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The Mite-mare before Christmas…

January 4, 2012

Wouldn’t it be great to have a super power? Recently we’ve been watching the UK series Mis-Fits. It is a great series, in which a group of delinquent teens develop a range of bizarre super-powers after being caught in a ferocious storm. Yes, a far-fetched premise, but the show is witty and fun. Now I seem to have developed a strange new ability after an unfortunate brush with nature. But while the trendy teens in Mis-Fits have exciting powers like mind-reading and invisibility, I have a much more mundane ability. I have developed mitey-sense – the ability to tell when large numbers of mites are near through the stingling¹ of my skin. I discovered my mitey sense today, as I walked beneath a  verandah in a local pigeon-infested mall. I suddenly felt a burning tingle on the skin of my face. Looking up I spotted a bird’s nest, just above my head, built under the verandah. Of course, I can’t verify that the nest was full of mites. But I’m mighty sure it was. Here’s why…

A few weeks ago I started feeling itchy at night. Lots of things make me itchy – washing powders, perfumes, pollens, even exercise – so I ignored it. Usually these things just pass. Gradually, though, this itch intensified and my sleep was increasingly disrupted. Then Andrew started to itch too. Oh no.

It took us ages to work out what was happening, though from pretty early on we suspected mites might be involved. Our symptoms seemed to match descriptions of mite-bite cases.  Various anti-mite remedies, such as tea-tree oil, eucalptus oil, witch-hazel and pyrethrin based lotions were providing us with some relief. We also established a new routine of washing every item of clothing and bed-clothing daily in hot water with borax and essential oils, and then drying in a clothes drier. This routine was costly, time-consuming, environmentally unsound and exhausting, but it helped keep the itching bearable (sort of). Our lives, however, were disappearing. Sleep deprived, exhausted, itchy and irritable, we had little time or energy to socialize, pursue hobbies or creative pursuits, (like blogging for instance). We mostly worked and washed, and read about skin disorders, and then we tried to sleep. Increasingly sure that the problem was in our home, we certainly weren’t inviting friends over to our place.

It can be quite hard to get an appointment with a decent doctor in Melbourne these days. The first doctor we saw was dismissive and unhelpful. He explained that itches are notoriously hard to diagnose, which didn’t really bother him because, as he put it, “its just an itch”. What I should have said to that doctor was this: “This is not just an itch. This is an itch that encompasses sensations from from tingling and tickling to prickling, stinging, burning and biting. This is an itch that keeps us awake until three in the morning when we finally fall asleep from exhaustion. And then we go to work exhausted or even have to miss work. This is an itch which is costing us a fortune in treatments. And while we don’t think that it is contagious, because we think it is more likely environmental, we’d like to be absolutely sure that we’re not spreading something nasty to all of our friends, family and colleagues, particularly just in time for Christmas.” He sent me to get blood tests looking for problems with my auto-immune system. He ignored the fact that my husband was experiencing the same problems as me, and ignored the fact that we suspected the cause might be some kind of mite.

Luckily, we found other doctors who were more helpful. The second doctor was pretty sure the problem was caused by mites. There are a lot of different kinds of mites in the world though, and they can be particularly hard to beat if you don’t know what you’re dealing with.

As we read up about various kinds of mites there was one particular kind of mite that kept being mentioned, that we really hoped we didn’t have. Bird mites sounded particularly horrible. Bird mites are most active at night, they invade homes, and will feed on humans, which can result in intense discomfort, and they can be very difficult to get rid of. As their name implies, bird mites usually live on birds. In Australia, they are particularly associated with Indian mynahs, starlings, pigeons, and chickens, (and rats). They will infest a bird’s nest and feast on the blood of the fledglings. Bird mites breed rapidly, so a bird’s nest will house hundreds of thousands of mites by the time that the baby birds move out of the nest. If a nest is near to a house, this is when the problems for humans usually start. The mites need blood. In the absence of avian blood, human blood will do. They move out of the bird’s nest, and into the human home. Most bird mites are tiny and semi-transparent, almost impossible to spot, so at first the human inhabitants will have no idea that the mites are even there. But over time their presence will be felt, as a slight itch at first, but which gradually crescendos to a prickling burning which makes sleep near impossible. As your skin becomes ever more sensitive, and the mite numbers rapidly multiply, you will even become aware of their scuttling upon your skin, (unless you are one of those folks that bird mites don’t seem to like the taste of – lucky, lucky person!) The bird mite scenario seemed to match our case quite well, except for the absence of a bird’s nest. Then, Andrew discovered an abandoned bird’s nest. It was extremely well hidden, but right above our back door. Oh Fuguggle!²

