A Decade After The Year of the Mite

This year marks a decade since my Year of the Mite. Although it certainly did not seem like it in 2009, I was one of the lucky ones: My infestation with Dermanyssus gallinae only lasted a year. Only a year of being bitten by things I could not see, up to three times a minute at the height of the infestation. Only a year of trying everything I could think of to reclaim my own skin. Many people with parasitic mites have suffered far longer, and many continue to suffer.

I am glad that the book brings solace to people dealing with parasitic mites, and helps them to feel less alone. Although I am neither a physician nor an entomologist, and anyone who uses my protocols does so at their own risk with no guarantees, I am glad that some people have found ideas that helped them. My methods were completely unscientific; out of desperation, I tried multiple remedies at a time, so looking back it is not possible to say exactly how effective any one treatment was.

While some people have reached out to me for advice, I only know what worked for me at the time, with the particular mites I had. All I can offer is anecdotal, and all of that is captured in the book.

While a few folks have found it helpful to show the book to an open-minded physician, The Year of the Mite did not turn the tide in any meaningful way regarding the opinions of professionals in the field. That will require a different approach than a scientific memoir. It will require challenging professionals to approach this problem scientifically, with open minds. How do they know what they think they know, and what it would take to find out more? I have ideas about how to begin that process, but that work will not be under the pseudonym I used for this book.

After ten years I still have the same piece of advice that I offered when I had mites: Own the problem. While there are some scientific advocates for people with parasitic mites, such as Dr. Olivier Sparagano in the UK, such professionals are currently rare. And so it is essential to learn everything you can about this condition. The more you learn about mites, how they behave, what conditions support and do not support their growth, the better able you will be to manage your own recovery. Until attitudes change, until there is more research, people with mites must be their own best advocates. Wishing all the best to everyone affected by this condition.

What Readers are Saying about “The Year of the Mite”

Below are some recent reviews. And as I post this, Amazon seems to be offering the eBook free!

And, by the way, if you have read the book, please post a review… the more reviews, the more likely the Amazon genii is to offer the book to folks searching for information about mites. Thanks!

“Jane certainly has a gift for writing, her story is both captivating and fascinating but she also provides valuable knowledge on what she did to rid herself and her family of the problem. I laughed and was angry with her as I read her story and I’m sure others that have been through this can relate. The few friends that believe be me know I’m suffering but they’ll never quite understand because unlike any other bug infestation a mite is so small you typically can’t see it and what’s even worse is these mites are extremely resilient so when you get to the point that you think you are getting them under control or their almost gone and then they come back with a vengeance it makes you want to give up. I’m so glad I found this book, I only wish I found it sooner. If you are going through a bird mite infestation or know anyone going through one please, please, please tell them about this book it will help them more than you know! And last to Jane Ishka thank you, you are a godsend!” 

“Shining a light on such a little know and often misunderstood topic. No one can possibly comprehend how this tiny invader can ruin relationships, lives and drive you to the brink of insanity only to be told by health professionals that you are delusional. Great read, thank you Jane.”
-Just Me

“This is an important book about the under-recognized problem of mite infestation. Last September, something we couldn’t see started biting us in our home, and we thought it was mosquitos until the weather turned cold. Then, after researching online, we realized that we probably had microscopic mites left over from an earlier mouse infestation. Before this experience, we had no idea that a few species of animal mites sometimes attack humans.

As the book explains, mites can be difficult to catch, and the bites affect some people worse than others. Many individuals may be unaware of an infestation because the bites don’t bother them. For people who are sensitive to the bites, however, an infestation can be an ordeal, as Ishka attests. Because the effects of the bites may mimic other physical and emotional conditions, sufferers are often misdiagnosed; so the problem may be more common than many doctors and even entomologists realize. We need more public awareness about mite infestations to stimulate research for better diagnostic techniques and miticides than are currently available.

Many thanks to Ms. Ishka for her intelligent narrative, dry humor, and wise coping strategies. She has inspired me to do a lot of work around the house to make the place less hospitable to mites.”

