Can Bird Mites Live On Humans?
Bird Mites on Humans becomes possible in a few of different ways. When a Bird Host moves on or dies, the parasitic Bird Mites then need to search out a new host to feed on. If the Bird/nest was within close proximity of a home then the Bird Mites may enter in search for a new host here. Bird Mites can also be exchanged to Humans from Birds when they are handled. A common example of this would be a poultry keeper tending chickens – they may pick up Bird Mites (in this instance probably Red Poultry Mites) by simply handling the bird. Another example could be children coming across a bird/nest while out playing and picking up Bird Mites while inspecting the nest/bird. Although Bird Mites will not live on Humans and will drop off after biting/feeding, they can hide in clothing/bags when not active, making it easy to travel with them by mistake and moving them to other areas.
Bird Mites have evolved over millions of years and have a very good sensory system in order to search out potential new hosts. They use a range of internal sensors to direct them towards a new host to feed on. Firstly, they use heat sensors to detect where there are potential sources of body heat, and secondly they use carbon dioxide sensors to search out hosts by their breath, as all living animals will be producing carbon dioxide each time they exhale as long as they are alive.
If a Bird Mite comes across a Human, it will bite the Human to ‘test’ to see if it’s a suitable host. Sometimes the Bird Mite will extract blood from the human but most of the time the Bird Mite will simply quickly bite before realising that the Human is no good for survival. To sum this up Birds Mites CANNOT live and survive on Humans, but they can hang around for some time, especially when there are still birds/nest around in close proximity to the home.
Bird Mites are not associated with the spread of any disease to Humans by biting or otherwise coming into contact with them. No cases have ever been discovered to prove this statement to be false.
Bird Mites can present various movement sensations to the person affected. As they crawl over the skin to find an appropriate feeding area, they can create a tickling/crawling/itching sensation which can be highly irritating to the person involved. A popular way of removing a Bird Mite found crawling/feeding on an area of skin is to either squash it (this can sometime be difficult do the the Bird Mites being so flat-bodied) or to catch it by pressing a strip of sticky tape onto the affected area and pulling the Bird Mite off.
With regard to Bird Mites on Humans, the time in which Bird Mites may bite Humans depends on the type of Bird Mite. Red Poultry Mites are considered Nocturnal and hide during the days and come out to feed at night, so an infestation of Red Poultry Mites will usually result in the Human being bitten while asleep. Fowl Mites on the other hand are not considered nocturnal and will bite at any time of the day.
Bird Mites have no preference when it comes to which part of the human body they bite. Generally they will bite whichever part of the body that is easiest to access and escape from after trying to feed. Hands, feet, chest and neck are commonly bitten areas. As Bird Mites are attracted to carbon dioxide, bites can sometimes be found around the nose and mouth where carbon dioxide concentration levels are highest.
In order to feed undetected, Bird Mites inject a special saliva that contains a numbing agent into the skin before feeding – to some people this saliva can be highly irritating to the skin. It is this saliva that causes bites to appear and itch in most people, and not the bite itself. Reactions to bites varies widely amongst people – some people react badly and have highly visible and itchy bites whereas some people will not react at all, and will not even realise that they are being bitten.
In terms of what Bird Mite bites look like – as above, there are no specific patterns, it all depends on how the person’s skin reacts to a bite. Some bites will appears as small red itchy lumps, whereas others may blister, become pus-filled or bleed depending on the severity of the reaction. Please remember that Bird Mite bites are harmless and no disease can be transmitted from a Bird Mite bite, although secondary infections can occur if a bite is scratched and the skin is opened, potentially allowing other diseases to enter. See below for steps that can be taken to treat a bite and to prevent secondary infections from happening. Pictures of Bird Mite bites can be found here.
Psychological Impact of Bird Mites on Humans
Psychologically, Bird Mites living on you and the thought of being surrounded and bitten by them (especially when sleeping and defenceless), can be highly distressing to the affected person. Having a large infestation in a room/house can feel very overwhelming and can cause a person to worry about having to make different sleeping arrangements or having to tell friends and family about their issue. This can sometimes cause embarrassment to the person and makes them wonder if it will make other people act differently around them.
The person affect may also feel as though they can no longer interact with others in the fear that they may pass Bird Mites onto an innocent person. Being able to share the current situation with others can also be difficult. Although the events going on can feel awful and stressful, trying to to explain this to others can be difficult as they may never have experienced such an issue before and don’t understand how stressful this time can be for the affected individual.