Things got pretty bad. Eventually we had to abandon the house for week or so, (thanks to all the family members who took a share in housing us), while we awaited the removal of the nest and for pesticide treatments to take effect. But hopefully now our mite-mare is coming to an end. The nest has been destroyed. The matting ledge which housed and hid it has been removed. The house has been treated with pesticide, inside and out, and gradually we are reclaiming our lives.

I’m guessing you’re wondering why I’m even sharing this. Why the squink³ would I tell the world that we’ve had a mite problem? Firstly, writing about it is cathartic, and second, it could be helpful to others to know to be on the lookout for bird nests anywhere near their homes. Birds are great, just not nesting in your roof, or under your eaves, or hiding behind the air-conditioning unit. Keep them away people! But most importantly, I’m writing about this for the sake of other people who are dealing with bird mites or similar problems. These can be confusing, harrowing and intensely lonely experiences. At first no-one can tell you what is going on. No-one can tell you how to treat it. You worry you have some terrible contagion. You feel like a leper. You feel like you might be going mad. Just knowing that other ordinary folk have been through a similar experience and found answers and solutions can be a help. I found reading other people’s stories useful, so here I’ve shared mine. I’ll also add a few extra tips for you below based on our experience.

And to those of you who haven’t suffered from this kind of problem, I’m guessing you are feeling itchy now. Sorry about that. Just be glad it is all in your head – and if you ever meet anyone who thinks they have invisible bugs crawling on them, be sympathetic – it is quite possible they really do.

¹ Yes, this was a typo, I was thinking of both stinging and tingling, but typed stingling. But as stingling is a very good description of the burny-stingy-tingly sensation I was thinking of, I’m going to to go with it.

² Thanks to one of my favourite Aussie kid’s book authors, Morris Gleitzmann, for coining several alternate swear words in the book Teacher’s Pet.

³ Ibid.

My tips for coping with and getting rid of bird mites

If you believe you have a bird mite infestation, here is some advice based on our experiences:

  • Most importantly, get rid of any nests and all nesting material. Spray with a miticidal insecticide, (mites are in the arachnid family, so pesticides that kill spiders should work on mites). Mortein Control Bombs seem to work well for de-miting inside the house, but it may take a few days to gain the full effect.
  • Soaking in baths and showers is great for washing off mites, and provides temporary relief, but too much washing is itself hard on your already tormented skin. So go easy, and don’t have the water too hot.
  • Moisturizer is soothing for your skin, and if it has added vitamin E, can help your skin heal. There is even a theory that the slipperiness makes it harder for mites to crawl on your skin.
  • Witchhazel seems to kills mites on contact, and is very cooling and soothing to the skin, (if not over used, it does have a high alcohol content, so will dry out the skin if over applied). Of all the natural miticidal products we’ve found, witchhazel was the best for me. I recommend filling a spray bottle with witchhazel so you can spray it onto your skin.
  • There are heaps of natural products that seem to kill mites (if used in fairly strong solutions), including eucalyptus, tea-tree, peppermint, clove bud, orange and lavender essential oils. Olive oil, epsom salts and apple cider vinegar are also all useful.
  • Borax is great as a miticidal surface cleaner.
  • Extreme heat or cold will also kill mites. They like warm humid weather best.
  • If the mites are so active that you can’t sleep, try sleeping with the light on. They prefer to feeding in the dark. The light will not stop them, but it may improve the situation enough that you get some rest.
  • Wash both your clothes and bedding regularly, (preferably daily). Use a hot wash, and add borax. If things are really bad, add eucalyptus oil as well, and dry everything in a drying machine.

