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Red Mite – Chickens Keepers Nightmare

Red mite is a common external parasite of birds and one of the most hated by poultry keepers. Although very small it can be seen by the naked eye. Mites feed on blood or feathers, skin or scales of birds. Heavy infestations can result in poor health, anaemia, reduced egg production, weight loss or, in extreme cases death.

Red mite comes out at night to feed on the blood of roosting hens, usually for 1-2 hours. After feeding the mites return to their hiding places in cracks and crevices where they mate and deposit their eggs. Inspection of poultry housing during the day, does not indicate red mite or the extent of the infestation, therefore houses should be checked with a torch when dark at night, when the mites are most active.

At high infestation levels mites cause increased stress to the birds. Look out for tell tale signs, if the birds are reluctant to go into roost at night, the chances are there could be a red mite infestation.

The appearance of the red mite is dependent on when they last fed. When recently fed they appear red and this colour goes through black to grey as the time since the last feed increases.

Life Cycle

Red mites only feed on birds in darkness and blood feed for 1-2 hours each night.

Red mites spend most of their life in cracks and crevices and this is where the female mite deposits its eggs.

The eggs of red mite are small (0.4mm x 0.25mm) oval and pearly white. Under warm conditions the eggs hatch in 2-3 days into 6-legged larvae.

Before the first feed the larvae moult into an 8-legged protonymph (usually within 24 hours of hatching).

Protonymphs start to feed on the roosting birds and moult to a deutonymph that continues to feed before moulting into an adult male or female.

Under favourable conditions a mite can complete a life cycle (egg to egg) in 7 days.

Populations can build up very rapidly within poultry houses.
Red mite can survive for up to 8 months without a blood meal and, when hidden within cracks, are very resistant to desiccation.

Under ideal conditions the life cycle of the poultry red mite can be completed within 7 days.

Treatments

There are various treatments available on the market to treat infestations of red mite

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