Chiggers, also known as harvest mites or berry bugs, are tiny arachnids that can be found in various regions of the world, including parts of the United Kingdom. While they may be small in size, their bites can cause significant discomfort and irritation.
In this article, we will explore the characteristics of chiggers, their habitat, their food sources, and how to prevent and get rid of them.
What are Chiggers?
Chiggers aka harvest mites, are minuscule arachnids that belong to the Trombiculidae family. Measuring only about 0.2 to 0.6 millimetres, they are barely visible to the naked eye. These tiny creatures go through a lifecycle that includes egg, larval, nymphal, and adult stages. Chiggers typically thrive in areas with vegetation, such as grassy fields, forests, and gardens.
Chiggers primarily feed on small insects and larvae, including the eggs of insects like beetles and flies. Their feeding process involves attaching themselves to their hosts and injecting digestive enzymes into the skin to break down the tissue for consumption.
Do Chiggers Bite?
Yes, Chiggers do bite and when they do, they cause itching, redness, and irritation. Their bites often result in small, red welts or bumps on the skin. While the discomfort is usually temporary, intense scratching may lead to secondary infections.
It’s important to note that chiggers are not known to transmit diseases in the UK. However, in other regions, they have been associated with transmitting diseases such as scrub typhus. Nonetheless, chigger bites can still be a nuisance and cause distressing symptoms.
How to Avoid Chigger Bites?
To avoid chigger bites while spending time outdoors, consider the following preventive measures:
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes: Covering exposed skin can significantly reduce the risk of chigger bites. Opt for lightweight and breathable clothing to stay comfortable in warmer weather.
Tucking your pants into your socks or wearing gaiters can provide an additional barrier of protection.
Use Insect Repellents
Apply insect repellents that contain ingredients effective against chiggers. Look for products that contain DEET, picaridin, or permethrin.
Follow the instructions on the label for proper application and reapplication, especially if you sweat or come into contact with water.
Avoid High-Risk Areas
Chiggers are commonly found in damp, grassy, and wooded areas. If possible, steer clear of tall grasses, dense vegetation, and areas with decaying leaves.
Stick to well-maintained paths and trails when walking or hiking and try to stay in the center of the trail.
After Outdoor Activities, Take a Shower
As soon as you return indoors, take a shower using warm water and soap. This will help remove any chiggers that may be lingering on your skin.
Pay attention to areas such as the ankles, waistline, and armpits where chiggers are likely to attach themselves.
Wash Your Clothes Thoroughly
After being outdoors in potential chigger habitats, wash your clothes in hot water with detergent. This will help eliminate any chiggers that may have hitchhiked on your clothing.
Consider washing your gear, such as hats and socks, as well.
Protect Your Pets
Chiggers can also affect animals, including dogs and cats. Consult with your veterinarian about appropriate preventive measures such as tick and flea treatments or specially formulated insect repellents for pets.
Regularly check your pets for any signs of chigger bites or irritation.
How to Get Rid of Chiggers?
Dealing with chigger infestations can be a frustrating experience. To effectively get rid of chiggers and prevent their return, consider implementing the following methods:
Tackle Outdoor Areas
- Mow and maintain your lawn regularly, keeping the grass short. Chiggers thrive in tall grasses, so keeping the grass trimmed will create an unfavourable environment for them.
- Clear away leaf litter, fallen vegetation, and any organic debris where chiggers may seek refuge. Raking and properly disposing of these materials can help eliminate potential hiding spots.
- Trim back vegetation, shrubs, and bushes around your property to reduce chigger habitat.
- Use a high-pressure hose or water sprayer to wash away chiggers from outdoor surfaces, such as decks, patios, and walls. Chiggers are not strong swimmers, so a forceful stream of water can dislodge and remove them.
Treat Clothing and Gear
- Immediately after spending time outdoors in chigger-prone areas, remove and wash your clothes in hot water. Adding a bit of vinegar to the laundry can help kill any chiggers present.
- Dry your clothes in a hot dryer, as chiggers are sensitive to heat and cannot survive high temperatures.
- If you suspect chiggers on camping or outdoor gear, such as tents, sleeping bags, or chairs, thoroughly clean and treat them. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning or use appropriate insecticide sprays designed for these items.