Depending on your medical practioner/s, you may find you have trouble getting health professionals to take you seriously, or, they may simply have never come across bird mites before. Mentioning something you read on the internet to a doctor seems to be a quick and easy way to be dismissed as a crackpot. Try to get your hands on an article from a medical journal instead. Here are the citations of some good ones I found:

  • Watson, Charles R “Human infestation with bird mites in Wollongong” in CDI, vol 26, no 4, 2002, pp. 259-261. (Particularly recommended to Australian bird mite sufferers. This article was written by the Executive Dean of Health Science of Curtin University of Technology, and was based on his own personal experience of a bird mite infestation).
  • Kong, Tak K and To, Wing K “Images in clinical medicine: Bird-Mite Infestation” in The New England Journal of Medicine, vol 354, no 16, April 20 2006, p. 1728. (Provides a very succinct case study of a fairly typical bird mite case).
  • Orton, D I et al. “Avian mite dermatitis” in Clinical Dermatology, vol 25, 2000, pp.129-131. (Reports the case of a Northern Fowl Mite infestation in the US).

All of these articles deal with cases involving bird’s nests found near the patient’s home. Try your local or state library to get access to these articles, (or your uni library if you have access to one).

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. Bridget permalink
    June 23, 2012 9:47 am

    HI Julia,
    Thanks for posting about mites, we have an infestation at present, but not able to find any nests. Also our neighbours, and nothing seems to work, it’s as if they have set up camp in our home, and are quite happy to drink our blood, no need for avian blood. Have you had any other responses from Australian bird mite sufferers?
    I would really like to find more cases, and more cures, I think this may be a symptom of climate change, and increased humidity here in SA.
    Thanks for your help.
    Bridget

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      June 24, 2012 11:17 am

      Hi Bridget,

      So sorry to hear that you are going through this. You are the first Australian bird mite sufferer who has responded to this post.

      We only got rid of the problem once we had the bird nest removed, had the ceiling cavity properly sealed to prevent rats and then had the house thoroughly and expertly treated with pesticides (including under the house, inside the house proper, and in the roof cavity). This is an expensive solution, and one that worried me because I’m not a fan of excess chemical use, but it was necessary and it did work.

      Hope that you and your neighbours find a solution soon. Please leave a post here if you find any solutions that might be useful for others.

      best of luck,
      Julia

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      June 24, 2012 11:22 am

      Also Bridget, if you’d like to give me your email address I can forward you an article about bird mites that you might find helpful. If you want to do this you can send your address to art at juliadmarshall.com.au (make this into an email address, by using an @ symbol).

      • Bridget permalink
        June 24, 2012 11:33 am

        Hi Julia,

        Thanks for your reply, I am interested in what the contractors sprayed in your house?
        I have heard reports that Bifenthrin is very toxic, and can cause severe reactions in sensitive people, and that Pyrethrum does not work.

  2. Bridget permalink
    June 24, 2012 2:15 pm

    Hi Julia, the email address you suggested keeps bouncing back, am I missing something?

  3. December 12, 2012 12:15 pm

    Thanks for this!

    We’re having our own Mightmare before Christmas at the moment and believe that mite infested birds that visit our apartment balcony and outdoor window sills may be the cause of our problem.

    I’m not getting bitten, or if I am I’m not reacting, but I can feel the crawling on my skin. Whatever it is must be so tiny that it can’t normally be seen. My partner is reacting very badly and has to take antihistamine drugs to control the swelling.

    Thanks for the tips though — most bird mite information is from overseas so it’s great to have an Australian perspective.

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      December 12, 2012 7:35 pm

      Hi AC,

      Hope you work out what is going on at your place soon, and find a solution.

