What to Know About Bird Mites

Bird mites are avian parasites that live on the skin of domestic fowl and wild birds. If these pests make their way into your home they can affect you for several weeks at a time. 

Mite bites can cause mild to severe discomfort and disrupt your everyday activities. If you live in an area where you could get a mite infestation, follow the necessary measures to keep them at bay.

When and Where to Watch Out for Mites

Mites are most active during the spring and early summer months in most parts of North America. This pest is common in the U.S. and thrives in warm weather. 

Wild birds nest on houses, schools, factories, and other human-made structures. When young birds die or leave the nest, mites look for a different host around these buildings. The average adult bird mite can live up to three weeks without food – bird blood. 

Bird mites will try to survive on a human host, but they can't reproduce on human blood. People who live and work on farms and in rural areas are in regular contact with poultry, turkey, geese, and ducks. They might be at a higher risk of getting bird mites. 

These parasites are not a significant threat to your health, but their bites are an inconvenience you can avoid. Bird mites can't stand the dry environment of the average air-conditioned buildings, so they may go away in a few weeks even if you do nothing about it.

How to Identify Bird Mites

Bird mites are so tiny they might be hard to spot at first glance. A mature mite is about 1/32 inch long – still visible to the naked eye. Some describe bird mites as walking pepper flakes.  A young mite has only six legs. Adult mites have eight. They can vary in color, but most of them are brown or gray.

Signs of a bird mite infestation. The first sign of a bird mite infestation is small bites all over the body. Bird mites are most active during the night and early morning. It's normal to wake up to a few more bites each day. 

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While the itch is manageable during the daytime, tickling may increase as you're trying to sleep. This response happens after a mite injects its saliva into the host's body while feeding. Another common symptom is the presence of red bumps where the mite bit.

You might think you're dealing with bedbugs, scabies, lice, ticks, or other common pests, but all of them are different in more than one way. It's important to identify the pest so you can get rid of it. If bird mite bites are keeping you up at night, you can always treat them by:

  • Using a loofah and lotion to scrub your skin in the shower
  • Using a coal tar shampoo and body wash once or twice a day
  • Adding a few drops of bleach to your bathwater 
  • Applying a topical steroid prescription to reduce inflammation
  • Taking oral antihistamines to decrease the itch

Getting Rid of Bird Mites

Physical removal is the best course of action when trying to rid your home of mites. You can try vacuuming them or wiping them up with a wet cloth. You must throw the vacuum cleaner bag away immediately in order to keep mites out of your house for good. To prevent an infestation altogether, experts recommend that you:

  • Remove any empty nests or dead birds and get rid of them.
  • Spray your home with effective insecticides like permethrin, ß-cyfluthrin, or deltamethrin.
  • Hire a pest control service.

Stay Itch Free

Bird mites will cause no more harm than a few sleepless nights with an uncontrollable itch. Still, it's better to keep them out of sight. Keep an eye on birds nesting around your property, and check for wildlife laws before you decide to remove them. In case of annoying mite bites, talk to your doctor about treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

DermNet NZ: "Bird mite infestation."

Department of Medical Entomology: "Bird Mites."

Insect Diagnostic Lab: "A Mysterious Tingling Sensation: Bird Mites."

University of Minnesota Extension: "Bird Mites." "What to do about bird mites."

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