WHAT'S THAT ITCH?? MIGHT BE MITES!
"Bird mites", "Tropical fowl mites" or "Starling Mites" are the common names used to describe the mite Ornithonyssus bursa.
Normally, bird mites will not be seen by an average homeowner. But, in spring and summer, bird mites may suddenly be seen as occasional invaders in many homes and structures. This is because bird mites live within bird nests and on birds themselves, and when young birds (and their nurturing parents) within the nests leave, any remaining mites suddenly have no host upon which to feed. So, the mites leave the nests and move inside in search of a new host upon which to feed. In addition, if a bird falls out of a nest or dies suddenly, thus abandoning a nest, bird mites will seek other hosts.
These mites may enter homes, sometimes in large numbers, to search for food. They may then secondarily feed upon humans and pets, including pet birds. They cause no harm to humans or bird pets. But, they are an annoyance and can cause temporary dermatitis and allergic reactions in response to the bites. Fortunately, they do not reproduce on human blood, rarely transmit diseases or otherwise cause a health hazard to people.
These mites are very small (about 1/32 inch long); they can be seen with the naked eye. They are sometimes misidentified as nymphal stage bed bugs or bat bugs. For this reason, a proper identification, as with any pest, is vital to put the customer’s mind at ease.
Because bird nests are usually located around eaves and gutters higher up on a structure, often times the homeowner will complain of seeing small pepper-sized bugs within an upstairs bedroom. Mites may be captured on glue boards and identified with a hand lens or a dissecting microscope.
Mites are not insects but are arachnids. Adult mites will have eight legs and resemble a small tick. The easiest method to control bird mites that have entered a home is to physically remove them with a vacuum cleaner or wipe them up with a moist cloth. Mites are not automatically killed by a vacuum cleaner so freezing the bag to prevent the mites from crawling back out will help.
To prevent further problems with these mites, it is important to eliminate their hosts and any nests. Remove dead birds. If nests are empty (i.e. no eggs or young birds in them), remove and dispose of them. If eggs or young are found in nests of federally protected birds, do not disturb them. If the nesting season is over and only adults remain, you may remove the nest, provided the birds are not harmed. Then the area may be treated with a material labelled as a miticide, such as bifenthrin, by a licensed pest controller.
Sparrows, starlings and pigeons are the birds most often associated with bird mite infestations in buildings. So, any exclusion work to prevent the return of these birds to these structures will also help. This will normally resolve your bird mite issue.
For further information you can also download a SA Government publication on Bird Mites here
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