Sleep deprivation can become an issue where Bird Mites are affecting a person for long periods of time – the worry of having these parasites within sleeping areas can prevent quality of sleep and induce stress relating to lack of sleep. Try this page for tips on how to sleep better during a Bird Mite infestation.
Finally, a large infestation can become a financial burden where sometimes thousands of dollars will need to be spent on qualified pest control experts to spray and fumigate homes. DIY treatment costs can also mount up depending on what methods are undertaken. Our DIY Bird Mite Treatment Guide goes through some popular treatment methods while recommending the best inexpensive products to try and trying to keep the costs of ridding an infestation as low as possible.
Bird Mites in the House
Waking up in the middle of the night only to find dozen, hundreds or maybe in thousands of little black specks running about can be a horrifying experience. Getting Bird Mites in the house can be easier than you think, and sometimes it just can’t be helped. No matter where you live, there will always likely be some sort of nearby outdoor influence that will increase the chances of you forcibly opening your doors to some unwelcome squatters.
How It Happens
There are actually quite a few ways in which Bird Mites can, over relativity short periods of time become unintended additions to your home life. On this page I’ve listed the most common ways in which Bird Mites can end up inside your home. The biggest tip I can give if you are worried about this happening in the future is to be vigilant. Read the advice below and remember that knowledge is power.
Of course the most obvious of the list. Even without nesting nearby – frequent visits from wild birds around the perimeters of your home will, of course, increase the chances of one of these birds carrying some sort of parasite/mite.
Although Bird Mites are very good at anchoring onto a Birds body/feathers, there will of course be times when they will fall off, be thrown off be a violent wing flap or be dragged off by leaves/branches that a bird may decide to fly through. It only takes a couple of Bird Mites to fall off a host to quite rapidly start a new generation close to your home.
Obviously a few birds flying and waddling around is nothing to worry about, and it would be worrying if there wasn’t a flock of birds flying somewhere close to most areas of civilisation – but just be extra cautious if the nearby areas attract uncommonly large bird populations – especially popular Bird Mite-harbouring species such as Sparrows, Pigeons, Starlings and Chickens.
Definitely the biggest culprit where huge Bird Mite populations are concerned. Bird Mites are quite happy and content crawling about on/around a group of healthy nesting birds, but this becomes a problem when the birds fall ill, when they flock the nest or when the rapid reproduction of Bird Mites causes the population to become so large that the group of nesting birds can no longer provide enough nutrients for every mite.
If any of the above three conditions are met, there will be absolutely no choice but for the Bird Mites to leave the nest and go hunting for their next blood meal. Unfortunately for us – a warm, humid, sheltered environment with plenty of hiding places and carbon dioxide-exhaling humans makes a house an ideal location for Bird Mites to set up shop and try their chances at chasing a new meal.
Never let a group of birds set up nest attached, or extremely close to your house. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Large nests can contain enormous Bird Mite populations, and if the birds disappear or die, guess where their first stop will likely be?
Always check wall cavities and roofing for hidden nests and if found, clear them as soon as possible (if your local laws allow – some states/countries have strict laws against destroying certain bird species’ nests, so please check this first). Getting rid of the nest is normally the best step to getting rid of mites.
Video showing Bird Mites accessing home via air vent
Your pet dogs and cats chasing that parasite-ridden bird around the garden is likely to lead to only one result. As those mites are shaken off or rubbed up against the lovely soft welcoming fur of your pet of choice, they are going to jump at the chance of burrowing into the fur and trying the pet for their next meal. Obviously after this the inevitable is probably going to happen and the cat/dog/ferret/squirrel is going to go charging into the house, bumping into everything in it’s path and shaking the mites off into your lovely warm furry carpet (perfect for a Bird Mites first destination in the house).
Keep your pets clean, check them regularly for parasites and try as best as possible to keep areas in which your pets play outside free of nests and areas in which birds are likely to enjoy (water baths and feeding posts etc.)
Like a cat or a dog, a child’s first reaction when they see a nest or an injured bird is to run up and investigate – maybe giving the bird a little stroke and cuddle. This couldn’t make it any easier for a team of Bird Mites to latch onto their new host.
Be careful when walking/sitting/working near large bird populations and nests, and check yourself over for any parasites before re-entering your home to minimize the possibility of bringing any Bird Mites in the house. Educate children on the dangers of handling wild birds/animals.
