Things you maybe didn't but should know about them!!
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red-mite.diag.jpg (14673 bytes) RED MITE    
(Dermanyssus Gallinae)

& Dorsal > Views  

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Red Mite is an obligatory blood-feeding ecto-parasite

  • ("ecto" means it attacks or feeds on the outside of the bird

  • as opposed to worms (endo-parasite) that feed on the inside.

  • It attacks resting birds, mainly during the night for a short (1 - 2 hours) blood meal.

  • After feeding, the mites hide in cracks and crevices away from daylight.

    • Here they mate and lay their eggs.

Red mites are very small

  • just visible without magnification

    • and may appear like moving specs of dirt

    • The eggs are microscopically small (400 x 270u) oval and pearly white.

  • Red mites are not species specific and will "attack" any species or breed of bird. 

  • They do not fly nor are they usually transmitted via clothing

    • although if there is a bad infestation, mites have been known to "jump" onto a person's clothing
      and therefore could be transported this way to another location/Aviary etc.

    • Remember they are only usually out of their hidey-holes towards dusk/dark and would be unusual
      for them to be active during daylight hours.

  • they are extremely mobile considering their microscopic size 

  • and can travel great distances relative to their size!

  • They can be transferred from bird to bird 

  • or from wild birds landing on your Aviaries, 

    • esp if there is an open area of roof. 

  • Adults - are red when engorged with blood

    • otherwise black, grey or white

    • females about 1 mm long

    • mouthparts :  slender and whip like. 

  • Life cycle (stages)

    • Female mites deposit eggs (after a blood meal) in crevices,

    • under boards, at the ends of perches where they butt up to the back of the cage

    • or in debris near roosts

  • Under warm conditions the eggs can transform into :

    • Six-legged larvae within 2 -3 days

    • These 6-legged larvae do not feed  

    • Within 24 hours the larvae moult into 8-legged protonymphs - which do feed  

    • Protonymphs start to feed on roosting birds

    • They then moult into deutonymphs

    • which continue feeding

    • before becoming an Adult Male or Female Red-Mite

  • Deutonymphs

    • take a blood meal then moult into adults

    • Under favourable conditions the life cycle  (egg-to-egg)

    • can be completed in 7 days (frightening!!)

  • Adults have lived up to 5+ months without a Blood Meal

    • So, they can live off their host (the bird)

    • without a Blood Feed - for up to 5+ months and still survive!

    • They are nearly white when unfed

    • but are bright red, when recently fed

    • They are grey to black with a partially digested blood meal inside them.

Site of infestation

  • Skin of the host, but most of the life cycle is spent in hiding places 

  • in the nest, Aviary, cage, perch-end or roost crevices.

Pathogenesis/clinical signs

  • If the levels of infestation are high, the mite can cause increased stress to the birds - including :

  • Anaemia, due to blood loss

  • Severe skin irritation

  • Blood loss can cause increased susceptibility to disease

    • Esp. if the bird's living conditions aren't the most sanitary!

  • or may be severe enough to cause death

  • Clinical signs include restlessness, 

  • scratching, usually around the head with the foot

  • or rubbing the head and face on perches (more often than usual)

  • The mites can occasionally bite mammals, inc. humans,

    • causing painful skin irritation

    • often on the inside of the human forearm


  • A large infestation will causes anaemia amongst small birds.

  • they can be especially dangerous to small chicks in the nest.

  • Mites may be difficult to find on the bird during daylight hours.

  • Look for mites in their hiding places during the day with a magnifying glass,

    • mainly confined to dark hiding spaces. 

  • If you suspect you have Red-mite, hang a piece of white cloth/white sheet over the front of your cage
    and in the morning you will find blood-red mites (as they will have just fed)

    • they seem attracted to the white cloth.

  • Check for tiny black spots - the mite's droppings

    • these are also indicative of infestation.

Control measures

  • An ideal alternative to wood, is to construct Aviaries/cages for birds 

    • out of Plastic &/or metal

    • Plastic "Quicko" cages and metal (aluminium-panelled) Aviaries

    • thus eliminating crevices (hiding places) as much as possible.

  • Seal as many joints & crevices of your Cages, Aviaries, Nestboxes & Feeders as possible

  • Use "Painters' Mate" mastic (that sets hard) or similar (you can get it in brown)

  • Red mites are able to survive rigorous cleaning and disinfections programmes

  • Heat guns have been used to some effect on the joints and crevices of wood-work.

  • Steam cleaners (no birds in the Aviary at the time!)

  • Synthetic Pyrethroid (Cypermethrin)

  • Pyrethroid (alphacypermethrin)

  • Permethrin and Piperonly Butoxide 

    • Permethrin is also used in healthcare, to eradicate parasites such as head lice and scabies,
      and in industrial and domestic settings to control pests such as
      ants and termites.

  • Silica-based products

  • Citrus extracts

  • FLYCAM W   (Recommended by DEFRA for Poultry Farmers to eradicate Red Mite from their Flocks 
     - apparently very effective - comes in powder Form and can be diluted to spray).

  • IVERMECTIN "spot-on" is one of the most effective preventative and eradicating measures you can take.

    • It works in a similar way to "Frontline" which you can buy to put on your dogs and cats to worm
      them and kill off fleas etc.

