Bird and rodent mites
- 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.
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 birds or rodents and their nests.
- 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.
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 or glue boards.
- 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 to 15 feet 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.
Bird mites live on a wide variety of domestic and wild birds, including poultry, pigeons, starlings, sparrows and robins.
These mites normally remain on birds or in bird nests throughout their life.
Mite eggs are laid in nests or on feathers.
Mite eggs hatch in two to three days and adults are seen about five days later if birds are present.
If a bird falls out of a nest and dies or a nest is abandoned, bird mites look for other hosts. These mites may enter homes to search for food when nests are on or in buildings.
Bird mites may bite people, but it is very rare.
Most common bird mites are northern fowl mites (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) and chicken mites (Dermanyssus gallinae).
Both mites feed on chickens and other poultry but they are also common on many song birds.
Northern fowl mites can survive up to two weeks without a bird blood meal.
Chicken mites can live a little longer without a blood meal.
Rodent mites can be found in homes where rats or mice are common or where rodents have recently died. Rodent mites can sometimes bite humans.
Tropical rat mite
Ornithonyssus bacoti is not truly tropical and does not exclusively feed on rats.
This mite can live for up to 10 days off its host.
It can travel great distances to find new food sources.
If rodents have been killed, the mites will leave their dead hosts, gather around heat sources, such as hot pipes and stoves and seek alternative food sources, including humans.
The bite of these mites often causes tiny, clear blisters accompanied by a rash. They are not known to carry any human diseases.
House mouse mite
Liponyssides sanguineus has a worldwide distribution but is more common in the U.S. in northeastern states.
It is normally a nest dweller and only occurs on the host when feeding.
It will attack humans if rodent hosts are not available.
This mite is of medical importance because it carries Rickettsia akari, a bacteria that causes rickettsialpox in humans.
This disease is relatively rare in the United States and there have not been any known cases in Minnesota.
Spiny rat mite
Occasionally bites people.
Most common mite occurring on Norway rats and roof rats in the U.S.
Not known to carry any diseases or pathogens.
Reviewed in 2018