- Apply insecticides specifically formulated for chigger control to affected outdoor areas. Look for products containing permethrin, cyfluthrin, or bifenthrin. Read and follow the instructions on the label carefully to ensure safe and effective application.
- Treat perimeter areas, including fences, walls, and other potential entry points to your property, to create a barrier against chiggers.
- For personal protection, apply insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or permethrin to exposed skin and clothing when venturing into chigger-prone areas. Be sure to follow the instructions and reapply as needed.
- Consult with your veterinarian for appropriate flea and tick treatments that can help control chiggers on your pets. Regular grooming and inspection of your pets can also help detect and remove any chiggers present.
- Wash pet bedding and clean areas where your pets spend time, such as outdoor kennels or resting spots, to reduce the risk of chigger infestations.
Seek Professional Assistance
If chigger infestations persist or become overwhelming, consider contacting a professional pest control service. They have the expertise and resources to effectively manage chigger populations and provide customised solutions for your specific situation.
Chiggers may be tiny creatures, but their bites can cause significant discomfort. By understanding their characteristics, habitat, and food sources, as well as implementing preventive measures, you can minimize the risk of encountering chiggers in the UK.
Remember to take precautions while outdoors, protect your pets, and promptly address any concerns related to chigger bites.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Tuck your trousers into your socks or boots to prevent chiggers from crawling up your legs!”
“If you do get bitten by chiggers, wash the affected areas with soap and water. Apply a topical antiseptic to reduce the risk of infection!”
“Stay away from tall grasses, dense vegetation, and areas with decaying leaves. Stick to well-maintained paths and trails to minimize your exposure to chiggers!”
“Although it can be tempting, avoid scratching chigger bites as it can lead to secondary infections. Instead, use over-the-counter anti-itch creams or calamine lotion to alleviate the discomfort!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Are chiggers found in the UK?
Yes, chiggers can be found in certain regions of the United Kingdom. While they are not as widespread as in some other parts of the world, chiggers can still be present in areas with suitable habitats, such as grassy fields, forests, and gardens.
How do you treat chiggers in the UK?
To treat chigger bites in the UK, the focus is on relieving symptoms and promoting healing. Here are some steps to consider:
- Cleanse the affected area with soap and water to remove any remaining chiggers.
- Apply a topical anti-itch cream or calamine lotion to alleviate itching and reduce inflammation.
- Take oral antihistamines, as directed by a healthcare professional, to help relieve itching and allergic reactions.
- Avoid excessive scratching to prevent secondary infections.
If symptoms worsen or persist, seek medical advice for further evaluation and treatment.
What are chigger bites like in the UK?
Chigger bites in the UK typically result in small, red welts or bumps on the skin. They may appear as a cluster of insect bites or a rash. The affected areas are commonly found in warm and moist parts of the body, such as the ankles, waistline, groin, and armpits. Chigger bites can cause itching, redness, and irritation, which may intensify over a few days.
How do you tell if chiggers are on your skin?
The presence of chiggers on the skin can cause intense itching and irritation. However, chiggers are not visible to the naked eye as they are extremely small. Instead, it is the reaction to their bites that is noticeable. If you have been in chigger-infested areas and develop small red welts or bumps accompanied by itching, especially in typical chigger bite locations, it may indicate that chiggers are in your skin.
What kills chiggers immediately?
While it is not possible to kill chiggers on the skin immediately, you can take steps to alleviate symptoms and remove any remaining chiggers:
- Wash the affected areas with soap and water to remove any chiggers.
- Apply an over-the-counter anti-itch cream or calamine lotion to reduce itching and inflammation.
- Take oral antihistamines to help relieve itching and allergic reactions.
- Avoid scratching to prevent further irritation and reduce the risk of secondary infections.
Can chiggers infest your house?
No, chiggers do not typically infest houses or indoor environments. They primarily reside in outdoor habitats, such as tall grasses, vegetation, and leaf litter. Chiggers rely on animal hosts for feeding, and they cannot complete their life cycle indoors. Therefore, chigger bites usually occur when individuals come into contact with chigger-infested outdoor areas rather than inside homes or buildings.
Hi, I’m Trev and I’ve been growing things since I can remember. When I was younger, I grew up on a farm, so I have always been around plants and animals. After studying horticulture at university, I decided to start my own nursery which I have run now for 25 years. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their gardens.