How to Eradicate Parasitic Mites
In Spring 2009, my then-partner decided to raise chickens in our backyard. That summer we got four new baby chicks and raised them in our family room until they were big enough to house with our backyard hens.
In most cities, it is illegal to keep chickens in, or even near, a human habitation. With good reason: Chickens can carry a variety of ectoparasites, from bedbugs to several kinds of parasitic mites. These mites are so tiny that trying to see one is like trying to see a piece of cellophane tape the size of the point of a pin.
By Halloween 2009 the house was so infested that I (the mites’ favorite host) had to move out. Eliminating these parasites took time, energy and money. We received conflicting advice from professionals, creating great stress in the family. All this even though, as a biologist, I had the advantage of being able to read scientific journals from all over the world on those long, mite-bitten nights.
I learned from other affected people that our family’s story was all too common. It could start with kids bringing home a bird’s nest, or pigeons nesting under an apartment balcony, or with backyard poultry. Rich and poor, gay and straight, families with parasitic mites experience stress, difficulty getting help, and a sense of isolation.
In 2016 I published The Year of the Mite, a book that captures the details of that 2009 infestation as a way to let others know they are not alone. The book also discusses the biology of mites and how evolution has shaped their behavior as a basis for problem solving how to get rid of them. The original protocols I used to eliminate the 2009 infestation are in the book too.
Years later, with the children grown and with a new partner, I was so confident that I’d never have mites again that I moved to the hot and humid American South. Our new home in a rural area soon became home to bird nests and a bat colony. I began being bitten in 2021 by something I could not see. The sensations were so familiar that I was pretty sure it was parasitic mites and had a good idea what to do about them. I was glad to learn that better products and methods were now available.
Simple things like the development of quieter mite covers for pillows and mattresses made a big difference. I learned about DNA-based diagnostic testing for the presence of mites, which confirmed D. gallinae(the red poultry mite) in my home. I also found out about an effective miticide available to order online. As a result, I was able to get rid of the 2021 infestation without moving out of my home. Based on what I learned the second time around, I revised my protocols. As always, check product labels and consult with your physician and pest control professional about your plans to eliminate mites. Start with the safest ways to eliminate mites, including eliminating carpeting, vacuuming daily, and keeping your environment cool and dry. When your mites are gone, you will be glad you preserved your health.
If you are a person with mites, or a professional wanting to help, you can find the Year of The Mite on Amazon (paperback and Kindle), Apple iBooks, and Barnes & Noble (Nook). Until a new edition of the book is published, the revised protocols based on the 2021 infestation are only available on this site.
As the world warms, ticks are spreading over a wider area and remaining active for more of each year. Ticks’ smaller cousins the mites may follow suit. It will take all of us sharing information to help those affected by parasitic mites to overcome them.