      We had to have our house professionally sprayed twice before the problem was fully fixed, (the second job was much more thorough, and importantly, included fumigating the roof cavity). Now nearly a year later our mite problem is a fading memory, (thank goodness).

      Wishing you luck,
      Julia

  4. Penny Morris permalink
    November 2, 2013 5:34 am

    Julia,
    Could you tell us exactly what the professionals sprayed in your home that got rid of your mites?

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      November 4, 2013 8:50 am

      Hi Penny, I’m afraid I’m not sure exactly what they sprayed. I wish now that I had asked them to write down the names of what they used. I think that there were 3 chemicals used- 1 under the house and in the roof cavity, and another that was meant to coat the surfaces within the house, and a third that misted through-out the house. But it is a while ago now, I don’t really remember.

  5. Manda permalink
    November 11, 2013 11:57 am

    Hi Julia 🙂 I’m an Aussie and suffered for MONTHS (almost a full year) with a bird mite plague. They infested a caravan I was staying in in Darwin then they just travelled with me across 3 states!!! It’s particularly unbearable when every doctor tells you it’s all in your head and recommends you speak to a mental health professional…grrrrr!
    I wanted to share that I finally found physical relief (once the source of the problem had been dealt with) using Tea Tree oil. I was sceptical at first, and there seemed to be too many to deal with, but it really seems to have worked!!! I just bought the diluted stuff you can get from the supermarket (in Oz), 200mg/g, poured it into a spray bottle, then every night sprayed myself head to toe, including my face (it stings if it gets in your eyes but doesn’t do any harm). I then continued to spray on any spot I felt a bite or crawling. It takes a bit of time, and there’ll still be a few disturbed nights, but you have the immense pleasure of knowing that you’re not just deterring the bastards, you’re actually killing them! (Tea Tree oil is a natural miticide).
    I also sprayed it all over my bed and pillow every night, and other people have recommended using it in your washing. As an added benefit, it’s amazing for the skin and hair – softens and cleanses, doesn’t dry like I thought it would.
    I REALLY wish I’d discovered this earlier in my own mite-mare instead suffering through so many, many months of misery.
    As I said, it will take a little bit of time, but it’s better than just waiting them out. Plus you’re not poisoning yourself with toxic chemicals (as I did when I tried using Frontline!)
    Hope this helps other sufferers…

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      November 11, 2013 6:41 pm

      Thanks Manda. Glad things are better for you now.

  6. Ben Cunningham permalink
    December 13, 2013 9:35 pm

    Hello Julia, i have to thank you for this posting. I am in the middle of a terrible mitemare (love the phrase!) and beside myself with worry/crawling/itching etc. I have discovered Starlings have nested in my roof, and young ones recently flown the nest, although i realise we have suffered from this for months without knowing what it was, (as we have 3 cats i thought it fleas,) until, 3 days ago i SAW them for the first time. Soooo small, no wonder i missed them. Westmead Hospital in Sydney has an entomological department, and on their advice giveni am going to my GP with specimens trapped on selotape, to try to get indentification through Westmead, on medicare. It is TOTALLY unbearable now, but as you said, knowing there are others out there having experienced same, is a comfort, and i will try your suggested remedies for relief, thanks.

  7. Donna permalink
    January 12, 2014 11:33 pm

    My partner and I contracted some sort of mite 10 weeks ago. It has been pure hell. We have both broke down a few times as it is simply exhausting and our lives are terrible now. We live in our caravan and cannot find where we may have got them. The nights are the worst. No sleep from around1am to morning. Tried everything. Now on ivermectin into our second week. Still have them but not as bad. I don’t know what we will do if we get to the end of the course and still have them.

  8. alison jolly permalink
    January 22, 2014 11:01 pm

    I live in a rooming house and the owners thought I had bed bugs but after two treatments the horrors got even worse…itching in the day even..havings tiny bugs crawling into my ears and eyes at night. I spent xmas and new year alone for fear of spreading the buggers. After i captured one a friend confirmed they are mites. I plan to bomb my place and go away for three days. Appearantly they come back after spraying if a human returns too soon to their space. Ive felt like jumping in front of a train out of frustration and sleep deprivation
    ..but now i know what they are I feel more positive. Thanks Julia. And I found a birds nest outside. Its all making sense.

