Bird Mite Eradication Protocols – Dermanyssus gallinae
Bird Mite Eradication Protocols for Dermanyssus gallinae
Disclaimer: These protocols result from one person’s experience and study. The protocols were not developed in a controlled fashion to demonstrate their safety and efficacy. Be aware that if you use these protocols, you do so at your own risk. Follow all directions on products you choose to use, and consult your physician regarding your health issues. Consult with a licensed pest control expert regarding environmental treatments that are legal in your community.
I became infested with D. gallinae in the Fall of 2009 from baby chicks raised in the family home. The Vector Control people called that older house in California, with its wood paneling and wall-to-wall carpeting, “mite heaven.” I was more affected than other family members, and spent many nights in the car that winter.
Eventually the mite population skyrocketed and we moved out of our home. Specimens from the chickens were identified as D. gallinae in all life stages by a veterinary school parasitology lab, and we had the chickens put down.
Eliminating the source did not solve the problem immediately. That took over a year and a lot of work. Ending a mite infestation requires creating an environment that is so inhospitable to mites that you get rid of them faster than they can reproduce. And it starts with getting rid of the source host, in our case the chickens.
Fast forward to 2021. No mites for years, my children were grown and launched, and I had a new partner. We left California and moved to a new house in the rural South. Our country home attracted a bat’s nest and a bird’s nest, and it turned out that lightning (or in this case, mites) really can strike in the same place twice. Once again I had to figure out how to get rid of the damned things. This time I already knew a lot about mites already. I learned even more, and was able to keep both my partner and my house.
After the 2009 infestation I shared on this page the protocols that worked at that time. I have now updated the protocols to reflect new learning and new developments that helped me get rid of the mites more quickly in 2021.
Here is an Updated Summary of What Worked:
- Inform Yourself and Your Team:
What is now known about parasitic mites may be different from what your doctor and pest control expert were taught in school. Educate yourself and share information with professionals, your spouse and family to improve your chances of getting good support.
Check the website Parasites and Vectors.
Print and read the 2015 article, “Should the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae be of wider concern for veterinary and medical science?” The article summarizes what is known about the ability of D. gallinae to switch host species, the human diseases it carries, and the under-diagnosis of the infestation in humans. This is a good reference to provide to your team.
If you can, also buy a copy of Control of Poultry Mites (Dermanyssus) by Dr. Olivier Sparagano. Published in 2009, this book contains a wealth of information about everything from pesticide resistance, to mites as vectors of human diseases, to which essential oils work best as repellants.
- Get Rid of All Possible Source Hosts:
Your pet bird, the pigeons under your balcony, the bird’s nest in your child’s room, the mice in your basement, are all possible sources. Get rid of them all.
- If Possible, Obtain a Species Identification
Some of the more common species of parasitic mites (such as D. gallinae) can now be identified by DNA testing. A positive identification is useful in getting help from your pest control operator and your doctor. Here is the link to the pest identification company I used during the 2021 infestation (Research Associate Laboratory [RAL]):
While I found their results helpful, please note that RAL does not publish its methods and so they have not been validated by peer reviewed studies.
- Pare Down Your Belongings:
Replace your wall-to-wall carpeting with tile, linoleum or wood.
Replace your curtains with blinds.
Get rid of your upholstered furniture, or replace with furniture with cleanable upholstery (such as leather or plastic).
Throw out your books and get a library card.
Throw out most of your clothes. In my experience, dry cleaning does not eliminate mites. If you find that is true for you, only keep machine washable clothes. If you are being bitten in winter, consider wearing long underwear and lighter, machine washable coats.
Order mite proof mattress and pillow covers for all beds in the house (The ones available now are, thankfully, much quieter that those on the market ten years ago).
Either replace your car with an uncarpeted car (such as a Honda Element) or have the carpeting removed from your car and install rubber floor mats. Once the carpeting is gone, you can also have the floor inside your car sprayed with the rubber used in truck beds. Order plastic seat covers designed for the make and model of your car.
- Believe in Your Senses:
- If you are a favored host, your experience may be different from others in your family. Parasitic mites are known to choose favorites in a flock to feed upon.
- DNA (PCR) diagnostic tools are available for some species but not others, so underdiagnosis is still a problem. Older methods used by some pest control operators (such as glue traps) only work if mites happen to step on them.
