Will Red Mite Infest Your House?

Will Red Mite Infest Your House?

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Over the last five or six years, I have been dealing with the dreaded Red Mite in my poultry houses and trying different red mite treatments to get rid of them. Since posting “How to get rid of a red mite infestation” (when I found a large number of mites in one of my hen houses: Summer 2009), the comments to my post have been flooding in. It’s a popular post and hopefully, it has helped people to remove the dreaded Red Mite from their chicken house but what about red mites in houses and red mites on humans? Do red mites bite humans?

House infested with red mite
Leaving Home because of Red Mite?

From the comments that were made, a few people were saying their own house (that’s a house, not poultry house) had been infested with Red Mite and many people were asking whether Red Mite can bite/feed on us.

Now if you are not familiar with red mites or what they look like and where they are -normally- found, I would suggest you first read my ‘Ultimate Guide to Red Mite‘ first and then come back and read on.

From my own experience of dealing with red mites, I have found that they will crawl on me and make me itch but a shower soon gets rid of them and I didn’t believe that they could feed on us or other species. Unfortunately, I was wrong…

Here are some extracts from a comment received from Laura in Ireland for example that really made me think I should investigate this further:

“We have had a serious mite infestation for the last 6 weeks in our own house brought in probably by the dogs and ourselves, as we were all very scratchy all over and definitely getting bitten by them and no amount of scrubbing would remove them.”

and she went on to say

“…I would really like to know if there is anyone on this blog that has had their own home and body infested and how they dealt with it.  We are getting a steamer for the houses and are praying for a very cold winter to kill them off and going to keep our heating off, but so far vets and doctors have very little knowledge about this new breed of red mites that definitely reproduce on and bite humans. It is frightening if this strain of red mite really takes effect in the UK and Ireland, as it is very nasty, tough and reproduces at a bionic rate.”

So there does appear to be a problem here. Laura seemed to think that this was a different type of red mite that would bite humans so I decided to go to the experts at the University of Newcastle to find out more.

Dr George (now with the University of Lancaster) has been studying red mites on humans and told me this:

“With regard to red mite feeding upon humans, it seems that this is actually more common than once thought. An increasing number of reports in the academic press are identifying cases of this, where red mites have also been found to infest other mammals (including rats and horses). In my opinion, it’s likely that this has always been the case, but that such infestations have ‘traditionally’ been misdiagnosed. That said, I’ve never personally been bitten and I suspect that avian hosts are more preferred by the mites, where they may nevertheless take a meal on an alternative host if desperate. The ‘deserted birds nest in the attic’ is a classic case of this, where red mites (and other avian mites) are forced to leave the nest after the young birds have fledged – often encountering a human meal as they do so!”

Ideas for treating your house for red mite.

There are numerous products out there that will treat poultry houses and I break these down into different categories in the ultimate guide I wrote. but what can you use safely in your house?

Well, in commercial poultry houses, red mites are treated with pesticides, although there is growing concern that some mites are becoming resistant and different types of pesticides are used to try to prevent this from happening.

There are pesticide-based products that are designed to be used in the home to remove common fleas that can infest the carpets and other areas of the home. These traditionally would have only been available from a vet but now are available online. You spray it around the carpet/edges and under skirting boards in cracks and then vacate the room, leaving the door closed for a couple of hours. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and certainly don’t breathe the spray – ideally wear a mask. One I have used is Ardap Spray and another similar product is Indorex spray (called ‘Knock Down’ in America).

There are pest control companies that will deal with fleas in a home. They will have access to knapsacks of pesticides that they can use so if things get too bad, it might be worth calling them in. I would still repeat the spray application every 3 to 4 days. The life cycle of a mite is as little as 7 days – so treating before they have a chance to lay eggs will reduce numbers faster.

Chilling the mites, as suggested by Laura, leaving her heating off over the winter may stop them reproducing and feeding but they can survive in a poultry house outdoors over the winter and it takes extreme temperatures to actually kill them.

Newcastle University is testing different essential oils since these contain chemicals toxic to pests. For example, linalool from lavender is toxic to red mites. Their latest research shows that red mite mortality rates decrease with time – so the oils need to be fresh to work. My granddad used to hang fresh Lavender bunches in his pigeon loft and I thought it was to keep the loft smelling fresh!