  9. Alison permalink
    March 3, 2014 2:49 pm

    We had bird mites about a year ago. Our chickens caught them from one of the many minor birds and
    Pigeons that hang out in our yard. But bites were appearing on only one person in the house – me (female). Having never heard of bird mites, we initially we thought it must be a mozzie outbreak as I’ve always been more attractive to mozzies and am allergic so mozzie bites are crazy itchy for me and swell into welts. I stopped going outside. We checked for bed bugs. Nothing. The rash of bites continued. My husband did all the backyard work and cared for the chickens and didn’t get any bites and we never saw any bugs. We started to think I had a skin disease or rash. Over the next 6 weeks, I slowly went crazy with the itch. Sometimes I was reduced to tears. Anti itch lotion from the chemist helped. My husband kept telling me to go to a dermatologist but I was certain it wasn’t a rash. After a while it feels like no one believes you even though the evidence is all over your body. I finally came across an article on bird mites and it fit the profile. Soon after, I saw one crawling on my husband as he was about to hug me. GET AWAY!!
    Then we really saw them…
    Hundreds of them on the eggs he collected that day and brought into the house. Invisible to the naked eye when hungry. Black rapidly moving specks when fed. It was horror. We treated the chickens and their coop two weekends in a row and the problem soon disappeared. I was so happy.
    A few weeks ago my husband cleaned up a dead pigeon in our yard. Last week, the bites started again. At least this time we recognised it much sooner. I am heavily pregnant @ 39 weeks and uncomfortable enough without these stupid mites. But I did notice something interesting. I had been lathering bio oil on my belly each night to prevent stretch marks and even tho I got about 20 bites all over my body within a few days and my belly is huge, I did not have a single bite on my belly. The bio oil is preventing them from biting (too slippery). So I’m lathering up my whole body until we can get this under control again. I hope they are gone before the baby arrives, it would be horrible to see the mites going for a vulnerable newborn.
    Good luck to you other sufferers, you’re not alone and you will win this fight!

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      March 4, 2014 8:21 pm

      Thanks Alison. Interesting about the Bio-oil. I hope you get rid of the mites very soon, and best wishes for the baby. I’m pleased to report that we’ve been mite free for 2 years now, so to anyone struggling with this, hang in there, they can be overcome.

  10. Matt E permalink
    May 11, 2014 10:10 am

    Julia, At this point I find myself riding on a emotional rollercoaster that I have been riding for over 6 life destroying years. To explain breifly I have to first thank you for putting your story out there caring enough for anyone who may relate to your condition and possibly find resolve from it in some way. I can read your story as if it was my own from a symptomatic and lack of empathy prospective. From the moment that I first showed signs of mites or flea bites diagnosed as an allergic reaction to such bites over 6 years ago to today it has cost me greatly, not the cost of thousands of dollars a year that I spent on treatments its the emotional cost that has plagued my life and my kids life , it has not only played a roll in breaking our family apart it also nearly cost me my life in 2008 when I overdosed on my prescribed medications ranging from antidepressant tabs, sleeping tabs, valium tabs, skin steroid tabs, antihistamine tabs and Staph tabs, all of which i was prescribed to combat my skin problems, my OD was such that my family and friends were told by the hospital doctors that theres a big chance I will not live through it and they should come see me if the wished to do so. The next day of which I nearly died and was so happy to be alive and going home to my family was my daughters birthday. All that aside Its given me a glimmer of happiness knowing that even though i am suffering in silence and for years that your story corresponds and provides proof backing up what I have tried to express to others that Its not a figment of my imagination or psycho somatic symptom , I have always been allergic to dust mites as most are and I have theorised a number of times over the years about bird mites for good reasons and thanks to you I have a solid case to put bird mites at the top of my list to eradicate from coming into contact with.

    regards Matt E

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      May 11, 2014 10:22 am

      Hi Matt, I really hope things improve for you very soon.

