Red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) are small parasitic blood-feeding mites that have a waxy outer coating. They affect birds that roost, in particular poultry in the warmer seasons. Mites do not live on the bird, they generally reside in small cracks, holes and crevices in housing, but they become active at night, gaining access to the bird to feed.
Mites typically spend 30-60 minutes on the bird and then after feeding they return to the crevices away from direct light, to mate and lay eggs. Red mites need blood to reproduce, once they feed, they lay their clutches of eggs and repeat again after each blood meal. The lifecycle of a red mite can be completed within 7-17 days, however eggs hatch within 2-3 days ultimately causing a rapidly growing population of red mites in only a matter days.
WHAT SHOULD I BE LOOKING OUT FOR?
Continuous measures should be put in place to be on the lookout for any mite presence in your coops, key indicators of mite presence would be:
- Noticing excessive preening in your poultry, decline of feather quality.
- Seeing blood stains on feet and eggs from squashing mites.
- Lifting perches or equipment to see blood stains or mites hiding underneath
- Running a plastic card along crevices revealing blood stains.
WHAT PROBLEMS CAN THEY CAUSE?
Due to the quick reproduction rate, usually by the time you have noticed the red mites in your housing and pens, it may be too late and the infestation may have already begun. You might have observed unwanted health issues with your birds such as:
- Skin irritation, loss of feathers;
- Increased stress response in your birds;
- Reduced performance levels;
- If the infestation has existed for a while, the bird may become anaemic which could result in death.
HOW CAN YOU TREAT RED MITES?
Although eradicating red mite can be difficult, it is not impossible with the right product. Many poultry keepers use liquid based pesticide sprays in their pens, which although can help, it generally is only effective upon direct application for a few hours. Often applied during the day when mites are hidden, so a lot of them can be left undamaged.
Powder based products such as Diatomaceous Earth when used correctly, can be a highly effective solution to keeping mites out of your poultry housing. Using a dry brush is ideal, for application in to holes, crevices and cracks, where mites may be residing and move from onto the birds during the night. DE remains effective for 2 weeks or more.
Some keepers also like to use it as part of a dust bath so the birds can get some of the powder ruffled in their feathers, preventing the mites from accessing the skin.
KEY BENEFITS OF DIATOMACEOUS EARTH
It is an effective 100% natural way of controlling mites without using any unsafe chemical or pesticides in the process. Diatomaceous earth (DE), is sourced from sea fossils known as diatoms.
Diatoms are very tiny, abrasive and sharp fossils which can be viewed only under a microscope. DE is effective at killing mites and other insects that have a waxy outer coating. When red mites come into contact with DE, the waxy coating is damaged due to the abrasive properties of DE and mites consequently dry out and die. If housing is infested, remove birds temporarily, remove litter, and apply thoroughly to all clean, dry surfaces including corners, crevices and under perches. Reapply every 3-4 weeks to ensure lifecycles are continuously interrupted. Use routinely as a preventative measure.