- The best way to know if treatment of an environment works is whether mites still affect you after the environment is treated. Note that, because eggs can be more resistant to treatment, several treatments a few weeks apart may be needed even if a pesticide is working.
- Use Pesticides and Mite Growth Hormones as Directed:
Your pest control professional will probably need to identify the species before using these products on your home. Mites evolve pesticide resistance, so discuss the choice of products with your pest control specialist.
During the 2021 infestation, I found out about a miticide called Steri-Fab that is available online from sites including “Do-It-Yourself Pest Control.” Steri-Fab must be used carefully and according to directions, and based only on my experience, it seems to be similarly as effective as the miticides used by the pest control operator we hired.
- Keep It Clean:
- Cool Down Your Environments:
Mite are more active and reproduce more rapidly in a warm environment. Keep your home, car and office cool.
- Dry Out Your Environments:
Drying out mites is an effective way to interfere with them that involves no toxic chemicals. Go to a hardware store and buy dehumidifiers to run in every room. Or even better, install a whole house dehumidifier in your basement (that way the heat from the machine won’t heat your house). DO NOT run humidifiers in your home while you have mites. You want your house less humid, NOT more humid.
- Clean Frequently:
- If you still have any rugs or carpets in your home, vacuum with a strong vacuum cleaner every day. After each use, empty the canister into your outdoor trashcan. Then spray the inside of the canister with cleanser before storing. And please get rid of your rugs if you can.
- Use ammonia — not bleach — to wash your floors. Bleach corrodes surfaces and provides hiding places for bugs. And NEVER use ammonia and bleach together! That combination produces toxic gas.
- Wash your laundry every day, including your sheets, on hot water, with detergent, Borax and ammonia. Dry on high heat. Thin clothes are easiest to wash thoroughly; avoid fuzzy clothes.
- Wear washable shoes and wash them in the washing machine every day.
- Clean the inside of your car every day. Antiseptic wipes are good because they are disposed of after each use.
- Cool Down Your Environments:
- Keep Your Body Mite-Unfriendly:
- Keep your hair short. Wash with a sulfur or tar dandruff shampoo once a day. Follow up with a conditioner with essential oils.
- Shower at least once a day, scrubbing with a rough washcloth. Use liquid soap that contains mite repelling natural ingredients such as neem, tea tree, eucalyptus, and/or lavender. Wash your face with a cleanser that contains eucalyptus, or use an apricot scrub. A battery operated face brush that cleans in a circular motion is helpful. Try using peppermint lotion. Clean your shower after use, and dehumidify the bathroom.
- Hibiclens is an antibacterial scrub used by surgeons that can be effective when you wash your hands, especially if used with a hand brush.
- Keep the following homemade mite repellants with you. Use as needed: a) Lotion to which you have added essential oils and neem; b) a spray bottle containing witch hazel to which you have added essential oils plus neem. Remember to follow label directions regarding amounts.
- Keep Your Bed Mite-Unfriendly:
Wrap masking tape around the legs of your bed, sticky side out, to keep mites from climbing up from the floor. Cover your box spring, mattress, and pillows with plastic bed covers and wipe them down with antiseptic when you change the bedding.
- Get Out of Your House and Swim:
The more you are at home, the more you are exposed to the mites in your environment. Get out and swim in a chlorinated pool every day that you can. Then sit in a chlorinated Jacuzzi and power wash your feet.
- Start with the Least Toxic Options
Here’s to a long, happy life after the parasitic mites are gone. And to help make that happen, be sure to start with the least toxic methods. Non-toxic ways to fight mites include:
- Running dehumidifiers
- Keeping your house cool
- Getting rid of carpeting
- Putting mite-proof covers on mattresses and pillows
Be mindful of the risks versus benefits of other methods you choose, and discuss them with the experts on your team.
- Own the Problem:
Become your own expert. If you want to understand why nobody else in your family is being bitten the way you are, read about host selection. If you want to understand why your new bites are less visible than the first bites you received, read about immunosuppression by ectoparasites. More is known every day about parasitic mites. The more you learn, the better you can solve this problem.
Best of luck. You can reclaim your life from this infestation. You, and only you, can make it happen.