Be very careful when finding a nice looking sofa or bed/mattress dumped on the side of the road and thinking it’ll be perfect for your newly renovated lounge/bedroom. You have know idea what sort of environment this type of furniture has come from, and why it’s being chucked away. Not only could it have been chucked away from another home currently infested with Bird Mites, it could also potentially be harbouring dozens of other types of parasites or bugs (beds bugs/cockroaches/scabies to name a few). Another home getting rid of mites shouldn’t have to be the reason for you being passed the problem.
Make sure you know what type of place the furniture has come from – ask questions if you know the previous owner. Check carefully for signs of infestation (hiding parasites, eggs, excrement, tiny holes etc.)
Where They Hide
Bird Mites in the house can remain hidden for a substantial amount of time before the home-owner discovers their presence due to how great they are at hiding, and due to the huge amount of hiding places the average house presents to the Bird Mites. Due to the extremely flat profile of their bodies, Bird Mites can fit into amazingly small spaces – they have been known to disappear through the tiny spaces between the seams of mattress cases into the centre of the cushioning.
Bird Mites always prefer to hide as close to their meals as possible to limit the amount of time and distance it takes to get their next feed. Bird Mites love warm and humid environments and are generally nocturnal. Red Mites are much more likely to be hidden until the very depths of night, but Fowl Mites are generally more active during daylight hours and can commonly be seen crawling outside of their hiding places throughout the day.
Places to check if you suspect an infestation include anywhere dark and out of reach. Places include: Behind skirting boards, at the back of cupboards/wardrobes, under floorboards, between cracks in walls/plasterboard, under mattresses, in bed frames/spring boxes. Getting rid of more hiding places in the home will result in getting rid of mites as fast as possible.
Suspect you have Bird Mites in the house?
If you suspect that you have Bird Mites in the house the best thing you can do is attempt to find positive Bird Mite evidence to confirm an infestation. It is extremely difficult to differentiate between most mite species, especially common house mites such as Bird, Rodent and Clover Mites, so it may be best to call a pest control specialist/entomologist to confirm the species. You can apply common sense to the situation to narrow down the likelihood of the Mite species you are dealing with. For example: If you’ve had birds roosting in your roof cavity that have recently flocked, and you’ve suddenly had an appearance of mites in an upstairs room, then these are more than likely going to be Bird Mites and not another type.
What Are Bird Mites?
Bird Mites are a family of ectoparasites that feed off blood from a selection of bird species. There are three types of Bird Mite in the family: The Northern Fowl Mite (Ornithonyssus Sylviarum), the Red Poultry Mite/Chicken Mite (Dermanyssus Gallinae) and the Tropical Fowl Mite (Ornithonyssus Bursa). Mites are closely related to spiders and ticks and can found widely around the world, particularly in warmer regions/climates.
Bird Mites require a bird host specifically in order to live and reproduce. They are small, often compared to the size of a full-stop (like the one at the end of this sentence), but the Northern Fowl Mite can grow slightly larger. They can range in colour from semi-transparent(unfed/nymphs), to dark/brown, and red depending on species and the last time they took a blood meal (fed). Although many bird species can become hosts to Bird Mites – Sparrows, Pigeons, Starlings and Poultry (namely Chickens) are the most common host species.
All Bird Mites oval in shape, eight-legged, hairy under a microscope and very flat, allowing them to crawl and hide in the smallest of spaces, including cracks in the walls and within mattress seams. Although more active at night (especially Red Poultry Mites) they can be found at any time of day, especially when hungry. Bird Mites cannot jump or fly, but are able to crawl fast when agitated.
Bird Mites feed by initially injecting saliva, which acts as numbing agent, into skin to avoid detection, before proceeding to extract blood in order to prime themselves for further reproduction. On Humans, the saliva that is injected can become severely irritating, leading to swelling and (sometimes intense) itching. Everybody reacts differently to bites – some people show no physical reaction to a bite.
Bird Mites can be potentially destructive, especially towards birds due to their ability to grow in numbers extremely quickly. Due to their very short life cycles, under the correct conditions and with enough bird hosts to thrive on, Bird Mite numbers are able to explode from 10’s to 10,000’s in a matter of weeks. Bird Mite infestations can be detrimental to bird health – in large enough numbers on a single bird, they are able to cause irritation, paleness, feather-loss, weight-loss, anaemia, a reduction in egg laying, and even death through blood-loss.
