Getting Rid of Chiggers: Tips For Controlling Chigger Bugs In The Garden

Red Chigger Bug In A Garden
(Image credit: Susan Ellis,

Invisible and evil, chiggers can make the summer unbearable with the itching they cause, especially when you're out in the garden. Learn how to manage chiggers and deal with their bites.

Chigger Bugs in the Garden

There's nothing that can ruin a hike, picnic, or day in the garden as fast as the irritating, itchy bite of the chigger. Like hungry, invisible ninjas, these tiny critters climb up socks and pant legs, looking for a place to feed. What are chiggers though and how do you prevent chigger outbreaks? Chiggers are a pest that is surrounded in mystery. These larval mites are so small they're difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye, but their bites are unmistakable. Chiggers attach themselves to skin, hair follicles, or pores with their biting mouth parts, with which they inject a fluid into the skin that partially dissolves tissue. Most humans have violent allergic reactions to that digestive fluid, making it difficult for chiggers to adequately feed on us. Instead, they rely heavily on rodents, birds, and lizards for their survival. This is why chiggers are found in so many different habitats, from dry, scrubby woodlands to moist, swampy areas and even heavily landscaped yards. They go where the food sources are, so anywhere there's adequate cover, chiggers may appear.

How to Get Rid of Chiggers

Chiggers are formidable foes, in part because of the short time these mites spend in their larval form. Area control with pesticides is nearly impossible, but if you aim your efforts at destroying favorable habitat, getting rid of chiggers is possible. Keep grasses mowed closely, eliminate shrub cover for chigger hosts by trimming your shrubbery to a point at least 12 inches (31 cm.) above the ground, and dry out moist spots for the best chance at destroying these pests once and for all. If you must go tromping through the woods during chigger season, wear tight clothing and protect yourself with DEET. When you return from an adventure in overgrown areas, take a hot shower to kill any chiggers that are actively feeding on you, even if you've not started to react. Topical anti-itch creams or sprays are effective to control the welts that erupt from chigger bites.

Kristi Waterworth

Kristi Waterworth was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for many years, answering countless queries on plant pests and diseases.