How to Get Rid of Chiggers

How to sample Chiggers in your yard, as well as remove and prevent them

Chigger under magnification.
Getty Images/Lester V. Bergman

Chiggers measure a mere 1/150th of an inch and so are nearly impossible to see with the human eye. But there is an easy way to sample your yard for chiggers if you're concerned about a possible chigger mite infestation. Be sure, of course, to wear appropriate clothing and repellent whenever you walk through an area that may have chiggers. They're also called harvest mites, harvest lice, and red bugs.

What Do Chiggers Look Like?

The tiny arachnids are found in a range of warm colors, from straw to yellow, to orange and red. You might see them in groups or moving on your legs (or you might see the welts from their bites). The larvae are the ones that bite; they have six legs. They don't have eight legs until they're adult.

Chigger Sampling Test

Your first step, of course, should be confirming that you have a chigger infestation in your yard. If you've experienced the incessant itching of chigger bites after spending time outdoors, you'll know it. But if you aren't sure whether you've got chiggers or not, you can do a quick sampling test to confirm the offending pests are, indeed, chiggers. Before you do the test, dress preventively; otherwise, you'll find the chiggers with your legs instead of your test item.

Chiggers prefer moist, shady areas with thick vegetation, so focus your sampling efforts on these places in your yard. Don't bother sampling for chiggers in areas that get full sun or where you keep the lawn mowed short.

To sample your yard for chiggers, you'll need one or more squares of black cardboard, each about 6 inches by 6 inches. Stand the cardboard squares on edge in areas where you suspect chiggers may be. Leave the squares in place for several minutes.

Then, look closely at the cardboard. If chiggers are present, they will climb up the cardboard and gather near the top. The chiggers will be tiny and either red or yellow in color.

You can also leave a shallow bowl of water in the grass for a few minutes, which will attract them as well. Look for them around the rim. You may need a magnifying glass to see them.

Get Rid of Their Habitat

If you find a heavy infestation of chiggers in an area of your yard, you should take steps to eliminate them. You'll definitely want to avoid walking through those areas of your yard. The best method to control chiggers is to eliminate their habitat on your property. Widespread use of pesticides to get rid of chiggers is rarely required or recommended.

Again, most chiggers prefer moist, shady areas with thick vegetation. Some species do like dry areas, so keep that in mind. Prime chigger habitat includes overgrown lawns, ground covers, leaf litter, weedy areas, and densely planted shrubs or trees. Chiggers tend to cluster in certain areas because the small females lay their eggs in one location. You may find an abundance of chiggers in one area and a complete lack of chiggers in an equally suitable area nearby.

So how do you get rid of chiggers in your yard? Maintain a neat and tidy landscape, specifically:

  • Mow your lawn regularly and keep it short, especially around the edges where the grass meets landscape beds or woody areas.
  • Keep landscape beds weeded, and remove accumulated leaf litter.
  • Trim and prune landscape plants regularly to keep them from becoming overgrown.
  • Remove brush piles from your property.
  • Because chiggers avoid sunny areas, eliminating shade in your yard can reduce chigger populations.

If you feel you must treat your property for chiggers with pesticides, please do so responsibly and safely:

  • Treat only areas of your yard where chiggers are confirmed to live.
  • Don't overuse pesticides by treating your entire lawn or yard.
  • Chigger control usually requires multiple applications of pesticides during the spring.
  • Keep children and pets off treated areas until it has dried completely. Don't allow animals to eat treated plants.
  • Contact your local cooperative extension office to get information about which pesticides work best for chiggers in your area and how to safely apply them.
  • Always follow all directions on pesticide labels. Remember, the label is the law!

Get Rid of Chiggers on You

You might find the little red bumps on your legs or the bugs themselves. Especially check necklines, shirt and pant cuffs, and the tops of your socks. If bumps or chiggers are found, wash your skin with soap and water in the bath or shower, and wash your clothes in hot water. Also, throw in the wash any towels or blankets that touched the ground.

The bumps will go away with hydrocortisone cream, allergy medication, or rarely, a steroid injection given by your doctor and antibiotics if the sores become infected. 

On Your Pets and in Your House

For your pets, wipe off their face with a soft cloth or vet-recommended wipe. Longer, denser fur should keep the rest of their body protected. If they do get bit, give them a warm bath. Seek treatments for the itching from your vet, as home remedies added to bathwater that is espoused online, may not work.  

Hot water helps rid your house of chiggers as well; clean with soapy water that's at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also use a carpet shampooer that has a heat setting. 

Prevention

Wear long sleeves and pants when walking in tall grass, tucking your pants into your socks, and use insect repellants. Wear thick socks and high shoes or boots. If you can stand the smell, dust your socks with sulfur powder or the inside of your shoes. Stop your hike every half hour or so and brush off the places where chiggers would congregate, at the edges of clothing.

Indoors, just vacuum regularly. For your pets, bathe them with soaps that contain flea and tick repellants.