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Northern Fowl Mites

Northern Fowl Mites mites are important nuisance pests and some are capable of transmitting disease agents. Fortunately, the mites that we commonly encounter in North Carolina do not transmit disease agents that affect people. The majority of mites are free-living, but thousands of species are parasites of animals and plants. Most of these are external parasites, but some species inhabit the ear canals, lungs, intestine and bladder of vertebrates, particularly domestic animals Their biting and bloodsucking behavior causes considerable discomfort to and a few species also cause serious allergic reactions.

Northern Fowl Mites

Northern Fowl Mites

The northern fowl mite, or feather mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum (Canestrini and Fanzago), is a very important external parasite of poultry with heavy populations capable of reducing egg production up to 10 percent to 15 percent. Mites can also annoy egg handlers and other persons. Mites are often first noticed on the eggs. Check for mites first on the vent, then tail, back and legs of layers. Feathers become soiled from mite eggs, cast skins, dried blood from feeding and excrement.

The northern fowl mite is the most important external parasite of poultry in Florida and is widely distributed throughout the state. This mite is found throughout many of the temperate regions of the world parasitizing domestic fowl and wild birds.The northern fowl mite has been shown to cause economic damage on poultry farms by causing anemia, lower egg production and even death to birds. Also of considerable importance, the mites will bite man (egg handlers) causing itching and irritation to the skin.

Life Cycle :There are 4 stages in the mite life cycle–egg, larva, nymph, and adult. The adult female mite lays eggs on the host bird. Depending on the temperature and humidity, the eggs will hatch in 1 to 2 days. The larvae which hatch from the egg do not feed and molt to the nymphal stage in about 8 hours. The nymph has biting mouthparts and pierces the bird’s skin for a blood meal. The nymphs mature to adults in 4-7 days. Adult female mites take a blood meal and complete egg-laying in 2 days. The number of eggs laid average 2-5 per female mite. The complete life cycle from egg to egg-laying female can take place in 5-7 days or longer depending on temperature and humidity.

Adult mites spend most of their lives on the host, but will also wander to the eggs and rafters. The mite prefers to remain on the host in the vicinity of the vent, although the back is also a preferred site. Although female mites do not lay large numbers of eggs, mite populations can rise rapidly after a bird has been initially infested. When conditions are optimal, newly infested birds may support mite populations in excess of 20,000 per bird in 9-10 weeks. Mite populations of approximately 200,000 per bird will cause death from blood loss or exsanguination.

Damages: Flocks infested with lice or mites show similar general symptoms. Birds will have decreased egg production; decreased weight gain; decreased carcass-grading quality; increased disease susceptibility; and decreased food intake. If any of these generalized symptoms are observed, a visual evaluation is recommended. Inspect birds around the ventral region for signs of lice or mites since infestations usually start in this area of the bird.

Northern Fowl Mites

Northern Fowl Mites

Control: Since the mite will go through a generation in 7 days, it is necessary to re-treat the birds in 4-7 days to insure effective control. Some pesticides cannot be applied more often than once every 4 weeks or pesticide tolerances in the eggs will be exceeded. It is therefore advisable to alternate chemicals when scheduling miticiding operations.

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