    • Ivermectin works systemically i.e. it is absorbed thru the skin or feather shaft into the birds body.

    • So, it follows that it also will be absorbed into your body thru your skin if you get it on you.

      • You MUST WEAR rubber GLOVES before you catch up your bird to administer it

      • It can make you feel ill and you know you have absorbed it becos you get a strange bitter
        taste in your mouth!

    • Catch up your bird and blow the feathers apart at the back of it's neck where it can't get it's beak
      to preen.

    • Put one or 2 drops (check directions first so you do not overdose) on the back of the birds neck,
      as near to the skin as poss.  

    • Give it a few seconds to start to absorb b4 letting the bird go.

  • IVERMECTIN controls and helps to kill both internal (worms) and external (mites and lice etc.) parasites.

  • You can get "Panomec" from your Vets

  • Some Pharmaceutical firms are now supplying a 1% solution which can be sold over the counter.

    • You can buy it over the internet or from certain Pet shops and at Bird Sales. 

Duramitex - is a solution you can use 

  • - You dilute with water and sprayed into all the crevices and hiding places.

  • You can use 1 litre plant spray 

  • or empty and rinse thoroughly a kitchen cleaning spray bottle and fill with the mix.

  • Remember it's better to try and spray towards dusk/dark 

  • to try and get the Red Mite as they emerge from their hiding places

  • Remove your birds FIRST BEFORE SPRAYING!

  • You can buy this product from Pet stores or Bird Shows.

  • Wear a protective mask over your nose and mouth when spraying.

  • It can't be healthy breathing it in!

  • Also, rubber gloves

  • It's very strong smelling, so don't take any risks

  • Feeding your bird Garlic (helps deter mites)

    • It works by exuding a strong garlic smell thru the birds skin, 

    • which the mites and other biting insects don't seem to like

    • (your can buy pure Garlic powder or granules from Agricultural merchants or Saddlers)

    • Add it to a soft food such as Egg Food &/or sweetcorn 

  • Eucalyptus leaves/branches in the Aviary is supposed to help to deter Red-Mites

  • It has been rumoured that having Zebra Finches in the Aviary seems to have help get rid of them

    • One theory is that they eat them

    • The other theory is that when the Red-mite suck the Zebra's blood it is toxic to them and kills them

    • Not sure which, if any is true - but worth trying  

    • - if you have a small-bird Aviary where the Zebra Finch would fit in with the other birds.

    • Just remember tho. if you are breeding in an Aviary, Zebras are noted for building a nest on top
      (i.e. inside) of any other birds nest, 

    • on top of eggs too, if there are any in there.

Directions for use - Red Mite Concentrate or any Anti-mite spray preparation :

  • Red mite is a nocturnal creature so itís best to spray the birds at night.

  • Check the preparation you are using is safe to use on birds or NEAR to birds 

    • BEFORE YOU SPRAY with your birds in their Aviary.

  • Dim the lights as low as practically possible to avoid any undue agitation amongst the birds.

  • Donít forget that red mite can live away from the bird for up to 36 weeks.

"GRANDAD'S" Tried & Tested Red-Mite deterrents

  • Paint Paraffin into the cracks and crevices with a small paintbrush

  • Mix Paraffin with Vaseline and smear in Cracks and crevices + Nest pan bases

    • Vaseline smothers the mites - as in scaly-face and scaly-leg

  • Use Carbolic Soap in the same way you would use the Paraffin & Vaseline

  • Double-sided sticky tape over cracks and crevices

  • Coca Cola  - the coke sticks to them and the Acid in the coke breaks down the Red Mite's outer shell,
    killing them.

    • A very sticky, but apparently effective treatment!

Ever wondered what's in an insect spray? 
  • and what drives those annoying insects away? 
  • Well, read on . . .  
  • One of the most common substances used in insect spray is called Pyrethrum is often used on clothing,
    tents etc. 
  • There are also several natural insecticides 
    • like citronella, oils of cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, eucalyptus, soya bean oil, garlic
      and many more.

  • Blood sucking insects are attracted to many chemical and physical factors, including carbon dioxide,
    body heat, chemicals in sweat, and on the surface of skin

  • Insect bites can be annoying for the itching they cause but they can also be harmful by transmitting
    certain diseases to humans and birds.
  • Pyrethrum  is a powerful, rapidly acting insecticide
    • similar in structure to natural Pyrethrum insecticide, which is the natural active ingredient in many flea repellants for dogs, cats as well as birds.
    • The natural Pyrethrum is safe to use on and around your birds.
    • It is derived from the crushed and dried flowers of the Daisy Chrysanthemum (cinerariifolium). 
    • Permethrin is a human-made synthetic pyrethroid. 
    • It works as a "contact insecticide" 
    • causing nervous system toxicity to the insect after it inhales it
    • this leads to the death or "knockdown" (out of the air) of the insect. 
    • The chemical is effective against mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and mites.
    • Permethrin has low toxicity in mammals,&  is poorly absorbed by the skin

  • Pyrethrum should be applied directly to clothing or other fabrics such as tent walls or mosquito nets,
    not to skin. 
  • It remains active for quite some time as a deterrent, if applied to surfaces.

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