Getting rid of bird mites

Ask any exterminator how to get rid of bird mites and they’ll give you some pretty good advice. “Get rid of the nest and you get rid of the mites.” Well I’m happy to say that this can and does work if you catch it quick enough and you indeed only have one source or nest. While some report bird mites can feed on humans the truth is they’ll only last a few weeks without a bird as a host but they do bite and it is very irritating. The itching and redness can last for weeks and most who are bitten have a feeling of invisible crawling things on them which would drive anybody mad after awhile.

Avian mites are parasites of birds, ANY bird and feed off the host much like a bed bug. They are clear or white in color until they feed where they’ll turn reddish brown. Their numbers can get up in to the tens of thousands with just a small nest of birds as hosts and can literally infest the walls, carpets and any surface. The more nests, the more mites and the more sleepless nights you may have. Mites are most active from sundown to sun up and tend to stay inactive on hot dry days. The mite is very small but with a little magnification you can spot them. They are known to infest bird seed containers and if you look very close you can see the movement of heavily infested seed storage.

How to get rid of mites

As mentioned you should remove any and all nests including those outside. Normally this doesn’t include the one high up in a tree so don’t go there but often times we allow a bird to build it’s nest just outside our window or up in a gutter so we can have the pleasure of watching them build and raise their young. This is the most classic way that a home gets infested and since the little buggers are most active at night you could be losing sleep and having reactions all in the name of watching nature at its finest. Other times the nest is not so easily located and places like the attic should be checked. I’ve seen where birds have built on or next to air ducts in the attic and the tiny mites either enter the ducts through a hole or simply find there way down in the home through the drywall cut outs for ceiling lights such as recessed lighting. Removing the nest is again paramount but treating this area can be difficult with all the insulation that provides cover.

Soap and water is probably your best friend to combat bird mites. Borax can be quite effective and can be safely used on many surfaces. Scrubbing the exterior window sill or using a hose end sprayer if it’s up to high will kill many of the mites and what it doesn’t get it should displace rinsing them harmlessly to the ground where they will soon die if they do not find another host. Inside scrubbing should include the general area and make sure to get some mix in the tiny cracks and crevices where you can. Mites hide out in those spots and will live through the ordeal if they are passed up. Steam cleaning the carpets in the same area (room) is also highly recommended.

Now scrubbing drywall or up in the attic is not practical and will cause water staining with to much application. For this type of area or say around your computer desk with all those cords you might want to use a pyrethrum aerosol. CB 80 or 40 aerosols would do nicely and give you instant relief. There is no real residual with these products so re-application may be necessary. Laundering any bedding or curtains helps out greatly and make sure to check any pets bedding in the vicinity as well.

What to do if it’s your bird?

The best way to check for mites in a bird cage is to put a light sheet over and on the floor around the cage for the night. If you have what looks like pepper splattering in the morning you most likely have mites infesting your bird. (you can also use this white sheet in other areas to test for mites) At this point you need to really clean that cage from stem to stern. Birds are very susceptible to insecticidal sprays especially so close and for that reason I would not spray anything. You should at this time check the seed storage bin and throw it away if you have mites in there. You can freeze the seed for a week or so to kill the mites but why chance it? Anything like climb ropes should be discarded and the bird will need a vet to have anything done to it. Continue to use the sheet for monitoring for a week or more afterwards so you can be sure you’ve gotten all of them.

Still have mites?

If after all this you still have the pesky avian mite it is time to call in a pro. It’s not an everyday occurrence for most companies (including mine) to get that call and I’ve found more mites that the people didn’t even know they had than I’ve gotten calls for. In most cases it rarely takes more than removing the nest and treating with the flushing aerosol. One call did involve mites in a duct-Not wanting to spray inside the airway we simply cleaned what we could, repaired the duct and taped off the open vent. The tape captured a ton of mites that got blown to it every time the air went on and the problem was solved.

I’ve read horror stories on the web about whole house fumigations as the only answer to help these poor tortured people. Well, I don’t know if you can believe everything you read on your computer screen but could it get that bad? Well, it is possible I guess but I’ve never seen it. I guess you could say, it just mite.

insect identification

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About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • The Bug Doctor

    I think you’re doing fairly well…. No bites or sightings is your best clue that you were able to get things under control. I’d rest easy…stay vigilant with looking for a few more days but… take a deep breath and try and put your mind at ease 😉

  • Michelle

    Yesterday morning I noticed clusters of small black “dots” in our bathroom – after noticing this I noticed I had a few crawling on my arms and legs. We soon found that the birds nest outside the bathroom window was covered in them – the baby birds left the nest the night before and left us a nice going away gift. The mites were on the sink, toliet and around the window – the room closest to the nest – I haven’t seen any in other parts of the house.
    We removed the nest, sprayed inside and outside the window and the bathroom with a mite spray that kills them. After returning home last night – we saw a few stragglers in the kitchen (kitchen in the room next to the bathroom that had the mites) but that was it. We sprayed again this morning and haven’t seen any more “friends” since. Neither my husband or I have any bites – I still have that creepy crawly sensation – which I’m hoping goes away soon – as I haven’t had any more crawling on me.
    My concern now is about the eggs that they may have laid – if this has happened – when should we expect to see babies and another round of these things in our house? Is there anything we can do to prevent this from happening???
    Thanks – M

  • raz

    Hey, people living in Phoenix can still have an internal infestation of bird mites. We are in Nevada and have had them for over a year now.