“I cried when I read this book. I’ve been battling bird or rodent mites for 5 years, and I feel so alone. I am an educated person–I have a Bachelor’s in Biology, but I have never felt so defeated as I have by these mites. I’ve tried everything under the sun, spent tens of thousands of dollars, but it is never enough. I’m so glad Jane Ishka wrote this book—not just because I relate to her experience, but because she is calling for the medical and scientific community to step up. We need publicity and research. We need help. If you are suffering from mites, this is the book to read.”
– Infested

“Very helpful, comforting and intelligently written. Finally some protocol information that makes sense as well as current scientific information. A mite infestation can completely derail your life and any plans you might have had for it. It is very easy to feel alone and unheard. I am thankful that Jane Ishka has spoken out for those with no voice. I hope that the CDC, the medical community and the pest control industry read this book so that progress can be made and we can get our lives back.”
-Amazon Customer

“Finally an authoritative- and absorbing- book on the horrendous phenomenon of bird mites. Jane Ishka also has a website. Her clear protocol, sense of humor, and ultimate health all give hope to those of us dealing with this. I can’t say enough about my gratitude to her for writing this book”.
– PW

A Call to Self-Advocacy for People with Parasitic Mites

I hear from more and more people about their struggles with parasitic mites. So many lost homes, ruined marriages, derailed careers, decimated savings accounts. So many children suffering, so many pets being put down. Hopefully the reason I hear from so many is that more folks are finding my book, this site, and my Facebook page — and NOT that more people are contracting mite infestations. But with the climate warming (which favors arthropods), and with the continued popularity of backyard poultry, it is possible the number of affected people is increasing. As long as the problem officially does not exist and is not tracked, it will be difficult to know for sure.

What is clear is that there are enough of us, with enough smarts and enough indignation, to begin to breach the official denial that has prevented people with mites from getting help for so many years. Networks are forming. There are petitions signed by thousands, there are groups sharing ideas on Facebook. In Europe, Dr. Olivier Sparagano has begun a professional organization to fight the red poultry mite, that will surely benefit humans as well as agricultural animals. Dr. David George has published his groundbreaking article in the journal Parasites & Vectors on the need to consider parasitic mites as a human and veterinary diagnosis. There are groups on Facebook where affected people share information about the protocols that work for them.

If you are a person with mites, and if you have any energy left after working the grueling protocols you’ll find on this site and elsewhere, here are some things you can do:

Join the Skin Mites Support Group on Facebook and volunteer to help

Get involved with your local Biohacking or Citizen Science group, and learn to identify your own parasitic mite species

Start educating the people around you about how to avoid a parasitic mite infestation, because an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. And it can be as simple as suggesting your friends refuse to bring a bird’s nest or feathers info their homes.

When someone disputes the reality of your infestation, be prepared. Refer them to David George’s article, or to the “Frequently Asked Questions for Friends and Family” section of The Year of the Mite. It is time we all came out of the closet.

We can also start gathering information systematically about the shared natural history of infestation.  This will help us approach NIH and the CDC with a scientifically based appeal for assistance.

When I think about people who had to deal with parasitic mites before the internet, with no information and no support, it fills me with sorrow. It is hard enough to overcome this scourge with the support and information we have now. But we have come a long way from those isolated days. And together we will overcome the institutional denial that adds to the health issues of too many people with parasitic mites.

With all best wishes to you and yours,

Progress Happens.

A small press run by science nerds recently published my book, The Year of the Mite, which is based on my family’s zoonotic infestation by the poultry mite Dermanyssus gallinae.  These are nocturnal parasites about the size of the point of a pin that tend to pick out one favorite in a flock (or family), and in sufficient numbers can bleed a chicken dry.

I am a cell biologist with no particular training in arthropods, and was tossed into the Looking Glass world of mite sufferers when my then-partner decided to raise a new batch of baby chicks in our family room in 2009.  It has been sixty years since the first published account of human erythrocytes isolated in the guts of poultry mites, but even now, people with parasitic mites are often told their problem is psychological.  The Catch-22 is that, as long as this view prevails, there is little or no focus on diagnosing and treating the problem.  I was lucky that a veterinarian captured and identified specimens, and that as a biologist, I was able to piece together an effective protocol based on journal articles from around the globe.

