Grass mites are tiny lawn pests that can difficult to see with the naked eye. Mite is actually a collective term, as there are many variations of this insect-like organism, some of which are known to feed on wild and domestic animals, including humans. Homeowners may know mites as tiny creatures that can feed on plants, but are grass mites on humans a problem? Let’s take a deeper look into these microscopic lawn mites to learn more about them and how they might impact you.
Lawn Mites: Are They A Problem?
There are a variety of mite species that might be on your property, but the types of mites most likely to bite humans are more commonly known as chiggers. Although these species of mites live in grass and are sometimes lumped together with other bugs that are called grass mites, these animals do not feed on plant matter as lawn pests like chinch bugs do and are therefore not a danger to your lawn.
Chiggers are the larval form of the type of mite sometimes called a red bug. Mites prefer overgrown, unkempt grass, so you’ll need to take precautions when walking through this dense vegetation to avoid getting bitten. Chiggers will attach themselves to their host, feed until they are full (which typically lasts about four days), then detach and find a new host. When chiggers bite you, they release a saliva-like fluid that causes skin irritation and red welts, similar to mosquito bites.
Now that we know that grass mites can be a problem for humans, the next questions in your mind might be: where do mites come from? What are some signs that mites might be in your yard and what are the best ways to keep them away? Read on to learn more about how to get rid of biting mites.
Where Do Mites Come From?
Mites are more closely related to ticks, spiders and scorpions than real insects. Mites are present almost everywhere on Earth, from bodies of water to dust and even to our faces. Lawn mites, including the clover mite and Bermuda grass mite, feed on different species of grass. Clover mites cause the most damage in the spring months when you might see evidence of these pests’ handiwork through silvery spots or streaks on blades of grass. Grass can become brown or die back as a result of the toxic saliva injected by Bermuda grass mites as they feed.
Chiggers are the most common type of parasitic mite which feeds on humans. Human scabies mites, which are much less common, can also seek out mammalian hosts, and bird and rodent mites can become a nuisance when these pests bite humans after an animal host dies or a nest has been abandoned, and the mites are seeking another food source.
Signs You Have Chiggers
Chiggers find their hosts by hanging out in a shaded area on either a blade of grass or a fallen leaf. They can sense you coming by the change in carbon dioxide as you approach. Chiggers usually live in tall grass, weeds and berry patches, and thrive in lower summer temperatures. It’s almost impossible to see them, which makes it very difficult to identify an infestation in the first place. You may not know you were in a chigger-infested area until the itching begins and red welts start to appear where a chigger bit you when you came into contact with the grass where the bug was hiding.
Treating Chigger Bites
Since chiggers are so tiny, you may not even realize you’ve been bitten by one until hours later. There are a few ways to distinguish chigger bites from mosquito bites. Chigger bites usually appear around the ankles and back of the knees, where the skin is thinnest, and a small, pimply bump is in the center of the bite.
When you know you’ll be outdoors for an extended period of time, take some precautions to protect yourself against their annoying bite. Use insect repellent and wear tightly woven clothing that covers your skin as much as possible. If you do get bitten, take the following steps to begin the healing process:
- Bathe right after exposure to wash any areas that may have been vulnerable to chigger bites to rinse off any of the saliva from the chiggers and kill any mites that may still be attached.
- Avoid scratching, as it could prolong the infection by keeping the wound open and make you more vulnerable to infection.
- Apply an antihistamine or corticosteroid cream/ointment to ease the welts and itching.
Do chigger bites spread? That’s actually a very common question. Since these bites tend to be so itchy, it’s often hard to resist scratching. When you do, your skin will usually become irritated, which will result in a rash. This can give the impression the initial bite has spread, although it’s just a reaction and possibly a secondary infection.
How to Get Rid of Biting Mites
Biting mites often enter your home on a bird or rodent host. If you find mites inside of your home, your best bet to get rid of them is to prevent the host from entering your house in the first place. Preventing rodents and other animals from coming into your house often means sealing entry points around your roof, chimney, doors and windows. Keep in mind that some rodents can squeeze into tiny spaces.
Mites that feed on your grass are attracted to excessively fertilized lawns, so when taking care of your lawn, be sure not to overdo it. Create a lawn maintenance schedule that includes the proper amount of water and fertilization according to your particular type of grass and its needs. If you know where the infested area is in your yard, you can actually drown the mites with a high-pressure water hose. Regular mowing and trimming will also help keep your resident mite population under control. In some cases, you may decide to apply insecticide to control your lawn mites. In that case, be sure to follow instructions on the label carefully to avoid further damage to your lawn.
ABC Handles Your Pest Problems
Dealing with any pest can be overwhelming, especially when you aren’t sure exactly which bug it is that’s bugging you. Our experts at ABC Home & Commercial Services can quickly assess your problem and then discuss a course of action that works best for you and your family. With the help of ABC, you can spend more time enjoying your outdoor spaces and less time worrying about what’s biting you.