Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health
Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health

Bird mites

Which type of mite?

What are bird mites?

How bird mites infect humans

Symptoms of bird mites

Prevention / remedies / cures / treatment for bird mites

References

Which type of mite?

Three different types of mites commonly infect humans:

  1. Demodex mites
  2. Scabies mites which live predominantly on animals, can also infect humans. They don't normally complete their life cycle in humans, but can make for intensely itchy nights, for up to ten days.
  3. Bird mites

It is very important to identify which type of mite you have, because their treatments are different. Incorrect treatment will result in ongoing infection.

What are bird mites?

Bird mites are small eight legged, oval shaped parasites that reside on birds and in their nests and chicks, and feed on the blood of their hosts. They are less than 0.5mm long and semi-transparent, which usually makes them too small to see. After they feed on blood they turn a red to black colour, depending on the species.

Bird mites are widely distributed throughout warm and temperate regions of the world. Their hosts are often migratory, so they are well spread. They prefer moist and humid conditions and are most active during spring and early summer. Normally the mites feed on the unfeathered nestlings and the adult birds, and the nesting material used by the birds provides the mites with an environment in which to thrive. The most common hosts include pigeons, starlings, sparrows, Indian mynahs, poultry and some wild birds.

Bird mites have a short life cycle of about a week, so can rapidly generate large populations.

There are several species of bird mite but the most common species affecting humans is the domestic Starling mite, ornithonyssus bursa. This particular mite is also called the tropical fowl mite or the Starling mite. These mites are often incorrectly called bird lice, even within the pest control industry.

Several other species of bird mites can also invade dwellings and bite humans. They include ornithonyssus sylviarum (northern fowl mite) and dermanyssus gallinae (chicken mite). A closely related species ornithonyssus bacoti (tropical rat mite), also occasionally feeds on humans. The rat mite is found on rodents such as rats and mice and in their nests. Ornithonyssus bursa and ornithonyssus bacoti are very similar to each other.

If the mite is very small and a white, cream or red colour, then it is most probably d. Gallinae. If it is a dark or black colour, it may be o. sylvarium, o. bursa or o. bacoti.

Normally indoor pet birds are not affected by bird mites, but after a mite infestation pets become prone to problems. Symptoms the pet bird may show include increased agitation; spending a lot of time self-cleaning; and eventually becoming anaemic.

How bird mites infect humans

Bird mites are found where birds (such as poultry, pigeons, starlings and sparrows) and their nests are located. When the young birds leave the nest many mites (often many tens of thousands) are left behind. In the following weeks, bird mites may infest nearby human homes as they search for a new host.

Contact with humans usually occurs after birds settle close to where humans are living. In early spring or summer birds may construct their nests in a roof cavity, window ledge or awning. Bird mites are most active during spring and early summer.

Bird mites are very mobile compared to other kinds of mites. When they detect a host, they aggressively move towards this potential blood meal. They may move into the rooms of houses, climbing on walls, ceilings and bedding in search of a host. They do not have wings, but are small enough to drop from the ceiling or point of entry and float in through the air to get to their new host. They can walk quickly, compared to most other types of mites.

Most mites will die within 3 weeks without a blood meal from a bird host. Red chicken mites can survive for up to 10 months in an empty hen house.

Bird mites bite and feed on humans but cannot survive their entire life cycle on humans as they need bird hosts to complete this cycle. They are incapable of living and reproducing solely on human hosts. (1) So in the long term, a bird mite infection will only persist while the bird-related source of the mites remains.

Bird mites do not prefer to bite or live on any particular part of the human body.

They do not burrow into or live under the human skin (although sometimes it feels as if they do).

The process by which bird mites select a host is not well understood. However, they are tenacious and often will infect only one individual of several living in the same home. They may send a signal to the other mites, causing them to swarm the host in large numbers. When they affect only one person in a home, leaving other people living on the same premises unaffected, it can lead to disbelief and social isolation.

Symptoms of bird mites

Bird mites are difficult to diagnose and can easily be confused with the bites of other mite species.

Prevention / remedies / cures / treatment for bird mites

If you use any of these remedies, please come back next week (or whenever you have an outcome) and let us know about your experience. Please leave a comment as many people are interested.

See details of remedies recommended by Grow Youthful visitors, and their experience with them.

References

1. Haag-Wackernagel D, Bircher AJ. Ectoparasites from feral pigeons affecting humans. Dermatology (Basel), 2010. 220 (1): 82-92. doi:10.1159/000266039. PMID 20016127.

2. Bellanger AP, Bories C, Foulet F, Bretagne S, Botterel F. Nosocomial dermatitis caused by Dermanyssus gallinae. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. (March 2008). 29 (3): 282-3. doi:10.1086/528815. PMID 18205530.

3. Akdemir C, Gulcan E, Tanritanir P. Case report: Dermanyssus gallinae in a patient with pruritus and skin lesions. 2009. Turkiye Parazitoloji Dergisi 33 (3): 242-4. PMID 19851974.