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What to do about bird mites

People have been finding bird mites in and around their homes lately. These mites are annoying and can potentially bite people. Fortunately, they are a short-lived problem.
Typical bird mites.  
Photo: UW-Madison Insect Diagnostic Laboratory

When birds build nests on homes, they bring bird mites with them. These parasites feed on bird blood and can produce large numbers of mites.

If numbers are too large, bird mites will leave the nest to search for other bird hosts. They will also leave when birds abandon their nests. During their search, they can enter homes and encounter people.

While these mites are very small, about 1/32 inch long, people can see them. They are a translucent yellow but may appear darker if they have been feeding. They have eight legs and resemble miniature ticks when viewed closely.

Bird mites are tiny but are visible. 
UW-Madison Insect Diagnostic Laboratory
As they search for new hosts, bird mites can bite people to see if we are suitable hosts. Fortunately, we are not. Bird mites are NOT able to sustain themselves or reproduce on human blood.

Any bird mites that get into your home do not survive long. Most homes are too dry, especially if an air conditioner is running. Bird mites usually survive only a couple of days, at best only a couple of weeks.

Several steps can be taken to combat bird mites. If the nest is empty, remove it to eliminate the source of the mites. However, if birds or eggs are still present, nearly all species are federally protected and the nest must be left alone.

Exceptions to this are pigeons, starlings, and house sparrows. You can remove their nests regardless of the circumstances.

In some cases, it might be helpful to use an insecticide, like bifenthrin, applied along the exterior, especially around doors and windows, to keep out bird mites. If birds are still present in the nest, take care not to disturb or injure them. Another option is to hire a pest control company to treat your home for bird mites.

Once bird mites are inside, physical removal, e.g. with a vacuum or by wiping them up, is the only necessary control. Bird mites are short-lived and cannot survive indoors for long.

Author: Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

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