vermin, which are often host animals for chiggers. This works the same way as the previous entry – if you remove rubbish from your garden, you remove host animals for chiggers.
Additionally, adult chiggers are attracted by rubbish. Whereas they don’t feed on skin cells as larva chiggers do, they will lay eggs and create new chiggers.
The reason adult chiggers are attracted by rubbish is that they feed on things found in rubbish – animal parts and plant material. They also feed on small arthropods that are attracted to rubbish too.
For these two reasons, make sure to regularly pick up the rubbish in your garden.
Discourage Host Animals
Lastly, don’t forget to discourage host animals. You can do this in several ways. Get rat and mouse traps, which are very effective at killing them, while you can also use deterrents.
When it comes to birds, they’re a bit more difficult to handle because of their flying capabilities. The most effective way of keeping birds at bay is by casting a net over your garden.
Doing this will also prevent birds from coming for your tomatoes and your grapes. And with them come chiggers.
Another great way of deterring both birds and vermin is by using a guard dog that will scare these ‘chigger-host’ animals away with their bark.
Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth on Affected Areas
Diatomaceous earth is a compound made from fossilized remains of aquatic organisms. These organisms are full of silica, and silica makes insects dry out by absorbing the oils and fats from the insect’s body.
Insects have to be oily to survive.
Insects don’t need to ingest diatomaceous earth to die – they just need to come in contact with it, which is why simply spreading it around your yard is very effective at keeping insects at bay.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, diatomaceous earth (DE) products are recommended for use against mites, fleas, spiders, and other common insect pests.
When using DE to kill chiggers in the yard, make sure you don’t use too much of it. While killing chiggers, you could also accidentally kill beneficial insects, such as bees and wasps.
As you would expect, insecticides are the most straightforward way of killing chiggers. However, before explaining how insecticides work and how to use them, it’s important to point out that they’re not a long-term solution.
Insecticides will kill all chiggers they come in contact with if applied properly, but they won’t keep them at bay for long. To prevent them from returning, maintain your garden and discourage host animals.
When using insecticides, it’s best to apply them to areas where chiggers congregate in great numbers. This applies not only to shrubs and tall grass, but also to borders and fences, footpaths, and dog houses.
The most effective products are the ones containing active ingredients such as bifenthrin, carbaryl, cyhalothrin, and permethrin.
It’s best to use the insecticides in late April, while severe infestations call for more than a single application.
Before opting for pesticide use, make sure to check your county’s guidelines on whether effective pesticides are even legal. Some of the active ingredients mentioned above are illegal in certain countries.
Lastly, we’d like to remind you, once again, that insecticides are an instant solution, but they won’t keep chiggers at bay forever.
Call In the Professionals
Chiggers are pretty straightforward to control, so I’d only recommend calling in the professionals if you’re facing a severe infestation and the methods you tried simply don’t work.
Professionals have more experience than you do and they’ll definitely be able to end the invasion. Most professional treatment of chiggers is based on the use of insecticides and treating the areas that will attract them in the future.
They employ methods explained in this article, they’re just far more experienced when compared to an amateur. Professional pest exterminators also have professional equipment that makes the job easier.
The experience you get when hiring a professional exterminator, however, is the most valuable asset. They’ll know how to keep the chiggers at bay for good, and some companies offer the services of recurring treatments.
Removing Chiggers in Your Home
I have great news when it comes to indoor chigger infestations – they don’t last long! They’re not the type of mite that can survive indoors and they’ll die very quickly.
Chiggers are usually brought inside on clothing or on pets but the infestation can be ended quickly by vacuuming the house thoroughly. Use a disinfectant to treat the entire home, as that will kill any living chiggers (if any remain by that point).
There’s absolutely no need to use insecticides inside of a home. It’s overkill, not to mention that it’s very dangerous to the people living in the house.
Avoiding Future Chigger Infestations
You can’t exactly stop animal migrations but you can make your yard and your garden as unappealing as possible. You can do this by mowing your lawn regularly and eliminating any overgrown areas.
If you’re a person who spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure to examine your clothes every time you come home and keep your arms and legs covered whilst you are out. This is the most common way that chiggers get carried into a home.
Aside from those two things, there’s really not much more you can do to prevent chiggers from invading your home. While they’re annoying pests, they’re not difficult to get rid of, and following the steps explained above will be enough to keep them away.
Preventing Chigger Bites
When it comes to personal protection, this is especially important when going for a walk in nature. The best way to prevent bites is by excluding chiggers from their preferred host – your skin.
You can do this by wearing long pants, not short, long-sleeved shirts and boots – not sandals – when walking around in nature.
Fabrics that are tightly woven have proven to be more effective than loosely-woven fabrics because it makes it more difficult for chiggers to penetrate clothing.
To prevent any chiggers from getting in your pants, tuck the pants inside of your boots.
When it comes to choosing where you walk, avoid unmown fields and overgrow areas if you can. As a lover of the great outdoors myself, I understand that this isn’t always an option, but chigger populations are denser in overgrown areas. For that reason, stick to the beaten path on hiking trails.
Make sure to use insect repellents on yourself. According to Michigan State University, repellents containing diethyl toluamide, picaridan, sulphur powder, or permethrin are effective against chiggers – the active ingredient will be listed on the label. Know that permethrin and sulphur powder can only be used on clothes, not on your skin.
Chiggers can’t attach themselves immediately, so you have a good chance of getting them off your skin if you notice them in time. Take a shower as soon as you get home. This will help to get any stragglers off your body.
Lastly, don’t forget to wash the clothes you’ve worn and all the gear you carried with you. Chiggers can be brought in on blankets, backpacks, etc.
Treating Chigger Bites
Although chiggers die quickly after you rip them off and throw them away, the bite spot will be irritated until your body naturally dissolves the enzymes and repairs the damage.
To remove chiggers, jump in a hot bath – the water will kill any remaining chiggers. You can also use soap, applied in a thick layer, to kill the chiggers too. Simply ripping them off will also kill them, but the tiny proboscis they use to bite could remain lodged in your body.
If you’re having a particularly hard time with the itching and the irritation, ask your physician to prescribe you a local anesthetic. I would advise against using any remedies before speaking to your doctor about it.
When it comes to home remedies, a cold compress is all you can use to minimize the itching. The wound itself will heal in a few days and the itching will subside.
Are Chigger Bites Dangerous?
Chigger bites don’t pose much of a threat to people. The only consequence is trombiculosis – the rash caused by the chigger bite.
These tiny mites normally don’t carry any diseases in North America, although they are considered a dangerous pest in East Asia because they carry a bacteria that causes scrub typhus – also known as Japanese river disease.
Final Thoughts on Chiggers In Yards
When it comes to how to get rid of chiggers in yards and homes, prevention is the best solution. Eliminate their breeding and feeding areas – overgrown lawns, weeds, and shrubs. You also have to eliminate host animals, such as rats and birds, as they often bring chiggers into the yard.
Insecticides, while effective, are not a long-term solution, and they should always be backed up with long-term maintenance methods. Chiggers, thankfully, aren’t dangerous to people in North America and they’re easy to kill.