Bird mites—need my anxiety relieved!

Asked July 19, 2020, 3:47 PM EDT

I’m hoping you can help answer a question regarding bird mites. We removed a robins nest around July 2nd (2020). I saw that the nest and birds had mites so I bagged it & threw it away, bleached the front porch it was on, and replaced the lamp. My husband and I got bit up pretty bad and I had an allergic reaction to the bites. We were both itchy over the 4th of July weekend. My husband got better by the 5/6th, I got worse. I received treatment July 10th of Zyrtec, topical corticosteroid, and an oral steroid, but I’m still having some itching, prickling, crawling feeling (though no new rashes) almost 2 weeks later. I did also have a crawling skin reaction to the medrol pack (prednisone/steroid) which didn’t help! Doc said that drug reaction may take a week to go away (so a couple more days hopefully) We also had a pest company treat the porch July 10th and as an added precaution I’ve been doing extra cleaning, laundry, showering 2 or more times a day, and using a product called PremoGuard in areas where we hang out a lot. I’ve read conflicting info about the mites (these were visible, about the size of a period, and brownish in color). A couple of experts have stated they can’t live on humans, they are small but can be seen, and if they get in the house they typically can’t survive long in modern day AC or without a bird host. But there are conflicting horror stories out there that say they CAN live off humans, can survive for weeks without a meal, and that you may not even see them. I’m not seeing any in my house, no one else in the house seems to be effected, we also have a dog (who is on monthly frontline and ivermectin). We do have a lot of birds in our backyard (always have) but no new or active nests on the house, and we don’t feed the birds or have bird baths. If there are active nests in the backyard, but away from the house, could the dog also bring mites in on his fur? Basically I need confirmation that these mites are not viable without a bird host and cannot live long without one. Also, that if I’m not seeing them that we’re probably okay? Any info is appreciated!


Oakland County Michigan

12 Responses

If the active (or recently active) bird nests have been removed, the problem should be short-lived. It is unfortunate that there are websites out there promoting inaccurate information about bird mites, but there are. Bird mites should not be a difficult problem to deal with. Treating old nest area with diatomaceous earth or a pest control version of silica aerogel (both desiccant dusts, very low hazard to humans) should kill any remaining mites. See https://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/biting-stinging/others/ent-3009/

Thank you so much for your prompt response. I appreciate it very much.
What is frustrating though then is why am I still itching 2.5 weeks later after removing the nest? Is it possible some bird mites are difficult to see that they’re microscopic? Or can survive without a bird host? I believe you, but it is hard not to potentially believe all the stories similar to what I am experiencing. Several sites (birdmites.org is one) which sound reputable states mites like D.gallinae can be the difficult to treat and can live for months without a bird host. I’d love for you to tell me this Isnt true! Right now my itchiness isn’t sure what is true. I’ve attached pictures of my newer pin prick bites as well as a couple of referencesesknow.

There is also studies from NIH which also state they can attack humans. So is it true or isn’t? I’d love for it not to be true. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31264450/

I never used to get calls about bird mites--in almost 20 years, not a single call I can remember, though I occasionally had bird mites submitted for identification. Once birdmites.org went online, calls went through the roof. Birdmites.org is a bad source of information. Bird mites were not a "big" problem until they were made one by this site. I am familiar with the paper you asked about. This paper is written by a scientist (Sparagano) who works on poultry mites. He and team are trying to make a point that their chicken mite object of study could be an emerging human ectoparasite without providing any real data (if you read the paper). It's speculation that unfortunately reads more like established fact in the abstract and title. Bird mites are ectoparasites, meaning they live outside the host, not internally. Humans make lousy hosts because we lack feathers to hide in.

That helps a lot. I actually called our pest guy and he also basically confirmed if the nest is gone and I’m not seeing them we’re probably okay. I’m hoping and trusting that is true. I also hope my itching subsides soon because that will help as well! I don’t want to blow this up but this whole situation since removing the nest has been extremely traumatizing! I appreciate all of your time and insight. Thank you again wholeheartedly.


I know it’s been about a month and a half since I first asked my question...But I could use some reassurance that bird mites cannot survive or reproduce on mammals/humans. I’m still feeling itchy/crawling sensations from time to time and almost 2 months is a long time to feel that way! Even on this extension website there are “experts” who recommend birdmites.org. Conflicting info out there, combined with continued itching makes it hard to know what is true. I hate to be a bother...For what it’s worth, I tried to start a new question and it kept getting unanswered and closed, so I figured I would try here again, if you don’t mind helping.

