Raw, itchy legs are the first sign of chiggers or fleas in your lawn. Do something about it with some quick tips and tricks.
Fleas are biting insects that most commonly bother animals, but in high infestations they can do a number on human flesh too. Chiggers are similar pests where inflammation and irritation occur from their bites. Both tend to congregate in the protection of the lawn and are most active in warm weather. Playing in the yard may result in bites along the legs and exposed areas. You may not even know you have been a meal until several hours later when the itching and burning occurs. Controlling them in the lawn can help make summer playtime a lot more fun and a lot less bothersome.
Chiggers do not burrow into skin but they do inject a digestive enzyme which is the cause of the welts and itching that occur when they attack. Fleas can live for up to 2 years and thrive in warm weather. Their bites cause welts and sometimes rashes on infested individuals. As an added bonus, as the chigger feeds, the skin around the bite swells and can cover the chigger. This makes it appear the mite has burrowed into the skin but is not the case. It does, however, make removing the mite more difficult. Whether it is your dog or your child, the last thing you want is to have summer spoiled by annoying bites.
A clean lawn is less likely to harbor these bugs. Mow frequently and clean up debris. Long grass clippings can make the grass a more attractive place to hide for fleas and chiggers. You can protect yourself before going outdoors by wearing long sleeved shirts and pants. Tuck pants into socks or boots and avoid lying in the grass. After you come indoors, take a long sudsy shower to remove any hitchhikers. You may also chose to spray clothing and exposed areas with a produce containing DEET. Avoid areas around the nose and mouth when spraying the product. It loses effectiveness in just a few hours so be prepared to reapply as needed for consistent protection. Do not place clothing on the grass as the mites and fleas can infest the fabric and cause issues when it is re-donned.
There are a few products listed as pesticides for the control of chiggers and fleas. Before applying it is best to determine where pests are concentrated to avoid overuse of chemicals. If you have a flea problem the first place to determine the severity of the problem is to check your pet. The animal may have black flecks which are flea waste in fir and skin. Check yourself after time in the garden for the bugs. They are reddish brown, wingless insects about 1/8 inch long that jump. That is how they get onto skin and bite. These pests have piercing sucking mouth parts that siphon blood from unsuspecting victims. Chiggers can be found by placing a piece of black cardboard or paper at a slight angle in the grass. After a few minutes chiggers will climb onto the paper. Do this test in several locations in the lawn to determine where chiggers are concentrated. The tiny larvae is the cause of all the itching. It is only .25 millimeters long and difficult to spy.
Controlling these biting pests in the grass requires a pesticide. It is best to use any chemical formula according to the directions and use any cautions recommended. Granular insecticides have been shown to be less effective than liquid spray applications. Permethrin is an active ingredient that has been shown to give good chigger and flea control. Diazanon is another product with good results. Other recommended insecticides might be those containing bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, or esfenvalerate. make sure the product you chose is labeled for use on lawns. Use a hose end sprayer to apply at the rate the manufacturer suggests. Use all cautions stated and wear long sleeves and pants during application. It is especially important to remove children and pets from the area during and after spraying. Wait until liquid has dried on the grass before allowing them out to play. Usually this is about 2 hours. Repeat the treatment in 2 weeks to kill flea eggs.
Care of flea and chigger bites is important to avoid infection. If you do get bitten during application or play, wash the area thoroughly in warm, soapy water. Analgesics can provide some relief as can anti-itch medications. Avoid scratching if possible, especially if a bump or welt forms, which can break open and get infected. There are over the counter chigger medications that may also offer some relief. These rely upon numbing agents and sometimes sealants to cover the bite. Anyone with extreme dermatitis reactions should see their doctor for better treatment. Babies and young children are especially susceptible to infection and inflammation and require immediate treatment of the bites. Once adequate control agents have been applied to the lawn the bites should stop or subside.