Frequently Asked Questions About Red Mites

Poultry red mites are a common yet complex parasite, with infestation effects on poultry operations ranging from physical (on the birds) to economic. Below are responses to some of the most commonly asked questions about red mites and the challenges veterinarians and producers face every day.

  • What is length of the lifecycle of the poultry red mite?

    It can be as short as seven days and up to two weeks, depending on environmental conditions.

  • Can poultry red mites spread other diseases?

    Yes, a number of viral and bacterial pathogens have been isolated from or have been shown to exhibit mite vectored transmission of pathogens in the laboratory setting. Some of the pathogens include: Salmonella gallinarum, Salmonella enteritidis, E. coli, Mycoplasma synoviae and others.

  • What is the overall infestation rate of poultry red mites in Europe?

    The infestation rate in Europe is estimated at 83 percent.1

  • What types of physiological damage result from poultry red mite infestation?

    Anemia is quite common, which in severe cases can result in more than 3 percent blood loss every night. Pain and skin irritation, which leads to reduced egg production and weight gain, as well as immunosuppression, mortality and decreased egg shell quality also occur.

  • What is the estimate of economic damage caused by poultry red mites?

    Recent estimates by Van Emous in the Netherlands show that the total cost of infestation is about €0.60 per hen, which includes production loss and cost of treatment.2

  • Why do current control methods lack effectiveness?

    Poultry red mites can be transferred between flocks by crates, clothing, wild birds, conveyor belts, etc. They can be difficult to detect unless birds are examined at night when mites are feeding. Simply removing the chickens from the barn will not eliminate mites because they can live up to eight months without feeding. Mites hide in cracks and crevices in the barn, which is difficult for conventional control methods to reach.

  • What are some of the shortcomings of chemical control methods for red mites?

    Some chemical control methods are not approved for use in the presence of birds or have an egg withdrawal period. Short residual activity results in some mites not coming into contact with the chemical. Most chemical products have little or no activity on mite eggs, which are then allowed to hatch and reinfest the house. In addition, resistance development of the mite to chemicals has been widely reported. Applying chemical treatments can be very labor intensive and a hazard for workers doing the application.

1 Mul M. Fact sheet: the poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae (De Geer, 1778) A small pest that packs a big punch. Wageningen UR, 2013.

2 Kilpinen O. How to obtain a blood meal without being eaten by a host: the case of poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae. Physiol Entomology 2005; 30:232-240.

A secure house is a clean house.

Many factors contribute to the introduction and spread of poultry red mites.
Avoid the damages caused by infestations with a farm biosecurity audit.

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