Get Rid of Chiggers, Ticks, and Mosquitos in Your Yard | Almanac.com

Get Rid of Chiggers, Ticks, and Mosquitos in Your Yard


15 ways to prevent chigger, tick, and mosquito bites

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How do you get rid of chiggers, ticks, and mosquitos from your yard? We’ll help you identify these pests, talk about how they find you, and list 15 ways to minimize their presence.

Chiggers, Ticks, and Mosquitos in the Yard

Here are a few facts about chiggers, ticks, and mosquitoes—all which feed on warm-blooded mammals.

  • Chiggers are tiny red mites; they are not insects but arachnids, similar to spiders (with 8 legs as adults). It’s only the larvae (invisible to the eye) which bite humans. They do not suck blood; they pierce the skin and consume digested skin cells.
  • Ticks are also tiny parasitic bugs which are arachnids with 8 legs, however, ticks burrow into the skin for a blood meal. Both the larvae and adults suck blood. Ticks have evolved an ingenious two-way system that sends concentrated nutrients from the blood meal into the tick’s gut in one direction, while returning excess fluid—along with any pathogens living in the tick’s saliva—back into the host’s body.

  • Mosquitos are true flies with two wings. Only the female adult mosquito feeds on blood to develop her eggs. Like ticks, mosquitoes have long, piercing-sucking mouthparts. But unlike the tick, which can attach for hours or days, a mosquito can hover over the skin for a quick sip and fly away.

Let’s talk briefly about disease. Not to be scary, but ticks and mosquitoes (the two blood suckers) can transmit a host of diseases including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Powassan virus, West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, dengue, and zika. Chiggers do not suck blood and do not carry these diseases. Mosquitoes usually become infected from feeding on infected birds. Ticks generally pick up infectious bacteria as young larvae feeding on infected rodents.

Learn more about what tick bites look like, symptoms, and treatments.

But remember: not all species of ticks and mosquitoes in any given area are able to transmit disease, and even if they do have that capability, the one that bites you might not be carrying enough of a viral or bacterial load to infect you. Fortunately, there are ways your can protect yourself and your loved ones from getting bitten in the first place.

How Chiggers and Ticks Find You

You’ll never see a chigger feed on you; the larvae are too small to be seen without a magnifying glass. Instead, you’ll know chiggers by the hard, red, itchy bite that they leave!

The thing called a chigger,
is really no bigger,
than the smaller end of a pin,
but the bump that it raises,
just itches like blazes,
and that’s where the rub sets in.
Entomologist H.B. Hungerford:

Lacking wings, chiggers and ticks can’t fly. Chiggers and ticks can feel the vibrations as people walk, pick up on the carbon dioxide that we release, and even sense our body heat. 

Then, chiggers and ticks await their pray with a behavior entomologists call “questing.” They climb the stems of grasses, foliage plants, and low shrubbery to get as high as possible. Then they extend their two forelegs, holding onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. With the first pair of legs outstretched, they fall onto a passing human or pet, usually landing near their feet or bottom of their legs.

How Mosquitoes Find You

Recent research shows that mosquitoes use a combination of smell, sight, and thermal sensing to locate a suitable host. The mosquito will follow the odor of carbon dioxide and, amazingly, taste the host even before it bites thanks to taste receptors in their feet! 

Mosquitoes can also sniff out the difference between human and animal odors, due to our different blend of chemicals, especially when we sweat. Learn more.

How to Get Rid of Biting Insects in the Yard

A few simple strategies can help you avoid chigger, tick, and mosquito bites when you go outside:

  1. Get rid of tall grasses in your yard, brush, thick vegetation, and thickets.
  2. Push back and prune encroaching trees and shrubs which create more shade and humidity, and open up the areas to sunlight. 
  3. Remove any water features or ponds and avoid any swampy areas. 
  4. Mow grassy areas often, so the grass is short and not tall.  
  5. Pull out weeds from landscaping.
  6. Minimize the presence of host animals for chiggers and ticks. If you have lots of squirrels and chipmunks, consider taking down any bird feeders, securing trash cans, and adding fences.
  7. Move any woodpiles away from walls or any damp areas.
  8. Add paths with pebbles, stones, or pavers to stay “on trail.” 
  9. Be careful in areas with blackberry brambles; chiggers love climbing berry canes. Same goes with pruning shrubs or any fruit trees.
  10. Consider a broadcast application of an organic pesticide to your yard to effectively kill chiggers. You can apply DE to the perimeter as well, or problem spots in your landscape. Water in to activate DE.
  11. When outside, wear light clothes; wear long pants tucked into socks and long sleeves with tight cuffs, long gloves, and tall rubber boots.
  12. If it’s really bad, wear a netting hat that comes down over your shoulders.
  13. Better yet, invest in a full netting suit that covers you from head to ankles. (Yes, the photo above is me in my Bug Baffler.) At first you may feel like the village eccentric working your garden, mowing your lawn, or tromping down a local nature trail—but hey, think of yourself as a public-health trendsetter.
  14. For even more protection, wear garments treated with permethrin, a serious pesticide that disables or kills ticks or flying insects that land on it. You can purchase treated garments from outdoor retailers, or buy permethrin sprays to treat your own clothing. The protective effect will last through several washings, but wash permethrin-treated clothing separately from other clothes. (Warning: Don’t spray or rub permethrin directly onto skin. Follow label instructions. Always spray outdoors on a calm, dry day. Keep permethrin containers locked and away from children.)
  15. Use bug repellents. These products don’t repel as much as confuse insects and ticks, so they don’t recognize you as a potential host. Repellents come in sprays, lotions, sticks, and wipes, and they vary widely in what biting pests they work against, the concentration of effective ingredients, and the hours of protection they provide. Check those labels carefully.

Bug Repellant Information

  • DEET is the current gold standard for insect and tick protection. It’s been used and studied since 1946, though it has caused health concerns. For good protection against ticks, use in 15 percent to 50 percent (but no nigher) concentrations.
  • Picaridin is generally considered safer (especially for children) than DEET, and also won’t damage fabrics. To protect against ticks, use the 20 percent concentration.
  • BioUD, a relatively new product developed by research scientists at North Carolina State University, works as well or better than DEET against mosquitoes and ticks. Its active ingredients are naturally occurring essential oils from wild tomato plant.
  • Although the many other products manufactured from or homemade plant extracts or essential oils may have good short-term use against mosquitoes and other biting insects, I wouldn’t trust them to repel ticks in a heavily infested area. Researchers have several plant-based repellents in the pipeline that may come online soon.

See more natural remedies for deterring mosquitoes in the garden and house.

About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

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