Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) are blood-feeding ectoparasites that live in small cracks inside Birdrooms,coming out at night for a blood feed from Fife’s during the warmer months. They are difficult to eradicate and have significant welfare and egg production implications

Red mites are not species specific and will feed from any type of bird

An infestation of red mites will cause skin irritation, stress and a reduction in egg numbers. In extreme cases, birds will become anaemic and can even die.They are particularly resilient.

Although mites usually spend the day hidden in cracks, only going onto birds at night for an hour or so to feed, a few can remain on a bird (maybe by accident) and get transported to new locations (for example when birds are sold). Although there is little research to support this, it is intermediate hosts that can carry them such as dogs or humans (usually on clothing) when visiting other Birdrooms or handling birds.

It is essential to understand their life cycle in order to have a better understanding of how to treat red mites on Fife’s By breaking their life cycle, (e.g. re-treating a red mite infestation before any remaining adults lay more eggs) increases your chances of getting rid of red mites!

A blood feed takes 1 to 2 hours and usually takes place at night when birds are roosting.

Eggs hatch into 6 legged Larvae in 2-3 days. They do not feed.
Larvae moult into 8 legged Protonymphs in 1-2 days and start to feed.
Protonymphs will have a blood feed and turn into Deutonymphs in another 1-2 days
Deutonymphs turn into adult red mites in 2-3 days and continue to take blood feeds
After feeding a female red mite will mate and within 1-2 days is laying eggs.
Females will routinely take a blood feed. Males feed less frequently.

The cycle is of course repeated and numbers increase…

Important to note:

The speed of the red mite life cycle depends on temperature and humidity. Red mite are inactive and cannot reproduce below 9°C so are usually only a problem for us between May and October but with the increasing number of Fife Breeders introducing Heat earlier in the year to get birds into condition Red Mite could appear anytime

Their life cycle takes a couple of weeks when the temperature is in the 10-20°C range, but increase the temperature to 25-30°C with 70% humidity and the lifecycle decreases to less than a week! This is why it’s important to re-treat Birdrooms every 3-4 days before Protonymphs and Deutonymphs that escaped the first treatment can turn into egg laying adults.
In order to lay eggs, the female red mite must have a blood feed. She lays a clutch of around 8 eggs so under favourable weather, red mites can multiply dramatically in just a few weeks. Getting rid of red mites becomes much more difficult during warm weather!

What are red mites? How to identify them.

Red mites are small, up to 1mm long and 0.7mm wide, slow-moving mites. They range in colour from a very light grey, almost translucent to a light brown, black and blood-red colour after a feed. Their eggs are harder to spot with the naked eye at around 0.4mm and translucent, white in colour.

Finding if you have red Mite

Look for colonies of red mites and their excreta (that looks like cigarette ash) close to where birds roost at night.
Check perch ends for evidence. If perches are removable, this makes it easier to find

After dark, red mites will be active, crawling out and along perches to get to their hosts for a blood feed.
Using a torch, look for mites crawling along perches and walls of housing.
Wipe the underside of the perch with a white tissue and look for smears of blood.
Birds will be restless as they get bitten by mites.
They may not want to go in their Nest to roost / may roost on the perch
Egg production will usually decrease and eventually birds will stop laying.
They may lay on the floor of the cage because they get bitten whilst sitting in nest .
Egg yolks can be pale.
Birds will start to lose condition.
As the infestation gets worse, they are losing a lot of blood. They will have a pale comb and wattles.
They will become anaemic and eventually they will die.

Organic treatments

These are broken down into three broad categories:

Powders: Diatomaceous earth or silica based products that are microscopically sharp. They pierce the outer, waxy coating of the mite causing them to dehydrate and die.
Liquid detergents: These break down the waxy coating off the mite which will again cause them to dehydrate and die.
Natural oils: which provide an inhospitable environment for mites to live in.
Some products contain more than one of these, for example diatomaceous earth and tea tree oil in a powder.

With organic treatments, they take time to be effective and repeat treatments are often necessary. It is best to combine at least a couple of types of product, for example, liquid detergents are useful since they will run into the cracks and crevices. They can also be sprayed into difficult to reach areas. Once the Area is dry, you can use a dusting powder (concentrated on the perch ends and nest areas) to catch mites that you missed and as they come out at night to feed and try to get to birds.

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