Bird Mite living off of a bird host
Types of Bird Mites
Northern Fowl Mites (Ornithonyssus Sylviarum)
Although only reaching a maximum size of around 1mm, the Northern Fowl Mite is the largest of the Bird Mite family. When possible, Northern Fowl Mites spend their entire lives on a bird host, only leaving a host when their food source runs out, mainly either due to the bird dying, or the Bird Mite population growing so large on the host that effective feeding can no longer be sustained.
Although generally more active at night, Northern Fowl Mites can be active throughout the day and become particularly aggressive when searching out their next blood meal. Northern Fowl Mites can live for up to 3-4 weeks off of a bird host, and if no bird house is available, they will test other animals (including humans) by biting them, but they cannot live without a bird host and will eventual die out if a new bird host cannot be found.
On birds (especially with mites on chickens), Northern Fowl Mites typically assemble on the vent, tail, back and legs of female birds, and their patterns become more varied on male birds. Due to spending their entire lives on the bird host, the hosts feathers frequently become matted and soiled from dried blood, eggs, molted skin casts and mite excrement.
Red Poultry Mites (Dermanyssus Gallinae)
At around 0.6mm fully grown, Red Poultry Mites (also known as Chicken Mites) can be very hard to spot unless present in large numbers and/or moving on a contrasting background. Unlike the Northern Fowl Mite, Red Poultry Mites spend less of their time living directly on a bird host and instead they hide in tiny cracks and crevices during the day and come out to feed at night. These nocturnal habits, coupled with their small size, makes Red Poultry Mites particularly difficult to detect. Red Bird Mites are able to live without a bird host for up to 8-9 months, making them particularly difficult to eradicate due to their changes of finding a new nearby bird host in the 8-9 months being high.
In appearance, when unfed, Red Poultry Mites are generally a dark/grey color, but hence the name they become bright red after feeding, turning a slightly darker shade of red as their blood meal digests.
Although difficult to spot, infestations in birds (especially mites on chickens) can be suspected and investigated when the birds seem to become reluctant to go into their normal sleeping places/huts at night. Suspicions can be confirmed by thoroughly checking a birds sleeping-place during darkness with a torch, as the Red Poultry Mite should be at it’s most active during this time. Mites on chickens is probably one of the most common infestations that bird keepers will come across.
Tropical Fowl Mites (Ornithonyssus Bursa)
Tropical Fowl Mites bare a striking resemblance to the Northern Fowl Mite in both appearance and behaviour, with the only differences being 1. A more subtle and even taper of the posterior end of the dorsal plate on the Tropical Fowl Mite, compared to the more acute tapering on the Northern Fowl Mite, and 2. There are three pairs of bristles/hairs on the sternal plate on Tropical Fowl Mites, and only two on the Northern Fowl Mite.
Bird Mites Life Cycle
All species of Bird Mite follow the same life cycle. There are four stages to the life cycle: Egg, Larva, Nymph and Adult.
Once the egg is initially laid on the bird host, it will normally hatch within 1-2 days (this can be dependant on the surrounding humidity and temperature). Bird Mite Larva cannot bite, but only stay in this state for around 8 hours, until they molt into the Nymph stage, at which point they develop a mouthpiece capable of piercing the skin of a host. After taking a blood meal, Nymphs mature into adult Bird Mites in roughly 4-7 days. Once an adult has taken a blood meal, they are able to lay eggs within two days. Female Bird Mites lay 2-5 eggs on average after each blood meal, and the whole life-cycle from egg to adult is around 7 days.
Are They Dangerous?
As mentioned above, Bird Mites on chickens and other birds can be detrimental to the health, and occasionally deadly to the host. If mites on chickens/other birds is suspected, the infestation will need to be controlled as soon as possible to prevent any ill-health effects.
When looking for a new host when their own have left or died, Bird Mites could well (and commonly do) occupy human dwellings in search of a blood meal. Bird Mites will ‘test’ humans by biting them to see if they are suitable as new hosts (which they are not), and this may cause an irritable bite mark to appear shortly afterwards, but apart from biting, Bird Mites are in no other way dangerous to humans and have not been found to pass on any disease, or otherwise cause any other physical harm to Humans. The worst Bird Mite symptoms when it comes to Humans is the psychological ones.
Depending on the person affected, Bird Mites (especially in larger numbers and within the home) can cause varying amounts of emotional and psychological stress from their presence and nocturnal movements. Although no harm will come to the person – knowing that something is potentially
crawling around in your bed as you sleep can be a terrifying thought for many.
