Have you ever spent a fun day outside, only to discover your ankles are covered in itchy red bumps? You may have come face to face with an infestation of chiggers – tiny bugs with a taste for human skin who often strike before they’re even seen.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get rid of chiggers in your yard and get back to enjoying your time outdoors. Read on to learn more about these pesky parasites and how to treat their bites.
What Are Chiggers?
Chiggers are microscopic mites whose bites cause intense itching and reddish welts. It’s a myth that they burrow under the skin and drink blood, but these troublesome bugs still cause a nuisance by feeding on skin cells and hiding out in grassy areas of your yard. Chiggers can feed on human hosts for up to four days, and can survive in your yard for months while waiting for a host.
Also known as red bugs or harvest mites, chigger mites favor humid climates and love to lurk in wooded areas, tall grass, and unkempt weeds. They only bite in the larval stage of their life cycle, after which the nymphs and adult chiggers feed on insects and fellow arachnids.
Looking to get rid of a chigger infestation? Here are the best ways to get rid of chiggers in your lawn.
How to Get Rid of Chiggers Naturally
There are plenty of ways to get rid of chiggers without using inorganic chemical methods that could disrupt the rest of your lawn. Here are some of the best natural methods to get rid of chiggers.
Improve Air Circulation
Practicing healthy lawn care has a host of benefits, including preventing and getting rid of a chigger infestation. Trimming bushes, uprooting weeds, and mowing grass to the appropriate height all help to improve air circulation, which will reduce the moisture buildup that chiggers love.
Keep Host Animals Out
Chiggers can thrive with a steady supply of host animals like squirrels, rats, and birds. To keep these critters away from your yard, make sure to check for and get rid of any rodents taking refuge under your deck or porch.
Done checking under the hood? Cut off potential food and water sources like these:
- Empty flower pots and buckets
- Bird baths and feeders
- Trash cans
- Unfenced garden plots (section these off with a garden border to prevent pests!)
- Unsealed compost bins
Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is an organic pesticide that works wonders for yard pest control. Sprinkling a small amount (around 5 pounds per thousand square feet) across your yard will dry chiggers out and cause them to die off, returning your yard to the pest-free landscape you love.
Diatomaceous earth is very versatile, and can be sprinkled dry in a ring around the affected area to isolate it. You can also dissolve it in water – around 4 tablespoons per gallon – to create a spray that will help it stick to hard-to-reach areas. Make sure to use food-grade diatomaceous earth to stay safe, and wear gloves, a mask, and goggles while applying it to avoid irritation.
Note: diatomaceous earth can also kill important beneficial insects. To make sure it only gets rid of the chiggers, target affected areas instead of spreading it across the entire yard, and cover them with a tarp for a few days leading up to application.
How to Get Rid of Chiggers with Inorganic Chemicals
Insecticide treatment can help with severe chigger infestations, but should be combined with yard care treatments and other natural remedies to make sure your chiggers don’t come back. If you’re looking for a pesticide solution to get rid of chiggers fast, look for these varieties:
Target pesticide application to focus on chigger-infested areas that people may come into contact with. Always follow label directions, and keep children and pets away from areas where you’ve applied pesticides until they’re dry.
How to Prevent Chigger Bites
While you’re trying to get rid of the chiggers in your yard, you’ll want to know how to avoid those painful itchy welts they leave behind. Chigger larvae target areas of exposed skin or warm folds, such as ankles and armpits. Wear protective clothing like long sleeves and pant legs while working in the yard, and use insect repellent bug spray before going outside.
How to Treat Chigger Bites
Unfortunately, trying to get rid of chiggers in your yard can leave you dealing with bites. If you discover chigger bites on your skin after lawn work, take a hot shower with soapy water and a washcloth to reduce inflammation.
Try not to scratch the bites, as this can result in secondary infections. Applying hydrocortisone, antiseptic, or a cold compress can provide relief. Home remedies like nail polish to “suffocate” chiggers are ineffective, as they don’t actually burrow into skin.
FAQ About Chiggers
The tell-tale sign of a chigger infestation is chigger bites. These itchy red bumps are often found in armpits and ankles, and can resemble pimples, mosquito bites, or hives at first, though they grow bigger over the course of a few days and typically appear in groups.
Want to make sure you’re dealing with chiggers and not mosquitoes or another garden pest? Try walking through your yard with long protective white socks or sticking a piece of cardboard into your grass vertically. If you find tiny red mites latching on or running from the bottom to the top, you’ve got chiggers.
Chigger bites will heal on their own after a couple weeks, but removing these pesky pests from your yard will require some hands-on lawn care. If left alone, they can spread through your yard and survive for months while waiting for a host before they overwinter in the soil.
Unlike bed bugs, chiggers cannot live on their own in your bed or your home. They need to latch onto a warm body to feast on constantly in order to develop into nymphs. However, they can stick around on human hosts for up to four days.
When to Call a Professional
Chiggers are troublesome pests that can wreak havoc on an otherwise peaceful lawn. If you’re itching to get rid of a chigger infestation, don’t put yourself at risk of their painful itchy bites. LawnStarter connects you with lawn care professionals who will handle the overgrown grass and weeds in your yard, sending those chiggers packing.