Bird mites, also called chicken mites, are pests that many people don’t think about. These tiny insects are a nuisance, nonetheless.
They typically live on the skin of different birds including chickens but can find their way into homes and other structures. This is when they can become a problem for humans.
Think you have a problem with bird mites? Here’s what you need to know, including what they look like, symptoms of a mite bite, and ways to prevent an infestation.
Although bird mites are a pest, they aren’t a parasite to humans. That is, they don’t need human blood to survive.
These mites are so small and minute that they’re often overlooked and difficult to spot. An adult bird mite typically measures less than 1 millimeter (mm).
If you spot a bird mite, you’ll notice its white or grayish oval body, hairy back, and eight legs. After feedings, these mites can change color and develop a reddish hue.
Some people confuse bird mites with bedbugs, but they have different characteristics. Here are the primary similarities and differences between the two:
|can have a brown or reddish color at times||bedbugs: 4–7 mm |
bird mites: less than 1 mm
|active at night||bedbugs: 5- to 6-week lifecycle|
bird mites: up to 7-day life cycle
|feed on blood|
|live in homes and other structures|
Bird mites are found throughout the United States and in different countries. They prefer warm climates, so they’re typically active during the spring and early summer.
These mites originate in birds like chickens, pigeons, sparrows, and starlings — but also live near bird nests.
Bird mites live on and feed on the blood of birds. Without bird blood, they can’t complete their life cycle. A bird mite can develop from egg to larva to nymph to mature adult in about 1 week. Some mites die within 7 days, but others can live up to several weeks.
Even though bird mites need the blood of birds to complete their life cycle and survive, they can bite humans. Human blood, though, isn’t enough for survival.
Symptoms of a bird mite bite are similar to bites of other insects and mites. You may develop small red bumps or a crawling sensation on your skin. Bird mite bites also cause itching, which can be severe at times.
Complications of a bird mite bite
For the most part, a bird mite bite is harmless. Yet, some people might have complications. In the case of intense itching, constantly scratching can break the skin. If bacteria gets underneath your skin, this can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.
Symptoms of a bacterial skin infection include:
- skin that’s warm to the touch
Itching can also become so severe that it keeps you awake at night. This can lead to daytime fatigue.
Anyone who comes in close contact with a bird with mites is at risk of a bite. Yet, some people have a greater risk. This includes those who work closely with birds and chickens. For example:
- poultry farmers
- zoo employees
- pet store employees
- pet owners
- those who live close to a bird’s nest
Sometimes, birds will build their nest in attics, chimneys, and within small cracks of a home. If birds living in a nearby nest become infected, bird mites can infest the structure, putting humans at risk of bites.
Mite bites can also occur if you purchase secondhand furniture infested with bird mites.
Bird mite bites can resemble those of other insects and parasites, including scabies. See a doctor if you have unusual bite marks. They might make a diagnosis based on the appearance of your skin.
You’ll need to cleanse your skin to eliminate any mites remaining on your body. This involves scrubbing your skin in the shower with body wash and shampooing your hair. This can eradicate mites and improve symptoms.
If you have itching, use a moisturizer after bathing to soothe irritation. A topical steroid or an oral antihistamine can reduce inflammation and itching, too. If you develop a secondary bacterial infection, you’ll need an antibiotic.
To prevent a bird mite infestation, avoid close contact with birds or bird nests. If you work with birds, wear protective clothing to avoid exposing your skin to mites.
Also, call a pest control company to remove any bird nests on or close to your property. If you have pet birds, vacuum your carpet regularly and ask your veterinarian about products they use or recommend to prevent mites.
Bird mites are a nuisance and a pest, but the good news is they’re not a parasite to humans. Still, a bird mite bite can cause intense itching. If you damage your skin by scratching, you could develop a bacterial infection.
The best way to protect yourself is to avoid contact with birds and bird nests. If you do have to come in contact with birds, wear protective clothing and wash any exposed skin as soon as possible.
See a doctor or other healthcare professional if you develop skin bumps and an uncontrollable itch.
If you suspect a bird mite infestation in your house, contact a licensed pest control professional.