These reddish-orange mites are so irritating that they have a local reference everywhere they wreak havoc. They also go by chigger mites, red bugs, berry bugs, scrub-itch mites, harvest mites, and harvest lice.
They will attach themselves to a host (human or animal) with their tiny claws, feed off their skin cells, and fall off eventually, leaving itchy and irritating welts, bumps, and rashes in their wake.
It has been established that they thrive in humid swamps, grassy areas, thickets, forests, and shady wooded areas (Because chigger larvae are microscopic, they are constantly at risk of dehydration and will favor moist areas to feel safe).
This information enabled us to develop efficient systems to eliminate chiggers from our properties that we are glad to share. This article goes beyond merely getting rid of chiggers in your yard to even mounting an effective defense against them.
Stick around if you prefer to keep your skin in one piece like us.
The Chigger Life Cycle
Chigger larvae are responsible for most chigger bites you or your pets will suffer. As soon as they hatch from their eggs, the larvae will head to the nearest vegetation for cover while searching for their first prey.
They will crawl up your pet or your shoes and legs as you pass through the scrub and infect you and/or your pet with a chigger bite. They have claws that they use to attach themselves to the unwilling host.
These parasites don’t bite to suck your blood like mosquitoes; instead, they burrow into the skin like hookworms. They will drill tiny holes into the skin with their feeding tube and secrete specialized salivary enzymes that disintegrate your skin cells.
They slurp in the liquefied skin cells that are already halfway digested, which constitutes the chigger larva meal. After having their fill of skin cells, they will leave the host and live out the rest of their larva phase in vegetation, feeding on the vegetation until they morph into adult chiggers.
This skin drilling and introduction of foreign enzymes for digestion make these parasites unbearable to humans and pets. The skin will become sore and extremely itchy. It triggers irritation and the formation of sensitive pimple-like bumps or hives and, in some cases, skin rash where the mites are attached to the body. The bite area is compromised and prone to infection from too much scratching.
1. Eliminate Their Preferred Habitat from Your Yard
To prevent a chigger infestation, mow the lawn often, pull out weeds from the landscaping, and rake up leafy areas to get rid of humid spots and cover. A chigger infestation accumulates at the base of tall grass and waits for potential hosts to pass by so they can attach themselves.
Straw piles, wood chips, mulch, tall gardens, tall grass, shady areas, and thick vegetation conceal chiggers and should be handled as hot spots if they can’t be completely avoided. To prevent a chigger habitat, you can use purchased compost or hardwood mulch for your garden instead of pine needles which are like home to chiggers.
2. Treat the Whole Yard for Chiggers at Least Once a Month
This will go a long way in breaking the chigger development cycle as they will never get to reproduce, and the entire generation will eventually die off.
During the spring and fall seasons, pay closer attention as the moderate temperatures provide a conducive environment for chiggers to thrive. They also get additional coverage from the leaves that are shed and dense vegetation.
The heat and dry conditions of summer unsettle them, and so does the cold and lack of vegetation during winter. However, certain areas don’t experience these extreme weather changes, and you should be vigilant throughout the year if your yard is in one of these regions.
Before settling on a chigger treatment for your yard, consider your plants. Bear in mind that flowers blossom and plants sprout in spring; conditions are favorable for chiggers around the same time. You don’t want to eliminate their pollinators along with the pests.
Some of the plants in your yard might also be consumables, and their treatment should be non-toxic to humans to enable consistency in treatment until harvest time.
Getting Rid of Chiggers in Your Lawn
Before applying the treatment, you should mow down the lawn to reduce humidity and expose the soil surface. This will make it easier for the treatment to get to the actual chiggers. A liquid insecticide spray allows you to broadcast the treatment throughout the entire yard. Focus on the boundaries of your property, regular paths used by people and pets, and potential chigger hiding spots.
This concentrated indoor/outdoor insecticide by Compare-N-Save has a 7.9% bifenthrin composition. Bifenthrin interferes with the nervous system of insects when they ingest or touch it and binds tightly with the soil for maximum effectiveness.