The paradigm is beginning to shift, as the number of people with parasitic mites increases due to climate change and backyard poultry.  The use of PCR to identify mite DNA on humans is far superior to the old tape method, with its very high false negative rate.  UK mite expert Olivier Sparagano is organizing European professionals (including entomologists and veterinarians) who recognize this public health issue and want to combat it.  A group of entomologists headed by David George recently published an article on the medical and veterinary impacts of Dermanyssus gallinae (see link below).


Meanwhile some US mite survivors are organizing a patient advocacy group with plans to publish articles on various aspects of the issue.

While I am grateful to have rid myself of parasitic mites, there are many who continue to suffer with this unrecognized public health problem.  Many of them are sleepless for months on end, in some cases becoming suicidal.

Progress is happening, and cannot happen soon enough.

False Diagnosis of Delusional Parasitosis

Below is a link to an article comparing false negative rates using various methods of testing for mites. I believe the PCR method was first used in studies of Demodex and showed much higher rates than with old methods. The interesting thing is, if you read articles in the psychotherapy literature about delusional parasitosis, the authors uniformly assume the validity of old methods like tape testing. So the false negatives with tape testing turn into false positives for delusional parasitosis. Coming soon: a full article on the etiology and sequelae of false diagnoses of delusional parasitosis.



A (Mostly Great) Article on Perils of Backyard Poultry

Meredith Swett Walker wrote a pretty great article about the perils of backyard poultry.  All about people who promote their livestock to family pet, without considering the consequences.

Funny.  Well written Terrific.  Except for one sentence, where she says not to worry, these pests don’t cross over to humans.

Considering that bedbugs can live on chickens, this is already a problem.

Backyard Chickens Harbor Greater Diversity of Ticks, Mites, and Lice than Farm-raised Chickens

Really hope she reads David George’s article on the plasticity of the D. gallinae genome, and how chicken mites can create medical problems.


This idea that parasites can’t cross host species lines seems to be one of those memes that won’t go away, like the flat earth.


Jane Ishka on Facebook and Other News

Jane Ishka on Facebook

Big News!


Jane Ishka is now on Facebook! Please follow Jane there, chat and recommend her to anyone who could be helped by her expertise. You can also use the buttons on the left to ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ any of the pages with your friends on Facbook – please consider doing that so that Jane can help more people understand about mites and how to get rid of them.

The Book

Jane is busily proofing the very final version of The Year of The Mite and it will be available at Amazon and other good book sellers by the end of February! You can get both hard copy print and the electronic Kindle version online. The printed previews look great and were shown off at Jane’s latest talk on ‘The Sex Life of Mites’ at Nerd Night, North Bay in early February. The books we took were quickly grabbed for reviews and for education.  Jane would very much appreciate a review on Amazon.

Some of the topics in Jane’s talk, for more on the sex lives of mites, Jane suggests:

Jane Ishka Now On Facebook

Jane Talks at The North Bay Nerd Night about the ‘Sex Life of Mites’

* “Want Longer Sex? Come Back as a Dust Mite.”
* “Are Mites Having Sex in My Face?”
* “Ancient Dominatrix Mites Found Trapped in Amber While Mating
* “Adactylidium: Baby mites fertilized before birth, eat their way out of mother’s body

The Website

You will see that we have a completely revamped website.  We like it and hope that you do too.  Let Jane know your thoughts, you can now email her directly at [email protected] and the name of the site (just to try and avoid those pesky spammers).

You can also comment on Facebook of course.


The Mite Protocols


These protocols are the result of 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.

Introduction: I became heavily infested with D. gallinae in the Fall of 2009 from baby chicks raised in the family home.  Our older house with its wood paneling and carpet turned out to be “mite heaven,” as Vector Control called it.  I was more affected than other family members, and spent many nights that winter trying to sleep in the car.

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.