  11. Elle P permalink
    December 4, 2014 12:57 am

    Dear Julia,
    Thank you very much for writing this blog! Not only was it very informative which enabled me to take the necessary actions to understand and eradicate my bird mite infestation, it also gave me the confidence to persevere and not be overcome by it. I too, like yourself and many of your readers, have had a ‘mite mare’ before Christmas.
    I live in the inner west in Sydney and some Indian Mynahs nested in the roof of the second storey of our old terrace house. My husband and I debated over whether or not to remove the nest, he believed it was cruel to kick the nestlings out of their nest so we left them alone thinking that they couldn’t possibly cause any harm.
    One night we felt itchy in bed but didn’t think anything of it. Then the next day my husband rang me from work furious, stating that he found ‘fleas’ in his arm hairs and that he must have caught them from our pet dog (our dog actually does not have fleas as he is on comfortis which is highly effective). He stated that the dog was now banned from coming upstairs. Then when I was at work I noticed a little cream coloured speck walking across my mobile phone case. I flicked it off thinking it was just a little harmless bug. Then on the next night I was up reading in bed when I saw a little cream coloured speck walk across the black border of my iPad and I squished it not giving it a second thought. Then I felt a pin prick on my hand and saw two perched on the back of my hand. I inspected them and realised they were mites. I looked around and noticed more on the sheets and pillows. I got up, a bit worried, and looked at the wall closely and to my sheer horror I saw that the wall had hundreds of these tiny menaces crawling around on it. I panicked because I relaised they were biting us and had been the culprits of our itching all along. Then the penny dropped and I made the connection between the nesting Indian Mynahs and the infestation. Being a person that avoids harsh chemicals sprayed them with the only things I could find, aero guard which didn’t do much and then methylated spirits which killed some but soon they were replenished and I was scratching again. I had very little sleep that night as I was constantly scratching and fretting and panicking about what was happening. I felt so powerless. I am usually quite resilient when it comes to bugs and bites etc but this really got to me psychologically. I am one of the lucky ones by the sound of it because I only suffered for two nights with this problem and some poor people go through many weeks, months and even years of this psychological torment! I started doing some research and found mostly American examples which suggested remedies using products only found over there. Then I stumbled across this blog and was enlightened by your description and heartened by your personal experience and words of advice. I felt like we weren’t alone in this experience. I felt that the shame, shock, embarrassment, rage, helplessness and fear were leaving me as I read yours and other people’s experiences through the comments section. I felt like tomorrow, regardless of the lack of sleep and lack of experience with this kind of thing, I would be able to tackle this problem and it won’t escalate to a whole house infestation and totally consume us.
    The next day my husband and I took the day off work and climbed up to the second story roof and saw that the fledglings had moved out, leaving one dead sibling behind which was thickly covered in thousands of mites in a huge mite ridden nest. We removed an entire garbage bag full of nesting material which consisted of twigs, chocolate wrappers, straws and even paper receipts. This infested nesting material was sprayed and double-bagged and thrown in the bin. We let off some Baygon do-it-yourself exterminator fume bombs (which I bought from Woolworths in a 3 pack for around $13) inside the roof cavity and inside the bedroom. A few hours later we opened the room back up and washed the walls with tree tree oil and water (1 part oil to 4 parts water), wiped down the surfaces, changed all bedding and vacuumed the room.
    I can happily report that this procedure worked and I haven’t seen a mite at all yet. It has been one day of mite free living. We will be washing our clothes and bed linen in hot water and regularly spraying tea tree oil around the room for a few weeks to ensure any strays or new mite hatchlings don’t survive. I also bought a harsher mortein surface spray for spiders to use as an emergency back up. I think after the spraying and washing of the walls they could do with a new coat of paint. Also I want to change from carpet to a hard floor surface.

