Last Updated on February 26, 2021 by Grow with Bovees
Harvest mites, red bugs, berry bugs—whatever the name, chiggers are unwelcome everywhere! These beings may be microscopic in size but the pain and inconvenience they bring can be quite humongous.
The worst part? Due to their size, you won’t even know that you’re a victim of a chigger’s angry bite till the big, itchy bumps on your body beg your attention—and fingers.
Wanting to get rid of these pesky mites is quite natural and understandable—here’s a guide on how to go about doing exactly that!
What Attracts Chiggers in the First Place?
Chiggers are found all over the country, thriving in heat, humidity, moist conditions and thick vegetation.
Apart from being attracted to these conditions, chiggers are attracted to the carbon dioxide that animals and humans exhale, gathering in wait in shaded spots to latch on to ankles and other suitable areas.
What Are Chiggers?
Chiggers come from the Trombicula family of adult mites and are the larval form of these.
Also known as harvest lice, red bugs and harvest mites, chiggers, as mentioned earlier, are found in every state in the United States but are more of a nuisance in the southern and Midwestern states, aided by the constant heat and humidity.
Chiggers are arachnids, which means that they’re related to spiders. Ergo, like spiders, they can’t fly and have six legs. Chiggers are deceivingly colored, in warm tones such as red, orange, yellow and straw and up close, resemble a cross between a spider and a crab. The red version should not be confused with clover mites, which are also red.
Chigger larvae emerge from their shells about a week after they’re laid. The only parasitic form in the family, these mites have six legs when in their larval stage, growing a pair more once they mature into adults and nymphs.
Chiggers merely measure 1/150th of an inch and while this means that they’re generally impossible to see with the naked eye, their bite is nowhere close to impossible to feel!
Chiggers bore holes into the skin with the help of sharp, jaw like claws and instead of sucking blood, like mosquitoes and bed bugs, have their fill of skin cells by creating a narrow feeding tube with their mouths and injecting a salivary fluid that contains of digestive enzymes, which then breaks down your skin cells, so they can suck them up as food.
This saliva, which dissolves skin, is the reason behind the painful welts left behind on your skin. Any being that passes through their habitat is fair game—these mites don’t have a very discriminating palate! After they’ve had their fill, they simply drop off.
Chiggers serve as food for a range of other species—birds, ants, centipedes, beetles, spiders and other small creatures.
Where Do Chiggers Live?
Chiggers call a variety of places home—thickets of small trees, swampy areas, tall grass, dense bushes, brambles, transition zones such as junctions between the forest and the grass and other thickly vegetated areas.
They thrive in warm, slightly humid weather, which means they’re a common sight in the lower Midwest and southern regions of the United States.
That isn’t to say they’re only restricted to these areas—they happily make hay when the sun shines, emerging in other parts of the country, too, during the summer.
The only consolation, though, is that the larval stage lasts much shorter in areas where humidity and heat are not constant. They also prefer shaded spots, often grouping on low-hanging leaves or blades of grass in shaded areas.
How Do You Prevent Chigger Bites?
It makes logical sense to say that you can prevent chigger bites by avoiding chiggers—avoiding thick vegetation and areas that chiggers live in, not going fishing or venturing into other areas that are transition zones.
However, it makes no sense to restrict your outdoor activities in fear of chiggers—instead, use the following methods to get rid of chiggers!
How To Treat Chigger Bites
The good news is that chigger bites are generally harmless and children often outgrow them, but they can still be treated to reduce itching and discomfort and speed healing.
Once you’ve been bitten, it’s important to clean the area thoroughly with soapy water. This reduces the risk of infection. As a self administered treatment, you can also apply a small amount of over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, or calamine lotion to the affected area. (Don’t use hydrocortisone if you have sensitive skin or a skin condition, such as eczema.)
Repel: Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
A strong repellent is one of the easiest, most effective ways to get rid of pests, chiggers included. Deet free is better for your skin.
This DEET-free insect repellent does the trick, repelling everything from mosquitoes to chiggers—quite the wholesome package if you’re having to deal with a variety of pests in your house and garden!
The major ingredient in this spray is lemon eucalyptus oil, the sole plant-based active ingredient that the Center for Disease Control recommends.
The oil repels insects for up to six hours, creating an effective barrier that’s neither sticky nor greasy on the skin. You can also spray it all over your clothes before heading out.
The smell is also quite refreshing, unlike chemical pesticides.
Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Chiggers?
Yes, it does.
The solution to many pest problems, diatomaceous earth (scientifically known as diatomite) is made up of fossilized diatoms and works by sucking dry the insect—the substance absorbs the waxy coating found on the exoskeletons of insects and damages their shells.
Diatomaceous earth is also safe (which most chemical insecticides can’t offer)—it doesn’t affect pets or humans.
Applying diatomaceous earth, by sprinkling or dusting it across your lawn, can help get rid of chiggers. As a bonus, you’ll also be bidding adieu to any flea, cockroach and tick problems.
While you can use a garden syringe and attack specific spots, a broadcast application all over the area is a better idea.
The horrible thing about chiggers is that they can migrate indoors but the great thing about diatomaceous earth is that you can also use it indoors—you can lightly dust the substance around windows, doors and other entry points, as well as your couch, to get rid of chiggers.
How to Get Rid of Chiggers and Fleas in the Lawn
There are many ways to get rid of chiggers and fleas in your lawn, such as:
- Pulling out Weeds: Chiggers like thick vegetation. By removing weeds, you’re reducing the amount of vegetation that these pests can call home. Make sure to remove overgrown, unnecessary, weedy areas.
- Mowing the Lawn: Another way to get rid of thick vegetation is to mow your lawn.
- Chiggers don’t just like dense vegetation—they also like tall vegetation.
- Get busy with your lawn mower to reduce both.
- Cold Climates: While this isn’t in your control, it helps to know that chiggers hate the cold. They can’t survive frosts, so the cold naturally gets rid of your chigger problem for you, after which, you can continue other maintenance practices to get rid of chiggers.
- Yard Treatments: If the chigger problem gets out of hand, you can always turn to professional pest control services to treat your yard with insecticides. If you don’t want to go all guns blazing yet, use a repellent or sulfur pellets (stay away from these if you have pets, though).
Apart from these, it also helps to wear long-sleeved clothing when you go out and while treating your yard for chiggers, preferably sprayed with your chosen repellent.
After you get home from your outdoor adventures, shower—hot water and soap help get rid of any chiggers that may still be latched on to you.
Wash your clothes—put them into the washer as soon as you get home, preferably, to avoid giving the chiggers a tour of your home and risking them migrating to these areas.
It also helps to stick to hard surfaces instead of grassy areas and skip shaded spots. Strong odors also help keep chiggers away.
Things You’ll Need To Get Rid Of The Red bugs
Here’s a list of things you’ll need to get rid of chiggers:
- Repel: Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
- Diatomaceous earth
- Full-sleeved clothing, wear long pants tucked into your socks and tops made of tightly-woven fabric
- Sulfur pellets (if you’re choosing this method)
- Lawnmower or shears and pruners
- Home made weed killers
A combination of the aforementioned items should go a long way in helping you get rid of chiggers. Apart from that, some suggestions we’ve made earlier will help you prevent them from being anywhere near you in the first place, and in case you do encounter chiggers in your yard, you know exactly how to tackle them now!