Bird mites are naturally found where birds (such as pigeons, starlings, sparrows and poultry) and their nests are located.
However, in the first few weeks after birds leave their nests, bird mites may infest homes in search of a blood-meal from humans. Bites from bird mites can cause severe irritation.
What are bird mites
Bird mites are found in the warmer regions of the world, including Australia.
There are several species of bird mite but the most common species affecting humans is the domestic Starling mite, Ornithonyssus bursa from the family Macronyssidae.
Bird mites are:
small (less than 1mm long) mites with 8 legs
semi-transparent in colour until blood has been digested when they appear reddish to blackish
oval in shape with a sparse covering of short hair.
Where they are found
Bird mites are generally associated with moist or humid conditions and are most active during spring and early summer and are naturally found where birds (such as pigeons, starlings, sparrows and poultry) and their nests are located.
They may move into living spaces in houses, climbing on walls, ceilings and bedding in search of a blood meal.
Humans can be exposed to bird mites when young birds leave their nests and the mite is left without a suitable host to feed from.
How they survive
feed on the blood of birds
survive and thrive in bird nesting material
increase their numbers rapidly
generally die within 3 weeks if without a blood meal from a bird host.
Getting rid of them
Step 1: Identification
Proper identification of bird mites is very important in determining how to control mite infestations.
Step 2: Finding and removing bird nests
The best approach for controlling an infestation is to locate and remove bird nests. When removing nests, a mask and gloves should be worn to prevent transfer of mites, and bacterial infections. Nests may be found:
around eaves and in chimneys
in roof spaces
in cavities in walls
in foundations and basements
on window ledges.
Step 3: Prevention and eradication
Prevent birds from occupying spaces in houses by repairing broken tiles and blocking openings in eaves or roof cavities.
To eradicate bird mites, treat the area with an approved insecticide such as a surface spray or insecticide powder.
A registered pest controller may be required if the nesting material is inaccessible or large areas are involved.
How they affect humans
Bird mites will feed on humans but do not live on humans as they cannot complete their life cycle on humans. Therefore, infestations are generally self-limiting if birds and nesting have been eradicated.
Bird mites do not
prefer to bite any particular part of the body
live under the skin.
Bites from bird mites:
cause severe irritation including itching, swelling and raised reddish spots on the skin caused by mites injecting saliva when feeding
may result in secondary infections from scratching
are not associated with transmission of any infectious disease
are often difficult to diagnose and can be mistaken for the bites of other insects.
The sensation of crawling bird mites on the skin will irritate some people.
Avoiding bird mite bites
The best way to avoid bird mite bites is to apply an insect repellant containing diethyl meta-toluamide (DEET) or 3-methyl-n->diethylbenzamide.
An anti-itch cream or lotion may reduce irritation associated with bites.
Please note: SA Health provides this information for people residing in South Australia. If you live outside of South Australia, you will need to contact your local health authority for help and advice specific to your area.
If you believe you have a bird mite infestation at home, contact:
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