PCO Series: World of Poultry Red Mites

Poultry Red Mite ©Shutterstock/Martin Pelanek

This arachnid is a vector pest and a worldwide problem. For example, in egg and meat production or any poultry farming, one has to fight again and again with this mite species. Among other things, they worsen the feed conversion ratio, laying performance and/or egg quality. In this report we describe the red poultry mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) in more detail and also explain how it can be avoided and controlled.

Dangers and economic damage

A mite infestation, for example in laying hens, can cause stress in the affected animals and therefore has a strong effect on their health and well-being. Mite bites cause feather pecking and head scratching in hens, they get restless and can suffer from sleep disturbances.1

And this in turn leads to:

  • Weight loss, because the animals eat less food
  • Reduced egg production or poor eggshell quality or size
  • Reduced fertility
  • Increased susceptibility to diseases

Red poultry mites feed exclusively on blood, whereby an adult mite can take up 0.2 μl.2 In infested animals, this increases the production of new blood cells, which, however, can no longer compensate for the loss of blood in a growing mite population; the consequences are anaemia (lack of blood) and an increased mortality rate.1

And as if that was not enough, Dermanyssus gallinae can also be hosts and vectors for numerous diseases, such as salmonella.

However, red poultry mites can also be dangerous for humans, e.g. in case of food shortage, strong reproduction or during the absence of chickens on poultry farms. Then they infest humans and can cause unpleasant skin reactions such as itching and skin rashes, or even asthma.3

Apart from the health aspect, this mite also represents a worldwide and cost-intensive problem in poultry production. In Europe, the total annual financial damage caused by the bird mite amounts to 360 million euros; more than 300 million hens in all types of husbandry are affected.4

Characteristics and properties

The Dermanyssus gallinae belong to the family of arachnids. Their body is oval, they have 8 legs (larvae still hatch with 6 legs) and pointed, long mouth parts. The body colour is at first still pale yellow to light grey, after a blood meal they take on a reddish coloration. Males are about 0.6 mm long, the females about 0.8 mm. After feeding the females can even become over 1 mm long.

This mite species infests not only chickens but also pigeons, geese and other wild birds. Mostly they are introduced by new chickens/hens, infested equipment, clothing or transport.

This pest is a temporary ectoparasite and does not live on the host, but in its immediate vicinity, so that a blood meal can be taken as required. Depending on where the host lives, the mite hides in small cracks and crevices in or on walls, on the floor, in nests or on cages. Preferred places on the host body for sucking blood are for example the shoulder area, neck, or back.

Life cycle:
The female Dermanyssus gallinae lays about 30-50 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs are laid in up to eight clutches with about four to eight eggs each. These are placed in crevices and cracks near the host.5

The red poultry mite goes through several stages: egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph and adult mite. The larvae hatch out of the egg with six legs, they do not yet consume blood food. Only after the first moult, two more legs develop. Protonymphs, deutonymphs and adult mite females regularly ingest blood food, male mites only occasionally.

The entire development from egg to adult mite usually takes seven to 10 days.4

Life cycle of a poultry red mite9

The mites stick and suck on their hosts only for short periods of time (up to one hour), usually when it is dark. They repeat this process every two to four days. During the time they do not suck blood on their host, they hide nearby in hiding places where they digest food, mate and lay eggs.

The activity of the mites is controlled by temperature. At temperatures of 25-30°C, the egg production is very favourable, between 25 and 37°C is the optimal heat for the development of the nymphs.6 Suboptimal temperatures reduce the reproductive speed, but the mites can still survive and procreate. Below -20°C and above 45°C the survival rate is very low. But even without food the mites can survive up to 9 months.

Jesmond Products and Efficacy + Treatment/Dilution

Due to the rapid development of Dermanyssus gallinae, an infestation can spread rapidly, is usually difficult to control and should only be treated by professional pest controllers. Once an infestation can be identified, it should be treated before it grows further.

In order to prevent (new) mites from being introduced in the first place, it is recommended to always use clean equipment and wear clean clothing on the farms. New birds should also be of red mite free origin. In addition to many measures that a farm must take, stables and all equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected regularly.

In order to bring an acute infestation under control but also as a preventive measure, we recommend our product BOMBEX® Farumy. It has a high performance due to its patented micro-encapsulation technology. BOMBEX® Farumy has an immediate and long-lasting effect (up to 12 weeks of protection) despite its more ecological water-based formulation, thanks to the tailor-made release of active ingredients from the microscopic membrane capsules. In addition, it is convenient to use, does not irritate the skin or the respiratory tract and has no unpleasant odour.

In case of severe infestation 50-100 ml of BOMBEX® Farumy can be diluted with 5 L of water. With this rate all infested areas can be treated, with special attention to cracks, crevices and hiding places where mites hide.

BOMBEX® Farumy can also be used for space treatment/fogging. Here 100 ml are diluted in water to treat 500 m³.

When using BOMBEX® Farumy the following points should be observed:

  • Follow the instructions on the label for the correct dilution.
  • Shake container well before opening.
  • Ensure that the container and sprayer have been cleaned properly.
  • Properly mix and stir the spray solution.
  • Shake backpack sprayer while walking and use reservoir agitations if available.
  • Use up all the material on the same day. The diluted mixture should not be stored.
  • Ensure a medium to coarse spray with enough pressure to penetrate cracks and crevices.
  • Wet the surfaces well until the point of runoff (50 mL/m²).
  • Dilute Bombex®-product in water. Do not add other products or additives (whether spraying or fogging).
  • Consider the principles of IPM (Integrated Pest Management).
  • If the treatment is carried out after limewasing (or disinfection), the surfaces must be dry before treatment with Bombex® to ensure the best effectiveness.


As already mentioned, an infestation in poultry farms is a permanent stress factor. In the Netherlands there is a trick, e.g. during the day radios are set up in the stables and operated at room volume. If the radio can no longer be heard because of the chickens clucking, this is a sign of a very severe infestation, which must be brought under control for economic, animal health and animal welfare reasons.8