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Bird and rodent mites

Quick facts

  • This is a group of mites that grow and feed on poultry, wild birds and rodents.
  • Mites are not insects but are arachnids.
  • All arachnids, including mites, have two main body parts and eight legs.
  • Bird and rodent mites can sometimes bite people.
  • Most bites cause discomfort, but some can cause diseases too.

Bird and rodent mite bites

When their normal host is not present these mites may bite humans, causing discomfort and sometimes skin irritations. Bird mites very rarely bite humans.

  • Tropical rat mite bites often cause tiny, clear blisters accompanied by a rash. They are not known to carry any human diseases.

House mouse mites can carry Rickettsia akari bacteria, which causes rickettsialpox in humans. It causes flu-like symptoms and a rash. It is usually mild and over within 2-3 weeks. Seek medical attention if you have been around house mice and develop symptoms.

Make sure that you correctly identify the type of mite. Spider mites, clover mites and velvet mites are mites generally found on plants and are harmless to humans.

How to get rid of bird and rodent mites

  • Physically remove them with a vacuum cleaner or wipe them up with a moist cloth.
  • Vacuuming does not kill the mites. Freeze the vacuum cleaner bag to prevent the mites from crawling back out.
  • For complete removal of mites, be sure to remove any hosts (birds/rodents) and their nests.

Bird mites

  • Remove any dead birds that you find. Remove and dispose of empty nests.
  • Do not disturb nests if eggs or young ones of federally protected songbirds are present.
  • If the nesting season is over and only adults remain, you may remove the nest without harming the birds.
  • Pigeons, starlings and house sparrows are not federally protected. You may remove their nests any time.
  • To prevent bird mites from getting indoors, spray a pesticide like bifenthrin outdoors around windows, doors and possible entry points.

CAUTION: Read all product directions very carefully before buying pesticides and again before applying. If you cannot treat an outside area without harming an occupied nest, do not spray. Leave the nest alone until it is abandoned; then you can spray the house if mites are still a problem.

Rodent mites

To eliminate mice and rats from the home:

  • Locate and block  the entrance/exit point used by rodents to enter the building.
  • Remove all possible food sources by placing all pantry food into air-tight containers.
  • Eliminate potential nesting sites by cleaning key areas such as closets, basements and storage areas.
  • Trap rats and mice with kill traps, live traps and/or glueboards.
    • Bait mouse traps with a mixture of peanut butter and rolled oats.
    • Bait rat traps with meat products such as ham or beef.
    • Arrange traps 10-15 ft apart placed perpendicular to walls, baseboards and rows of boxes.

Identifying bird and rodent mites

  • These mites are very small (about 1/32 inch long), but can be seen with the naked eye.

  • They do not feed on human blood. 

  • They rarely transmit diseases or otherwise cause a health hazard to people.

Bird and rodent mites and other types of mites found in homes can be difficult to differentiate from each other. Proper identification is important when selecting the appropriate control measure.

Contact a specialist if you have a doubt about the type of mite seen in your home.

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Jeffrey Hahn, Extension entomologist

Reviewed in 2018

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