    Lesson learned = never let birds nest in or near your home, especially pest species like mynahs, starlings and pigeons. Prevent nesting in your home by regularly inspecting the roof and external walls of your house and blocking all holes, even small ones. Take heart and know that you can overcome this problem and you aren’t alone. If you can’t fix the problem quickly yourself then call a professional pest controller. Wishing you all the best.

  12. Noemie permalink
    February 12, 2015 11:45 pm

    Thanks you for sharing your experience with bird mites. Sadly most doctors receive no training or information about this, and it is a growing problem around the world.

    I went through almost 3 years of hell thanks to pigeons nesting close to my home. It took me a very long time to find out what was happening because it’s so hard to find information. In the end the access was blocked, the pigeons left and the mites that were in my home gradually died afterwards. I have been mite-free even since. In my case I did not use any chemicals to kill the mites, but you may need to (depending on the level of infestation).

    I would recommend to anyone who has this problem to contact a pest control company immediately. These guys know what they are doing, and you will be surprised at how many bird mites cases they have dealt with before.

    I tried using predator mites that feed on the bird mites. I did this twice: the first time it worked quite well, and for some reason the second time it didn’t work at all. Personally I would not recommend the predator mites because they are expensive, and very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity (much more so that the bird mites).

    The only thing that really works is to find and eliminate the primary source of the mites. Please be aware that pets in your home can become secondary sources. Normally bird mites should not use humans as a permanent host, however I have read a number of stories online from people who claim they have become permanently infested – yikes!

    I wish there was some kind of public information campaign about bird mites, because I bet there are many people suffering needlessly out there.

  13. March 15, 2016 5:14 pm

    Hi Julia, Many thanks for this clear and concise summary of the perils of dealing with such an unrecognized public health issue. I’ve just published a book called The Year of the Mite, which tells the tale of getting rid of bird mites in California — how it affected our family and how we finally got rid of them. I also have a website at yearofthemite.com where folks write in with comments and questions, as well as a Facebook page. Better means of diagnosis are coming, and the paradigm among entomologists and doctors is shifting — even if slowly. Best of luck to you and your readers! — Jane Ishka.

  14. November 20, 2016 6:04 pm

    Hi Julia, thank you so much for your blog. My mite-mare started three years ago when distressed starlings flew into our carport, a couple of days later I woke in the night to invisible things crawling on me, eventually we saw small black things. I had them in my hair and bedroom as they’d entered through my bedroom window which was close to the carport also came in the toilet vent. I have moved several times but still have them with me. I am keeping them down in numbers but can’t eradicate them completely.

    Have been using Epsom salt sprays and sulphur soap from Amazon and body lice shampoo. Use Deet spray and Mortein surface spray as well and have used a insecticide bomb as well. I have taken notes on what you’ve used and will do all of that too. Have to eradicate them completely. This blog is great. I’ve been a member of an online support group, called Skin Mites support group on Facebook, but all American, and some of their recommended products aren’t available here. So Australian info is great to get. Cheers Maxine

  15. Gerry permalink
    December 31, 2016 12:22 pm

    Hi thank you for telling your story. I and family are in the very same situation this Christmas due to my stupid. I’m now writing this from our temporary hotel accommodation where we will stay until the Pest Control has fogged the entire house.
    In late November 2016 I brought a birds nest into the house to clean it our. Stupid idea and then the problems started. At first a few bites when in bed and I thought I’d cleared it by using off the shelf products Inc Cypermethrin and borax. The problem dissipated a little, no more bites until we got the creeps on 22nd December with a feeling we were being attacked , but nothing visible only a crawling sensation. We quickly decided to start retreating but it really wasn’t working. On the 25tb, Christmas day, we packed a few clothes and left for a hotel. We’ve been here ever since.
    This has really freaked us out and we are now waiting for the house to be treated professionally.
    This has been the worst ever experience and we don’t love our house anymore. So much so that we’ve contemplated selling.

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      December 31, 2016 10:15 pm

      Best of luck. Hope you get it sorted soon.

