Bird mites, or also known as chicken mites, get their name because they are parasitic arachnids that typically host on a wide variety of birds, especially chickens. Usually, they will host on bird species and they only become a structural pest when they move from the birds and bird nests to the inside and outside of buildings. When their original food source moves or leaves the nest, they will migrate from that nest and begin to attack humans. Because they are capable of attacking people inside structures, they are considered nuisance pests. Bird mites are found worldwide including all throughout the United States.
Bird mites are tiny in size and most of the time they are not visible by the naked eye. They are about .75 mm to 1 mm long. Their bodies are oval shape and typically, they are flat from top to bottom. They have a single dorsal shield and even though they taper at the rear end, their ends are not pointed. Bird mites are generally almost white in color when they are unfed. After they feed though, they change to a bright red color and as they digest, they change colors to a gray or will even turn black. There are hairs on the shield of the body and on the legs. They have four pairs of legs.
Bird mites undergo a simple metamorphosis. This means that they simply molt as they develop into fully matured adults. The developmental stages of bird mites include the egg, larva, two nymph stages (protonymph and deutonymph) and finally, the adult stage.
Females lay eggs in batches of about 7 eggs in available cracks and crevices in bird nests or the poultry houses. If bird mites invade inside structural buildings, they will lay eggs in cracks and crevices around and inside the structure of the building as well. Larvae only have 3 pairs of legs and as they molt into nymphs, they develop the last pair of legs. Although larvae do not require a blood meal before they molt into a nymph, nymphs require a blood meal before each molt into the next developmental stage. Also, females require a blood meal before they are able to lay their eggs. Under all favorable conditions, the full developmental period can last for merely 7 days. Once they have fed, adult bird mites can survive for 4 – 5 months without feeding again.
The reason why bird mites are such a nuisance is that they are not limited to just birds as a host. Once their original host has moved away, bird mites will invade the indoors of structures to find a new host to feed on and typically, humans are the next choice.
Usually, problems only occur when birds build their nests on roofs of homes or in trees that are very close to the structure. Some of the typical bird species that are involved or leave traces of bird mites are sparrows, pigeons, starlings and chickens. Due to their size, it is easy for bird mites to enter a building. They use window frames, cracks in the attic and ceilings, and other cracks and crevices that are on the exterior of walls.
When humans are attacked by bird mites, they cause an aggravating skin irritation that may look like a rash or a cluster of red bumps. Moreover, several disease pathogens have been recorded that are carried by bird mites. Although the mite’s role in disease transmission and development is still not clear and even unknown, there have been positive experiments that show signs of disease transmission from bird mites.
If a homeowner finds that their home is infested with bird mites, then most likely, they can trace the infestation back to a bird nest somewhere nearby or even in or on the house itself. Sometimes, birds will make nests in attics, on windowsills, in the gutters, on top of the roof, or under the eaves of the house. The first step is to locate the nest and after treatment is applied to the nest with a properly labeled pesticide, the nest must be removed. Once the nest is removed, the surface and the surrounding area of where the nest was must be treated.
Indoor treatment is a multi step process. Use an appropriately labeled aerosol or liquid insecticide to treat the cracks and crevices of the infested rooms. Bird mites will hide or lay their eggs in cracks and crevices of the structure and therefore, it is important to thoroughly treat possible hiding spots or breeding locations. Then using a ULV to fog or mist the room will provide a complete control of bird mites.
Once the structure is chemically treated, it may be necessary to hot water wash and hot dry bedding and cloth materials that have been left out on the floor or close to walls. Keep in mind that all pesticides should be labeled appropriately. All labels and directions should be thoroughly reviewed before any pesticide is applied in and around the house.
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