Summary: Bird mites are most likely the problem if you are getting itchy red bumps that stick around way longer than mosquito bites. Check inside for info on how to get rid of bird mites, once and for all.
Are you one of those people that love waking up in the morning to watch that nest of beautiful birds right outside your bedroom? Or, maybe you fancy canaries enough to actually keep a few as pets. Either way, are you also one of those people who ends up with small, mosquito-looking bites that never seem to go away? If you answered œyes to any of these questions, then you need to know about avian mites, commonly referred to as bird mites.
Bird mites can infest any bird, so if you happen to be a bird watcher, bird-lover, or bird-handler, beware! Bird mites require an avian host in order to survive, but they can sometimes stray from the host to nibble on our human bodies. They won't actually stay and have a meal on us, but the bite they use to test our blood will certainly be red, itchy, and irritated for up to a few weeks. Here are a few ways to identify these pesky critters, and then get rid of them for good.
There are many different types of bird mites such as canary lung mites and chiggers, but the most common troublemaker is the red mite. Red mites are generally less that 1mm in length, and are typically white or clear until they feed, at which point they will turn dark red to brown. These mites will most often feed at night, which will keep any pet birds you have awake and antsy.
The easiest way to determine if you have bird mites is to cover the areas in question with a light colored sheet. If it looks like there's a spattering of dirt or pepper on the sheet when you check it in the morning, you've got a problem.
The mites will often infest birdseed, especially if the seed is left outside. If you notice the bird seed appears to be moving slightly, the best recommendation is that it should be disposed of, although freezing it for a week or so has also been known to be fairly effective. I just cannot imagine bringing infested birdseed inside to put in my freezer.
Bird mite colonies can reach tens of thousands in size in a relatively short span of time if left unchecked, but don't start to panic and throw a bug bomb into your house just yet. Avian mites can be exceedingly difficult to get rid of, however at times a non-toxic solution may be available, as long as the problem is limited to the outdoors. If you know the source of the infestation, such as the nest outside your window we mentioned before, removal of the nest is necessary. Bird mites can survive two to three weeks without a bird host. So, if you are a bird nest collector be sure to place the nest in a plastic bag and freeze it for a couple of weeks before putting your bird nest on display.
Treat the spot where the bird nest was sitting and surrounding areas with a water and soap solution. This can be done by filling a fertilizer dispenser attachment on an ordinary garden hose. If your main concern is the safety of the birds, don't use antibacterial soap.
To capture a bird mite it has been suggested that you place a pan of hot, steaming water in the middle of a darkened room at night. Light the pan using a single light. It's best to use a red IR lamp. Leave the room for a couple of hours, then return to check what you have captured. Use a strong magnifying glass to see them in the water and preserve them in a vial with alcohol.
If the mite infestation has invaded your home, you can start with 20 Mule Team Borax, an over the counter natural detergent available at most general stores. Mix this with wax and wax floors with it, sprinkle it on infested areas, dump it on your head, if necessary. No, don't actually do that last one. But, it is all natural, so feel free to be generous with it.
If your mite problem is bad enough, you may need to resort to re-insulating your home and replacing tiles in your roof where birds may have nested. This can be very costly. Before going to this point you might want to try a pesticide, such as Tempo 1% dust or Tempo SC Ultra. The active ingredient, beta-cyfluthrin, is the one insecticide that seems to do a good job on mites. It is fine to use indoors as long as you follow label directions exactly.
If all else fails you're going to have to call the bug guy and have him do his magic. Professional pest control services will do the trick, but can get expensive. Tent fumigation kills everything, but the process requires a special license and trained personnel. It's really expensive!
Another method to consider is heat treatment by a licensed and trained professional who will prepare your home for the introduction of heated air. Temperatures are brought up to and held at a level that kills all stages of the insect including the eggs. In some cases it would be necessary to tarp the structure to assure that heat is permeating the exterior walls, as well.
There is hope for those of you who feel like your bird mite fight is never-ending.