Getting Rid of Chiggers in Your Garden
The treatment approach changes when your yard has food or flower gardens. Flowers are pollinated by insects which will also be affected by the insecticides. You should spray for chiggers when these beneficial insects are not active, like in the late evening.
Consuming too much of the chemical sprays might also have detrimental health effects on humans in the long run. Organic solutions are the safest bet in such instances where you need to cover all your angles.
Bonide’s Ready-To-Use Captain Jack’s Neem Oil is an organic insecticide that can do a perfect job of getting rid of chiggers in your yard. It provides a three-in-one functionality advantage because it’s an insecticide, miticide, and fungicide.
It will eliminate insects in all stages while protecting the plant tissues from fungal attacks. Once sprayed, it stays dormant and can protect your plants and rid them of parasite infestation throughout the seasons.
Applying Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
DE is an organic powder derived from fossilized microscopic skeletons of algae extracted from the earth. It has concentrated amounts of a chemical compound called silica which kills parasites like chiggers by dehydrating them.
This variety of diatomaceous earth has approval from the United State Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Food and Drug Administration Department (FDA) to be used as an insecticide and anti-caking agent in agricultural and food industries. It only contains between 0.5 and 2% of the crystalline silica and is safe for human consumption.
Apply DE to hot spots in your yard and around its perimeter to keep chiggers off your property. The best time to do this is right after it stops raining or early morning while the dew is still on.
The dampness will release the active ingredients and let the formula stick instead of getting blown away by the wind. Wear a dust mask and protect your eyes with goggles when applying this treatment to your yard.
3. Keeping Chigger Hosting Animals Out of Your Yard
Chiggers are non-discriminatory and will latch on to pets, livestock, birds, or humans (pretty much any animal which crosses their path. You will have to keep rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and other small mammals off your yard to ensure the chiggers are not imported.
You can start by building a fence around the property to keep them out. Withdraw amenities such as ponds, bird feeders, and water sources that make your yard hospitable. Also, cover your trashcan, so they don’t have access to leftover food.
4. Protect Yourself from Chigger Bites
Before looking for external culprits, you should ensure you (or yours) are not part of the problem. You might be the ones giving the chiggers a free pass into your yard, which will make the infestation chronic despite your best efforts.
Wear Protective Clothing
As we have established, chiggers are attracted to human skin. Cover as much of your exposed skin as you can with protective clothing so they don’t have a direct line to bite. Wear tall socks, long pants, and long sleeves whenever you venture into potentially exposed territories. You can even tuck your pant legs into your socks to fortify your defense.
Applying Chigger Repellent
Use chigger repellent whenever you go to potential chigger zones, whether hiking, farming, or camping. Chiggers will readily climb over your clothing to get to the flesh. Their small size also allows them to fit through the mesh of many fabrics, which is how they can penetrate socks and pants.
You can use a chigger repellent concentrate as a presoak or get an aerosol version and spray it on your shoes, socks, and pants. The concentrate is cost-effective as it can be recycled for many clothing items, but the aerosol is much easier to apply.
Spray your pets with chigger repellent if they will also be exposed because they are equally capable of carrying the larvae back to the yard. Finally, carry some chigger repellent with you if you intend to be exposed for longer than the period stated on the product.
Sawyer Products’ Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent comes with a trigger spray bottle that makes it easy to apply whether at home or out in the woods. It bonds to cloth fibers for up to 6 weeks or through six washes, depending on which one comes first.
Stick to Trodden Paths
Walk or cycle at the center of the trail rather than along the sides. This way, you can avoid brushing up against vegetation where the chigger larvae usually wait to pounce on exposed skin.
Shower as Soon as You Get Back from the Woods
This allows you to take off the potentially infested clothes before the chiggers find their way to human skin. It also provides an opportunity to wash the clothes and eliminate any lingering chiggers. If you suspect they were exposed, your pet(s) should also be washed immediately with regular shampoo. Chiggers tend to fall off while in the bath, and they won’t get the chance to attach.