- I have Bird Mites and they jump onto me and fly away after feeding…
Bird Mites CANNOT jump or fly. If you have found an insect that jumps or flies then it is not a Bird Mite.
- The Bird Mites I have are living on me and have adapted to feeding on my blood and no longer need a Bird host to survive…
Bird Mites CANNOT live on the blood of humans, or any other mammal (pets) for that matter. This is why they are called BIRD Mites – they need the nutrition that is provided to them specifically within the blood of birds in order to survive. They will try to feed on other animals but will fail and will eventually move on/die. Red Fowl Mites can live for a considerable amount of time without a Bird host (up to 9 months) which leads people to believe that they are in fact living off humans, when in fact they are slowly starving.
- I have had a Bird Mite infestation for years and there are 100% no birds living in/on/around my house…
If you are still having Bird Mite problems after 9 months then it’s likely that you either don’t have Bird Mites (misidentification) or there are still some birds hiding away somewhere. Birds are able to nest in the smallest of spaces so you must look very carefully to ensure that all possible nesting/roosting areas are made unavailable.
- I have Bird Mites crawling/burrowing underneath my skin…
These are not Bird Mites. The mouthpieces on Bird Mites are not designed to allow such ‘burrowing’ into the skin – nor has this behaviour from Bird Mites ever been reported/recorded. If you have suspected parasites burrowing into your skin then it may be worth investigating Scabies. Please also look into a condition called Morgellons for further potential explanations.
How to get rid of Bird Mites
How to get rid of Bird Mites all depends on each individual circumstance – a very large infestation is going to more difficult than a smaller problem – but remember that even a very big problem can be overcome with a bit of effort and time. Please head over to the how to get rid of Bird Mites page for further information on irradiating your infestation problem.
Rodent Mites (Rat Mites)
Like Bird Mites, Rodent Mites also only live on a single range of hosts – Rats and Mice. Very similar in behaviour to Bird Mites, Rodent Mites live on their hosts and leave when their hosts die in search of food, sometimes moving into homes/human dwellings. Depending on species, Rat Mites can survive for between 10 days and 6 weeks without a Rodent host
Physically Bird Mites and Rodent Mites are very similar and can be very difficult to differentiate. Getting a positive ID of which mite you have will normally require the assistance of a specialist in the area of insect identification (Entomologist).
Obviously, common sense can prevail when deciding whether a Bird Mite infestation or a Rodent Mite Infestation is present. If the mites present are infesting a bedroom next to a window with a birds nest outside, then the culprit is likely to be a Bird Mite, whereas if the mites are contained to a lower room/basement where Rodents have been seen to occupy, then the infestation is likely to be caused by Rodent Mites.
A common misidentification of the Bird Mite is made when the Bed Bug is involved. Both creatures are very flat-bodied, can be roughly the same color, and both are only able to crawl. Both can live in the home and present infestations.
The main differences between the two are the sizes and the behaviour. Whereas Bird Mites remain small and are only 1mm fully grown, Bed Bugs are able to grow to the size of an apple seed. You are likely to come across Bed Bugs of a few different sizes if you discover a large infestation, but Bird Mites will usually all be found at roughly the same size (non-adult Bird Mites are very difficult to see with the naked eye). Bird Mites have 8 legs whereas Bed Bugs have 6. If you are able to catch an creature (more information about catching and identifying here) then a good magnifying glass or microscope should be able to distinguish between 6 and 8 legs.
Bed Bugs are also notoriously difficult to see in the daytime as they hide up and only come out at the darkest of night. Bird Mites (particularly Fowl Mites) are not as nocturnal and can commonly be found crawling on hard surfaces, bedding or walls in the daytime – something that is very rare with Bed Bug (unless the infestation has become very large.
Please note that there are also such insects called ‘Bird Bugs‘ and ‘Bat Bugs‘ which are close relatives to the common Bed Bug – these bugs lives on various Bird and Bat Species and can also enter the home when Bird and Bat Hosts leave a nest or die. These contain the same physical and behavioural attributes as the common Bed Bug, except they cannot survive on Humans. The only way they can normally be differentiated from a common Bed Bug is by an expert studying the hair patterns on each species.
There are many hundreds of insects that can make their way into a home and potentially cause an infestation – if you are unsure of an insect that you have found and are concerned, please seek the help of a professional Entomologist.
How to get rid of Bird Mites? Click here for further information.