Here’s the advice I wish I’d had at the outset:

  • 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 web 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.
  • Get Rid of Most of Your Belongings:
  • Move into a place with no carpeting and no drapes (get blinds).
  • Get rid of your carpeted car and get a Jeep, or a Honda Element.
  • Look up the 5S system (which originated in Japan) for a method to pare down belongings.  Get rid of your upholstered furniture, or if you must, have plastic, not cloth, upholstery. Throw out your books and get a library card.  Throw out most of your clothes.

When everything you own becomes a fomite (an object that transmits an infection, in this case mites), it’s easy to let go of your possessions.

    • 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: Mites are susceptible to desiccation (drying out). This is an effective way to interfere with mites that involves no toxic chemicals. Go to a major hardware store and buy dehumidifiers to run in every room. DO NOT run humidifiers in your home while you have mites.


  • Keep It Clean:
  • 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 after each use, including 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 with your laundry every day.
  • Clean the inside of your car every day with antiseptic wipes.


  • Keep Your Body Mite-Unfriendly:
  • Keep your hair as short as you can stand it.  Wash whatever hair is left with a sulfur or tar dandruff shampoo at least 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 repellent 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.
  • 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. You’ll find these two repellents are useful at different times.


  • The best way to know if treatment of an environment works is whether mites still affect you after the environment is treated.
  • Good diagnostic tools are being developed but are not widely available, so underdiagnosis is still a problem.
  • 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.
  • Believe in Your Senses:
  • Use Pesticides and Mite Growth Hormones as Directed: Your pest control professional will likely 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.
  • 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 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.  Then sit in a chlorinated Jacuzzi and power wash your feet.  If you can’t do that, at least exercise (and work up a sweat) every day.
  • 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.

Envy – An Excerpt from the Book – The Year of the Mite

It was dusk, just when the bugs woke up to bite. While awaiting a load of laundry at a laundromat, I sat on a wooden bench on the sidewalk facing a restaurant. I was dressed in thin clothes that were easy to wash, and I was cold. It was a chilly night, and I was a homeless person with a six-figure income.

As I sat on the bench, a man and a woman in their forties approached the restaurant. He was trim, looked like he worked out. He had dark hair and a pencil moustache.

She was slender too, had light brown hair, wispy and almost blonde. She was wearing a baby blue sweater, had it wrapped tightly and her arms crossed.

When they arrived at the restaurant, the man reached across and opened the door for her. They passed through, into a warm evening of good food and later, maybe sex, and almost certainly a cozy sleep. And here is the thing: the expressions on their faces as they walked through the door. They were so blasé, almost bored, as if maybe they were both trying really hard to play it cool. That is what I’d like to think: that they were finally on a date with each other, really did appreciate what they had, could not wait to be together, and were wearing their game faces because they were both playing hard to get.

But in the moment I saw their faces, while I sat there cold because warm jackets are too hard to wash every night, while I had no appetite and things bit me and crawled on me, I believed these two people were just as uninterested as they looked. And I had a flash of complete hatred for this couple I never met. I hated them more intensely than I hated my screaming alcoholic eleventh grade chemistry teacher. I hated them more than I ever hated anybody, and these were people I never talked with, people who had done me no wrong. I hated them because I envied their ability to take it all for granted. I hated them because they were innocent of what it was to be haunted. I hated them because their skin was unmarked, and nobody was in their hair or their ears or their belly buttons. I hated them because I wanted that. I wanted to be just that privileged. I wanted to not even notice how good I had it, and I did not know if I would ever feel nonchalant again.

It was a flash, one second, then the door closed and I never saw them again. I don’t know whether they noticed what they ate, or if they spoke at dinner or just sat, glazed over. For all I know they were run over by a bus that night.

I am not even sure now which laundromat I sat near, what restaurant it was. If I saw that couple again I would not know them. But I will never forget those blank expressions, those bland eyes, the man smug and entitled, the woman serene and self-contained.

And I wonder if, in that moment when I hated them, I was alive in a way that they were not. It is tempting to believe that awareness is the prize and contentment the booby prize. But really, of course, it’s the other way around.