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What Are Bird Mites?

Two birds with bird mites.
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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
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Bird mites, scientifically known as Ornithonyssus bursa, are arthropods that are almost too small for humans to see without any magnification. They cause much nuisance in places they infest and create discomfort when they bite people. These types of mites are oval shaped, have eight legs, and are found anywhere birds nest. If there is a bird nest on the roof and some kind of opening leads inside the house, bird mites can find their way in when the birds leave the nest.

Infestations of bird mites are common in warm and humid locations, and are most common in the late spring and early summer. This coincides with the time bird populations reach their peak sizes in warm, muggy climates. The mites are most attracted to pigeons, sparrows, starlings, and poultry. If the birds are nesting in a roof cavity, it is possible for the mites to get inside the house through broken tiles or cracks in wood, plaster, or insulation. Bird mites only live for about a week but multiply rapidly, and infestations can occur very quickly once the arthropods get inside.

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Blood is necessary for these mites to survive and reproduce, and they cannot live for too long by only ingesting human blood. It is their ability to sense heat, moisture, and carbon dioxide that draws them to people when there is no other food source available. Symptoms of bird mite bites include itching or an irritated or crawling feeling on the skin. There can also be reddish skin inflammation and swelling, which is a reaction to the saliva of this minuscule creature. Bird mites can reside anywhere in the house, but more commonly congregate in bedrooms and bathrooms.

The bites are tricky to diagnose, especially since the bird mites are so hard to see, and the bites are not dangerous unless a severe reaction occurs. Allergic reactions can be treated with antihistamines. Diseases are not transmitted through bird mite bites. Unless something is done to block the entry of the mites, the bites will continue whether they are treated or not.

Taking away the source of infestation is the only way to ensure bird mite elimination. The current infestation can be taken care of with insecticidal spray, but the bird mites will keep getting in unless broken timber or tiles as well as openings to the roof are fixed and sealed. Nesting sites should be cleared and measures should be taken to prevent birds from reappearing on the roof.

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Discuss this Article

anon327215
Post 5

I moved into an apartment five months ago, and two months in, I was itchy at night. I felt like I was being bitten, but couldn't see anything. I started finding little black specks (looked like pepper) and I collected samples and had a PCO check them out. He confirmed it was bird mites.

I've been cleaning with borax/ammonia which helped somewhat, but when it's humid I feel them again, and especially in the bathroom. They seem to only attack me; I don't know why. The nest was removed (didn't know there was one on the first floor porch) and I was told they will eventually go away. But they're not going away fast enough! I don't understand how I've got them and the neighbor on the first floor had no complaints when the nest was downstairs.

Emilski
Post 4

@JimmyT - We had some birds that were dead set on nesting in our chimney for a couple of years. Fortunately, we never ended up with bird mites, but I learned a lot about how to prevent birds from nesting around your house.

Chimneys are a popular nesting spot, but you can buy chimney caps that will stop them from entering there. Eaves are another favorite for birds. If there aren't already covers around them, install some or have someone do it for you. You can also buy bird netting in some cases that will stop birds from getting in.

If you already have birds, getting rid of them can be tricky depending on your feelings toward them. Where I live, it is illegal to move or destroy a nest that has eggs in it. After the eggs are gone, though, you can get rid of it. Once you remove the nest, make sure you find a way to keep the birds from making another.

JimmyT
Post 3

So, since it sounds like bird control is the key to getting rid of bird mites, what can you do to stop birds from nesting in or around your house? If you do end up with birds nesting around your house, what can you do to get rid of them?

Also along the lines of preventative maintenance, how can you figure out where the mites are coming into the house if you already have them?

About the bird mites themselves, what is so special about the blood from birds that they can't survive as long by biting humans?

TreeMan
Post 2

@stl156 - I'm not sure what all of the requirements are for bird mites to live, but I know that when I used to live in Michigan, I heard of people who had bird mites, so Wisconsin wouldn't be out of range. Being in the north means there is a longer and harsher winter, though, so birds aren't around as long to carry the mites.

I had a neighbor who had some sparrows that got into his attic somehow and made a nest. He never even realized they were up there until he started to get the bites. He called an exterminator who found the birds and sprayed for the mites. After the birds were gone, the bird mites went with them.

stl156
Post 1

These really sound like they could be a major problem if you had them. I live in Wisconsin, so it sounds like maybe they aren't common here like they would be farther south. I have never known anyone to have them, and I have never even heard of them before now.

We do have all of the birds that the article says they like to live on, though. Since they are common on poultry, are bird mites a common problem on farms?

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