Do you have a chigger infestation and need to get rid of chigger bugs as soon as possible? Do you need a natural solution to your chigger problem? This informative article will tell you everything you need to know.
Consider this as your all-in-one guide for chigger control. We will first discuss what chiggers are, where they live, and their life cycle before getting to the juicy part—how to get rid of chiggers.
You’ll also be delighted to know that we’ve answered common questions about chiggers!
Table of Contents
What’s a Chigger?
Chiggers are microscopic pests that resemble tiny spiders. They’re members of the Trombiculidae family, and their larval stage causes a lot of itching.
Most people often think of chiggers as blood-sucking insects like ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas. Let’s debunk this viewpoint. First, chiggers aren’t insects. Second, they aren’t after your blood. Chiggers are harvest mite larvae that feed on their hosts’ skin cells.
Most folks recognize chiggers in their nymph form, as they are parasitic and attach themselves to a host as a parasite would. These are the ones that give us that itch.
They use strong jaws to dig into your skin to melt your flesh for drinking. This is where you have chigger bites, and likely, it’s the only effect chiggers have on you.
Once they are in the adult stage, chiggers no longer use human beings and other mammals, such as cats and dogs, as a food source. Therefore, all we have to do is keep an eye out for chiggers when they’re in their larval stage.
Chiggers are known by several different names, including jigger bug, berry bug, red mites, spider mites, red bugs, grass mites, harvest mites, and clover mites. It’s important to note that clover mites are confused with chiggers, but they are not chiggers.
The adult mite has eight legs and lives in vegetation, but the parasitic six-legged chigger larvae are the ones that feed on mammals (including humans, dogs, and cats) and birds. In the late summer and fall, the larvae consume tissue fluid and cause localized skin irritation and itching.
The yellow/orange larvae are about 0.2mm (0.008 inches) long and can be found in many parts of the world, but they are not found in all climates or areas. Larvae are hardly visible to the naked eye at first, but once they have completed feeding, they swell to around thrice their initial size.
Life Cycle of a Chigger
The six-legged larval stage is the first active period in the life cycle of Trombicula, and it is the only stage when it targets animals. These larvae live on vegetation and are active during the day, especially when the weather is dry and sunny.
When they’re larvae, they seek out a host and introduce enzymes into the skin, which break down the skin and allow them to feed on the meat. Instead of “biting,” they create a stylostome (hole) in your skin and chew away at the tiny insides of your flesh, which is why they’re itchy and uncomfortable.
They drop to the ground after consuming your flesh, developing into nymphs before maturing into adults with eight legs. They’re now harmless to humans and animals when they reach this stage. Chiggers, unlike ticks, do not cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease.
They are not parasitic in the post-larval stage, and they consume plant materials. Females produce three to eight eggs in a clutch, generally on a plant leaf or under the roots, and then they die in the autumn.
Where do Chiggers Live?
They are mainly located in the South, the Southeast, and the Midwestern part of the United States. They are absent or scarce in far northern regions, high lands, and deserts.
Chiggers live in woods and grasslands and low, humid areas with rank vegetation, such as berry patches, lake shorelines, along streams, woodlands, orchards, and even drier areas with less vegetation, such as deserts.
How to Know If There Are Chiggers in Your Lawn
Since you can’t see chiggers with the naked eye, it’s hard to spot them.
Here’s a well-known fact: chiggers like damp, shady areas with dense vegetation, so concentrate your search on these areas of your yard. Do not look for chiggers in places that get direct sunlight or where the grass is kept very short.
To know if there are chigger hotspots in your area, get a six-inch by six-inch square of black cardboard. Then, place it on edge in the grass.
Return a little later, then use a hand lens to inspect the upper edge. If there are chiggers, you’ll see that they climbed to the top of the cardboard—you can identify them by their tiny reddish or orange bodies, which are visible against the black surface.
Alternatively, you can place a shallow bowl of water on the ground for a few minutes. Chiggers can gather along the rim, so keep an eye out for them. Like the cardboard method, you’ll need a magnifying glass to spot them.
How to Protect Yourself from Chiggers
Of course, the first move is to check if you have a chigger infestation in your yard. You can determine the answer by doing the steps in the previous section (the cardboard method) or simply recalling your experiences in your yard. If you’ve often felt continuous itching after going outside, these are most likely a sign of chiggers.
It’s best to hide as much of your skin as possible. The best shirts and pants are loose-fitting and made of tight-woven cloth. You should also wear thick socks, so you have something to tuck in your pants into. Furthermore, wear tall boots or shoes.
Always use a DEET-based insect repellent on your skin and clothes. DEET is an ingredient used to repel pests, and it does not kill them; instead, it makes it difficult for the pests to smell us. A word of warning here, there have been reports of some folks being sensitive to DEET, so use it sparingly and watch for skin irritation.
Wash When You Get Back Indoors. After being outside for a while, it’s a great idea to shower when you get back inside immediately. It takes a bit of time for chiggers to penetrate the skin, so you take a hot shower as soon as you can. Use lots of soap to clean your skin.
Wear panty hose under your pants. Since chiggers cannot bite into this material, it is a practical, common technique to keep chiggers away. This may seem a bit odd for our male readers, but it may be better than chigger bites.
How Do Chiggers Latch onto a Host?