  • The Bug Doctor

    Stay vigilant but hopefully that’s the end of it.

  • Jenna

    We’ve had this mite for five months now. We’ve contacted state agencies, and everything. Nobody will do anything for us. We can demonstrate them living around on the ceilings. Why aren’t experts up to date on this? And YES, they can infest clothing. We had to throw them out. They didn’t die from standard wash and dry cycles. Why? I have NO idea.

  • SM

    This is a followup to my previous message. In early October, 2014 we found what appeared to be red mites on our pet budgie and in his cage (don’t know the source but our birds were boarded for a month in August, when we were in Costa Rica). Life then, rather rapidly, turned into a nightmare for us. UC Davis tentatively identified a photo of the mite as Ornithonyssus, but because the infestation lasted so long we believe that it was likely Dermanyssus gallinae. I became infested with the mite, that is, they infested my hair. This is very unusual and our doctors were at a loss to explain what was occurring, as they had never encountered this before. At times, I’d have 30 or more bites on my back. My husband had some too but not the number or intensity that I experienced. When I went to the doctor, he/she wouldn’t touch me, only look and diagnose that they were some kind of bite. I felt as though I was losing my mind.

    We lost both of our pet birds because our house (and family) had such a terrible infestation. After moving in and out of our house over a 5 month period we decided to leave permanently for 3 further months. In total we had 3 fumigation treatments,1 failed house tenting (the gas concentration they used was too low), replacement of flooring in 2 rooms, and complete sealing of all access points for rodents. We nearly destroyed 2 cars by constantly heating them in order to kill them. At this time, Sept. 2015, I believe that we are finally free of mites. The cost? At least $25,000. The mental anguish, stress, and depression that our family has gone through is unbelievable and…priceless. At this time, I feel as though I’m experiencing something close to PTSD. At some level, I think they could return any day as we near the one year anniversary…

    No one can imagine what this is like unless they’ve experienced it. It feels like something from an Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode. No one can really understand. We are rebuilding our lives now and trying to heal from the devastation that this has caused.

    P.S. When we moved out of our house, the mite infestation went away, albeit after several weeks. We didn’t bring them with us, so we knew that we were getting reinfested every time we returned home…our house was infested.

  • SM

    They will die in the washer and dryer. Use the hottest water and add a bit of Borax, then dry on the hottest setting with a few dryer sheets. Don’t throw away your clothes (or any of your other belongings). Everything can be treated.

    Been there.

  • SM

    I realize this is a bit late but they develop from egg to egg laying adult in 5-7 days assuming they have a host to provide blood meals. The gravid females will lay their eggs though and I believe that the egg will develop into the larval stage without a blood meal. The larvae can still crawl (even with 6 legs) and bite and probe and drive you crazy.

    Try to isolate the part of your house that is contaminated. We spread them everywhere before we knew we had them and our entire house became heavily infested.

  • SM

    You must have a host other than yourself. i.e., a bird or rodent host, not human. They can’t develop into adults on human blood. The larvae can crawl, bite, infest your hair, nose, etc. and make you crazy but they can’t develop further. Without a host, they will eventually die off. It’s not possible to have them for years unless your house has a constant supply of hosts to support them.

  • SM

    We tried Kleen-Free and it did nothing. A total waste of money and time, although some people have reported that it worked for them. Perhaps it’s effective on some mites…

  • Jenna

    Hi sir or madam. I appreciate the advice. What about large quilts? My boyfriend’s stuff was infested and I traveled huundreds of miles to get to there even took precautions. Please help us because they obviously nest in fabrics… somehow it’s amazing but scary. I am hoping it won’t end my relationship. Serious when I say the health departments and CdC should be ashamed for being so useless. We are young and could never imagine this happening and we can’t afford heat treatments

  • SM

    Take your large comforters, pillows, etc to a laundromat and find a commercial sized dryer that gets fairly hot. Heat everything for at least an hour. This should kill /desiccate the mites.

    We also heat treated items that could not be put in the dryer (shoes, purses, belts, etc) in an oven at 135F for several hours. You need an oven that you can regulate at this low temperature.

    Heat treatment of our house was ineffective because they heated it in separate sections and the mites would move from the one being heated to a cooler section, etc. The mites would be gone for a couple of days after treatment (likely in the basement or somewhere in the house where they didn’t affect us, then they’d return to our living areas).

    I know what you’re going through. Keeping everything treated was a full-time job, very depressing, and isolating. Of the friends and family who we told, no one had ever heard or experienced anything like it.

    If you have left the house where you were initially infested, it’s likely that you’ll be able to get rid of them fairly easily from your clothing, etc.

  • SM

    Also, I also forgot to mention to encase your mattresses and box springs in dust mite covers.

    If you are still living in the infested house, you need to get rid of the host before you have any hope of getting rid of the mites. Find and remove the source (bird or rodent nest) and you’ll eventually fix the problem, although it might take a bit of time depending on the level of infestation and type of mite.

    It took us nearly 8 months to get rid of them so we assume they were D. gallinae.

    My heart goes out to you.