The female red mite lays her eggs after a feed. There is also evidence though from Newcastle University that the acaricidal effect (killing power) of essential oils increases as mites are starved for longer periods of time so could cover yourself in an insect repellent preventing them from feeding for a few days whilst treating your house may help to knock down more mites?

Diatom is safe and can be used in the house – dust cracks and crevices – the good news is it will hoover up without leaving a mess afterwards.

Eat more garlic! The locals in Charente, France where I sometimes stay eat a lot of garlic and say it stops the mosquitos biting them (and Vampires?)… I give my birds crushed garlic (2 or 3 cloves) in their water to keep them healthy and I am sure this is why I have had far fewer problems with red mite this year. I mentioned this to Dr. George and he replied:

“…some work has been going on there recently to control red mite using garlic in either feed or water, so the fact that this has worked well for you should be of particular interest to them.”

I look forward to finding out more about this and will share it with you when I do but it may help you to get less bites.

If sofas or chairs are infected, I would get rid of them. There are just too many places for them to hide.  (Sorry!)

I hope this gives you some ideas of things to try around the home, if I come across any more information, I will share it with you here.

My Ultimate Guide to Red Mite contains much more information on this ectoparasite

Have you had Red Mite living in your house or biting you? Please leave a comment to help others who read this.

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155 Responses

  1. I spent three hours yesterday with a weed burner going over the inside and outside of the chicken coop and perches, they were also scrubbed with detergent then sprayed with red mite disinfectant. I will use the burner and sprays in six days time. However I am constantly itching especially my ears, scalp and neck, despite showers and baths. I am sure is not psychological, I believe they do survive on us too! I wore a protective suit when treating the coop too but obviously me face was exposed. Do red mite not have a natural predator that we can utilise?

    1. There are predator mites, although they don’t seem to survive too well, so if you have used any sort of treatment on the coop, it will usually kill them.

      Earwigs will eat red mite although again, treatments will probably kill them.

  2. Thank you read with interest as I yet again have discovered red mite with the warm weather upon us. I will be getting some poultry shield tomorrow and diatom. One year a friend treated his chicken housing using break cleaner first spraying in cracks and crevices then setting alight. (might I add – small area at a time) it worked he was free of the mites. Might just have been luck in finding the right crack or crevice but this year they’re (the red mites) back. Argh

    1. I assume you mean the red mites are in your chicken coop, not in your house… hopefully.
      Once you have given the coop a deep clean, if you keep a little garden plant spray bottle full of Poultry Shield mix nearby then every 2-3 days, when you notice a few mites coming back in the ‘hot spots’ you can give them a quick spray. It means you can keep on top of them without having to clean out the whole house full of mites every couple of weeks.

      Good luck and do let us know how you get on.

  3. Recent hot weather caused a red mite infestation in my coop. The boy I was paying to freshen up their coop each week “forgot” to spray and powder having been explicitly instructed to do so… My first clue was when the chickens, normally in bed before light down were suddenly roosting in strange areas – eventually moving in with the ducks!

    And so at some point I picked them up on me, probably whilst checking for eggs. They are microscopic and crawling all over me, extremely difficult to see and quite fast for their size. I don’t think I am being bitten but they tickle a LOT. I can see them with strong reading glasses but I would say for every one I see there are probably 100+ I can’t see. They are in my hair ears eyebrows, pits, groin you name it. I think they made it to my bedroom as for the last week sleeping has been nigh on impossible due to the itching (they come out at night). Have drenched common spaces with red mite spray. Nothing has helped.

    They are grey so not feeding, so hopefully will die off. No amount of showering and boil washing clothes has helped. I bleached all the floors and lower walls and furniture to no avail. It is highly likely they have made it on to my parrots, most of whom jump all over me. I have bought them Invectemin spot on which apparently kills mites that feed off them.

    It’s been an absolute nightmare – I can only imagine how bad it’s been for the chooks who have been hitting the dia earth tub with abandon. I’ve sprayed myself head to foot and even rubbed some into my arms and legs hoping for some relief

    1. They are horrid aren’t they Steve. They multiply like mad during the warm weather as well.
      This year I have had one or two outbreaks in my coops, but it’s not been as serious as your outbreak.

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