Sharing a bed with bird mites

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included. 

We received a sample of bird mites from a gentleman from Onondaga (Jackson County) who collected the specimens from his bed (gross!). Bird mites commonly feed on chickens and other poultry, but they also parasitize wild birds. The ones we see most often in the lab are northern fowl mites, Ornithonyssus sylviarum, and chicken mites, Dermanyssus gallinae. Both can survive a month or more without a blood meal. These mites are known to infest homes and bite people when bird nests are built on homes. Repeated bites can result in a rash and intense itching. 

Control of these parasites begins with locating and removing the source of the infestation.  Common nesting sites on homes include vents, air conditioners and sills. Once the nest is removed, the surrounding area should be treated with a residual insecticide that is labeled for use in homes. The inside of the home can be treated with the same product or synergized pyrethrins (like Raid) if the mites are found throughout the house. Beds and surfaces on which food is prepared or eaten should not be treated for obvious reasons. Be sure to read and follow all instructions and safety precautions found on the label before using any pesticide.

Bird mites
Here’s the submittal form that accompanied
the bird mite sample from Onondaga.  The
mites, though tiny, can be plainly seen stuck
to the lined paper that was attached to the
submittal form.  The arrow points to where the
mites were collected.
Photo credit: H Russell,
MSU Diagnostic Services.

bird mites
A close-up photo of two mites.
Photo credit: H Russell, MSU Diagnostic Services.

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