Dr. Merchant has retired and I don not know if he answers questions any more, but he is correct and he is one of the leading entomologists in the field. Bird mites do not live on humans. As he said, we make lousy hosts because we don't have feathers to live in. I don't know which extension site recommended birdmites.org, but there are agents that answer questions at times that are not as knowledgeable as Dr. Merchant. Only trust information from reputable science based sources such as .edu sites, .gov sites such as the CDC and medical sites such as the Mayo Clinic. The other sites do not always have reputable and accurate information.

Thank you so much. This is all helpful and grateful to know Dr. Merchant was one of the best!

I recall it was someone in the Penn State extension who referred someone to birdmites.org for more info, though possibly years ago. Good to know that site is not good, it definitely can perpetuate fear! There was also this article referenced which was also confusing, as at one point they mentioned humans can be hosts and then said they can’t. Here is the article and screen shots below of the reference in question.


https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN57500.pdf


I’m not seeing any mites, the nest has been gone for almost 2 months and nothing else in/on our house, but it’s hard not to question things when you’re still itching and not 100% guess I’m prob just really sensitive to their test bites

The article says 's. If a person handles the infested chicken he or she will become infested. This has occurred in the layer industry when there are heavy mite infestations'. This is what happened to you. It also says later 'It is almost never found on wild mammals, although there are many records of it biting humans (you are one)'. I does not say that they maintain an infestation on humans. if you still have the itching feeling, you might want to visit a dermatologist (and carry a list of any drugs you may be using). Tell them your story and see if they can find anything.

Well, hearing you confirm that human infestations do happen, after Dr. Merchant basically said human bird mite infestations don’t happen because we don’t have feathers doesn’t help the confusion here! I know I was bitten by bird mites, and had an allergic reaction, but I didn’t think I was infested...and I hoped I was in the clear in that area.

I have visited 2 dermatologists over the course of July and August and been treated with both 2 doses of permethrin and 2 doses of ivermectin. I also saw my primary care physician last week. My current dermatologist and my primary care physician both don’t think I have any current infestation based on seeing no new rashes, decent blood work, and that 2 different entomologists said that bird mites cannot survive on humans. Why I’m still itching 52 days later is still the confusing mystery.

I don’t necessarily expect you to solve the mystery, I mainly came here because I wanted confirmation that, while they may bite humans, they cannot survive or reproduce on humans. Correct? It sounds like after that UFL article you may have back stepped saying humans can be infested and that I might still be infested? So I could benefit on some clarification here to help my anxiety about this whole thing. (Do you understand why I’m so confused about conflicting info on bird mites? ;-)

I did not confirm that permanent human infestations happen. In fact i stated (with a mispelling) "It does not say that they maintain an infestation on humans". I quoted the paper in other areas. And technically, you had a 'human infestation'. Anyone who gets bird mites has one. They just do not last because the mites are host specific and do not continue to live on humans. I recommended the dermatologist so he could determine what is causing the itching you are experiencing. My best guess, Dr. Merchant's best guess, and apparently your 2 physicians diagnosis is that you do not have bird mites. What is causing our itching, I do not know. Perhaps a second opinion is required.

I do know of one case study that was similar. A lady kept having itching such as yours and attributed it to bird mites. She was correct. it took 6 months or so to determine, but her reading chair on her deck was directly under her hummingbird feeder. Every time she sat to read, mites would fall off of the hummingbirds on to her, bite her and fall off, causing the itching. Once she moved her chair, the itching stopped.

Just a note to say that i do not know what is causing your itching and to let you know that there may be some other cause or source that you may be missing.

I appreciate all of this, thank you. And I apologize...when I sent my last reply, after reading “infestation” my (anxious) mind was thinking of being overrun and covered by pests. But when I re-read your reply, with my husband present, he also pointed out that you had stated that it doesn’t say that humans maintain a bird infestation.

My doctor is having me try another med for a few days and if it doesn’t help she’s going to refer me to an immunologist. She’s wondering if the allergic reaction I had to the bird mites possibly triggered something with my immune system. Hoping to get to the bottom of this soon. I’ll also be re-checking possible environmental factors. But, regardless, all of this info you’ve shared helps, and I truly truly appreciate your time. Thanks again.