Identification and Life Cycle
The Bird mite (Ornithonyssus bursa), and the Rodent mite are both insect-like organisms, some which bite or can cause irritation to humans.
The Bird Mite is so small, it’s barely visible to the eye. The adult, almost transparent, has eight legs, an oval shaped, flat body with few short hairs. These parasites feed on living organisms and the females need blood in order to reproduce. They have piercing mouthparts that enable them to take blood from their bird hosts, and once they digest blood, they may appear reddish to dark brownish in color. Mite eggs are white, oval and cannot be seen without magnification.
The mite has five stages; egg, larva, rotonymph, deutonymph and adult. Most bird mite species can complete development in 5 to 12 days within preferred temperatures and a host.
The Rodent Mite, although it is very small in size, can be seen with the naked eye, and may appear to be a slow-moving red and grey spec. The adults have oval shaped bodies, four pairs of legs, no antennae, and mouthparts grouped in front of the body. It has four stages; egg, larva, nymph and adult. The life cylce usually takes from 10 to 12 days to complete.
Habits and Damage
Bird mites will live on birds and in their nests until the host (food source) dies or abandons the nest. Up to thousands of mites will then migrate to find a new food source and cannot live more than 10 days without food.
These mites do not fly, so if the bird nest is perched on a dwelling or a tree branch near a building that touches an outer wall, it is likely that they can enter a home and find a human host to feed on. Most bird mite problems will commonly develop during the months of winter and spring when birds build their nests and raise their young.
Rodent mites typically feed on mice and rats, but will feed on humans if there is a heavy infestation of rodents. They can be found in locations where rodents have died, and will travel to find a new food source. They are not known to carry any harmful pathogens.
Rodent mites may be noticeable on walls in basements, kitchens, and bathrooms or where rodents can be found. By eliminating the rodents, mites will only survive 2-3 weeks without a host, and cannot complete their life cycle on humans.
A mite’s bite on a human can be painful, and cause itching and dermatitis. It is sometimes described as a sensation of “crawling” on the skin, or to some people there can be no skin irritation at all.
Prevention and Management
The best strategy for controlling mites is prevention. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program can identify and help maintain a mite-free environment.
The following steps can be taken to help prevent or reduce a potential problem with mites.
BIRD MITES- Inspect where birds and their nests are commonly found such as in eaves, attics, and chimneys around the dwelling.
- Discourage birds by closing all openings for birds to enter in attics and soffits.
- Control indoors by vacuuming daily and empty immediately in an outdoor trash receptacle.
- Remove any dead birds and empty bird nests.
- Vacuum weekly & treat outside around windows, doors and other points of possible mite entry.
- Steam cleaning carpeting will help to decrease the numbers of bird mites.
- Remove mites in living areas with a damp cloth.
- Install hardware cloth on porches, awnings and other exterior sites to prevent nesting.
RODENT MITES- Found in places where rats or mice are abundant or have recently died. Mites will gather around heat sources, such as hot pipes and stoves, and look for an alternate food source, such as a human.
- Seal all cracks & openings in the foundation, windows, doorframes, & around utility pipes and wires.
- Look for rodent signs such as fecal droppings, evidence of gnawing, rub marks, and burrows alongside foundation walls, rubbish, shrubbery, and adjacent sewer lines.
- Remove all possible food sources for rodents such as placing pantry items into airtight containers.
- Eliminate rubbish piles, and place garbage in industrial dumpsters with tight fitting lids to discourage rodents.
- Remove mites in living areas with a damp cloth, and thoroughly vacuum. Dispose of vacuum bag after use.