Bird Mites Scientific Name: Demanyssus gallinae and Ornithonyssus sylviarum
Bird Mites: A Pest to Avoid
Many people are not familiar with the bird mite until their home or livestock becomes infested, and then they become acutely aware of the irritation, pain and frustration that can ensue. Although these pests only reach the size of a ballpoint pen tip, the bird mite is a nasty arachnid that wreaks havoc on its hosts and is extremely difficult to eradicate. Found all over the world, there are two main species of the bird mite in the United States, and both have very similar traits and pest patterns.
This parasite’s name would suggest that they are only attracted to fowl, but unfortunately they have a much broader scope. Although notorious for infecting chicken coups, the bird parasite only requires a warm-blooded creature from where they can glean blood. Unlike other parasites that become semi-permanently attached to their host, the bird mite will feed and release, returning for more each night. Bird mites are extremely hostile and destructive, but even more importantly they have no issue using a human as their host and can infest a home within a matter of hours and days.
Bird Mites Facts
Bird mites are almost impossible to see without some kind of magnification, therefore you will most likely be bitten before you suspect the parasite is in your home.
Although their main hosts are birds, the mite will seek out another victim when a nest becomes empty. Bird mites can be brought into homes via pets, rodents or even on your clothes.
Creatures of the night, the parasites prey on their host as the host sleeps or becomes sedentary (watching TV, reading a book in bed, etc.). If the host is active during the day the parasites will generally go into hiding.
It is normal for Bird mites to multiply into the high thousands in a short amount of time.
If the mite does make it into your home, the bedroom is the likely landing place (but they will spread throughout the whole house if not taken care of quickly).
Attracted to warm, moist areas, the parasites will try to congregate around the facial, armpit and groin areas.
The parasites use their keen senses to find new hosts; they sense heat, movement and high levels of CO2.
Bird mites can easily get on your pets. Consider reading our Mites on Dogs Article.
Bird Mites Habitat
Unfortunately, there is no real formula to track down exactly what areas the bird mites will inhabit. These parasites, while they prefer warmer temperatures and high humidity levels, can survive in below freezing conditions for a period of time. The mite has the amazing and frustrating ability to adapt very quickly to its surroundings thanks to its changeable DNA, and therefore all climates are susceptible. The biggest piece of advice is to be mindful of your surroundings. If you live in a home take care to trim trees and remove old nests in order to dissuade birds from making your lawn their home. If you are buying furniture make sure to discuss its previous conditions – did the neighborhood have a bird problem? Etc. If you are looking to buy a house, keep in mind that warm areas near the ocean will generally be at higher risk.
Bird Mites Lifecycle
These creatures are capable of incredibly rapid growth rates. In one week the mite will have undergone its change from egg to adolescent to adult and will be hunting for a host in the first couple days. While Bird mites will mate, the population is made up of just under 100% females, who require blood in their system for reproduction. Both adolescent and adult mites are capable of feeding and will change from an off-white color to deep red after they have penetrated their host. Adult bird mites can live for long periods of time if not eradicated and thrive in groups. Once a mite has found a suitable host, the parasite will attract other mites to share in the feast. ‘Colonies’ of thousands or more can easily form, causing the lifecycle to start over again with new eggs being hatched daily.
Symptoms of Bird Mite Bites
Humans will rarely see the culprit, but the effects of a bird mite will take place shortly after the initial bite. People have described the bite location to look like a bull’s-eye on a dartboard; a small pinprick hole will be dark red and fade outward in a circular pattern.
Itching is the most common symptom and can be severe (powerful anti-itch medicine or essential oils is suggested).
Victims have described the sensation of ‘creepy crawlies’ once bitten.
As the parasites like to attack in groups, one may experience what appears to be a rash, but what is actually made up of individual pin pricks.
Aside from the general irritation, these parasites can also carry diseases that can affect animals and potentially humans. If your house has been infected, you may want to see a doctor to check for any further infections.
Please see our page specifically on bird mites treatment if you or members of your family have received bites.