According to Tim Gibb, Purdue University’s extension diagnostic entomologist, chiggers climb up to the highest point on a plant and wait for animals or humans to come past. They then drop onto a human, typically landing on the shoes or lower part of the leg, and crawl up the body looking for a bite spot.
Do Chiggers Stay on the Skin?
Chiggers do not burrow in the skin. Instead, they use their mouths to pierce a skin cell. The enzyme in their saliva liquefies the skin cell wall. The body’s immune system responds to the foreign enzyme, forming a rigid, red wall at the bite site. The chigger takes advantage of this by using this round wall (stylostome) as a straw.
The chigger then drops to the ground after consuming its fluid meal.
Since we don’t have fur, chiggers have difficulty clinging to humans. They must get into places where clothing fits tightly, such as the groin area, the top of the socks, the armpits, or the waistband if they want to avoid falling off.
Chiggers are easy to remove because they don’t have a strong grip. You can get them off by taking a shower with lots of soap.
How To Get Rid Of Chiggers In The Yard: The Natural and Not So Natural Alternatives
You can do many things to get rid of chiggers in your yard naturally. Find out what works best for you!
Maintain Your Lawn
Chiggers like to stay in tall grass and weeds. You can avoid chigger infestations by keeping the grass mowed as short as possible. If you have tall plants, you’ll also want to cut them back. Frequently mowing your grass and pulling weeds are two easy but powerful ways to eliminate chiggers in your yard.
Also, prune your bushes, trees, and shrubs regularly. By doing this, you reduce the humidity around your plants, plus you’ll let in more sunshine.
These steps minimize the amount of moisture and shade in the chigger-friendly areas around your property. And chiggers don’t like dry and sunny places with good air circulation. Do these things all year round. Chiggers that have been dormant will reappear as the weather gets warmer.
A highly successful method to keep chiggers away is by using sulfur.
Texans have a tradition of carrying an old sock loaded with sulfur around them in the pickup truck. When they get out of the truck, they dust themselves with sulfur by swinging the sock against their lower legs and shoes. Then they do what they have to do.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from chiggers using sulfur:
- Sulfur Powder: Before going outdoors, dust the clothing and shoes with sulfur powder.
- Sulfur Pellets: You can use sulfur pellets to keep chiggers away from your lawn. We recommend doing this before it gets excessively hot outside. If you have dogs, though, don’t do this.
- Sulfur Supplements: This is something some people find effective. But if you have existing medical problems, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are taking any prescription drugs, please ask your doctor before taking any sulfur pills.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) comes from the fossilized remnants of diatoms, tiny aquatic creatures whose bones are composed of silica. Silica is this natural material that makes up 26% of the weight of the Earth’s crust. Diatoms are collected in the sediment of rivers, streams, lakes, and seas over a long time.
Diatomaceous earth extracts fats from the exoskeleton’s cuticle, causing pests to die by drying out. Because of its pointy bits, it is abrasive, which speeds up the process. It’ll keep working as long as you keep it dry and untouched.
Just use food-grade DE (fancy term for purified DE) on your clothes and lawn for this approach. Chiggers despise DE. Dust food-grade DE on your sleeves, the bottom of your pants (about six inches high), and on your socks before going outside.
To keep chiggers away from your grass, use a little bit of food-grade DE. The rule of thumb is five pounds per one thousand square feet for this method.
Various pesticides based on essential oils or essential oil components have hit the market in recent years. Essential oils are highly concentrated, volatile liquids obtained from plant parts. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided in 1996 that some ingredients that pose a low risk to consumers do not need EPA clearance to be sold as insecticides.
Essential oils, such as cedar, clove, citronella, cinnamon, citrus, eugenol (a clove oil component), mints, garlic, rosemary, etc., make up a variety of these ingredients. These insecticides usually serve only as contact-killing agents, so repeated treatment may be necessary.
Here’s a great essential oil-based chigger repellent recipe:
- 4 tbsp water
- 2 tsp witch hazel
- Five drops of essential oil (tea tree, lavender, lemongrass, or thyme will work)
- Spray straight onto the skin after thorough mixing.
Insecticide sprays can decrease chiggers but only temporarily. From an environmental standpoint, insecticides are never the answer. They are typically very short term in their effectiveness and they kill many species that they are not intended to kill. Liquid insecticide sprays such as bifenthrin can be used to help keep chiggers under control, but this should be a lsat resort.
If you have to use pesticides to manage your chigger problem, it is best to use the least toxic pesticide that can do the job properly. While all pesticides are harmful to some species by design, there are now a lot of less toxic pesticide solutions available.
Many of them degrade quickly and do not build up in the body or the environment. Some are pest-specific and do little or no harm to other living things. Others, such as bait stations, reduce chemical exposure to humans.
Pyrethrum is a natural insecticide that comes from the chrysanthemum flower. Many such pyrethroid pesticides based on the structure of the pyrethrum have been produced in recent years.
This compound class is highly active, has a high insect/mammal toxicity ratio, and has no environmental persistence. As a result, these compounds are commonly used for organic farming.
Pyrethrum compounds are also eco-friendly since light, oxygen, and temperature easily degrades them.
Pyrethrins, which are purified pyrethrum, have been shown to be very effective in pest control. It destroys many mites and insects, forcing them off plants in a matter of seconds. Pyrethrins are still widely used today for this purpose and their low toxicity to humans.