  16. Jude permalink
    January 15, 2017 1:22 am

    Hi Julia, thankyou so much for sharing your insights; I have found this fight against bird mites a very lonely one so far (and pretty disheartening) so it’s great to hear stories of hope.
    I was particularly wondering about how to stay with people without spreading the mites to them. You mentioned somewhere that you stayed with friends for a while in order to vacate your property and get the mites dealt with; I was thinking of doing likewise (to my parents place) this week but am really worried that I could be spreading the problem to them, in which case it might be best not to go there. Just wondering if you could please shed any light on this from your own experiences or reading.
    Thanks in advance
    Jude

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      January 15, 2017 9:09 am

      Hi Jude,
      It’s a while ago now, but from what I remember we basically showered a lot and did laundry often, threw some things out to be on the safe side and hoped for the best. My understanding is that generally the mites don’t live on humans for long either, so while a small number might travel with you, they probably won’t have the numbers to establish a new home, simply dying off before they get to breed. Certainly in our case it seemed that when I was away from home I felt the odd bite now and then, as opposed to in the house in some rooms feeling as though I was being feasted upon. Urgh! Also I think they die off or go dormant in cold weather, so if you are really worried maybe you could go somewhere cold for a few days just in case.
      Hope you’re rid of them soon, Jude. Wishing you well. It’s a hard thing to go through, but will get better.

      • Jude permalink
        January 20, 2017 10:24 pm

        Thanks for your reply Julia, so far it seems nothing has spread to anyone else.
        I sent off what I thought were samples that I’d found on myself and they turned out to be nothing!! We are investigating other potential causes / beasties but many of the features seem to fit bird mites so am just wondering: other than on the nest, could you see / find the mites elsewhere on the house or on yourselves? And was there a pattern of bites in terms of where they would tend to bother you on the body in particular? Thanks.

      • Julia Marshall permalink*
        January 21, 2017 5:11 pm

        I remember that we could not see them at all, so we felt like we were going mad. They were more active at night, and in the dark. Also in the warmth.
        I think they particularly liked our arms and the bites followed lines. That is about as much as I can recall.

  17. Jude permalink
    January 21, 2017 2:19 pm

    I guess what I’m really wondering is what they look like and how I can locate and preserve them so I can actually get to the bottom of what they are!

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      January 21, 2017 5:12 pm

      Yes, we never knew for sure in our case. The evidence seemed to point strongly to bird mites, but it was never absolutely confirmed.

  18. March 27, 2017 9:29 pm

    Hello! Sorry you have to relive your mite-mare with questions 5 yrs on. I’m quite desperate and going into the 8th week of this. Can you remember what pest control company you used to treat your home? I am in Melbourne too and the company I used 4 weeks ago has failed so I am at a loss as to what to do. Thank you!

    • Julia Marshall permalink*
      March 28, 2017 6:32 am

      Hi, I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the company as we were renting and it was arranged by the real estate agency.
      I think the most important thing though might be locating the bird’s nest that is the source of the mites. If it is bird mites you need to get rid of the bird’s nest to be rid of them.
      That said, if you’re in the southern states of Australia hopefully the cooler weather that is coming will also kill off the mites soon.
      Wishing you all the best.

    • Paul Timms permalink
      April 15, 2017 7:11 pm

      Hi SM. How did you go with mite control companies. I’m going through the same nightmare.
      I go through phases of helplessness. Ive tried everything.

      • Julia Marshall permalink*
        April 16, 2017 3:05 pm

        Hi Paul, didn’t use any mite control companies. I believe finding and removing the bird’s nest is the critical thing.

  19. Paul Timms permalink
    April 11, 2017 1:44 pm

    Diatomaceous Earth (food grade powder) is a great repellant, dusted in your bed and body. I have bought a fogging machine, and will be fogging cedar oil solution in each room. Expensive stuff though. But hopefully will save me from the Loonie bin!
    I keep thinking this must be Karma. Perhaps I’ve squashed a few too many cockroaches.
    My wife is completely immune from the mite effects.

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