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8 common red mite treatment mistakes

Red mite treatment is often underestimated. After all, who would expect such tiny parasites to be so smart? The most common mistake is failure to understand the red mite’s behaviour. Without this knowledge, it is very difficult to find the right combination of measures. Did you know that a red mite’s egg can survive up to two years? Or that the mites only feed on blood once every six days? This article explains the most common red mite treatment mistakes. (Text continues beneath the photo)

1 –Failure to understand the red mite’s behaviour

Red mites may not look the part, but they are shrewd creatures. Their behaviour revolves around multiplying as quickly as possible and doing it unnoticed. For example, they will wait until night time, when the chickens are sound asleep, before approaching them. They will do this once every six days. On the days in between, they will lay up to eight eggs a day, in a location that is out of reach for chickens and with as little daylight as possible.

Once a chicken pen is infected with red mite, around 45% of the population will consist of mature red mites. The remaining 55% is accounted for by recently hatched larvae and eggs. Both larvae and eggs are invisible to the naked eye unless they are many, and even then, they are often mistaken for dust. This is one reason why people often identify the problem at a late stage and don’t realise that the eggs and larvae need to be eliminated too.

2 –Failure to unscrew chicken pen parts

The second most common mistake is failure to unscrew parts such as laying nests and perches in the pen. This is where red mites hide their nests, which you can reach by unscrewing the chicken’s laying nests from the wall so you can treat most of the mites in one go. The most effective method is to burn these nests away with a weed burner and firmly hose the parts with a high-pressure water hose. If you don’t have a weed burner, hose the parts with a high-pressure water hose as far away from the pen as possible.

Below some photos of what we found on the back of unscrewed laying nests and inside the back of a wall-mounted plank connection. What you see are mostly eggs and larvae (grey fluff), as well as a lot of mature red mites that have already gained their red colour by feeding on blood. The more parts of the chicken pen you manage to unscrew, the more red mite nests you will find and be able to get rid of, and the sooner you will get the red mite infestation under control.

Red mite nest on the back of the nest
Red mite nest in wall mounting

3 –Insufficient treatment duration

The third most common mistake is to stop red mite treatment too soon. Wherever red mites are found, red mite eggs will be present as well. These eggs can wait for the right moment to hatch for weeks, months and even up to several years. Treatment should continue until every last red mite egg has hatched. A red mite test kit will tell you when that is the case, by indicating whether new eggs have hatched or whether the red mites are truly gone. This allows you to catch the problem early on and prevent newly hatched red mites from multiplying like rabbits.

4 –Reaching the red mites in one spot only

The success of your treatment efforts depends on whether or not you manage to reach the red mites. Red mites can be reached in two places: inside the pen and on the chickens directly. A common mistake is to treat the pen and not the chickens themselves, even though one thing is for sure: red mites will always go for the chickens to feed on their blood. For that reason, it is important to treat the chickens themselves in addition to their pen.  Finecto+ Oral is a good option.

5 –Expecting the red mite problem to go away within a fortnight

It is almost impossible to get rid of an entire red mite infestation within two weeks. There is basically one way of doing it, which is to burn down the pen. And even then, a roaming red mite in the vicinity might find its way back to the new chicken pen at which point it will begin to multiply once again. Do not expect to solve a red mite problem within two weeks. No methods or products can do it that quickly. This is due to the cycle. Because there is no way of getting rid of red mite eggs, it may seem as though the red mite problem has been reduced or even eliminated within two weeks. However, odds are that red mite eggs are still around that will be hatching later on. This is why red mite treatment takes at least two seasons and in the event of warm winters, up to a whole year. Whatever product or method you end up using.

6 –No prevention in winter/spring

Red mites are active at temperatures of 5 degrees Celsius or above, which means they can remain active throughout the winter. Although their activity will be slightly lower than in summertime, winter is when the foundation is laid for an outbreak in warm weather. This also explains why it may seem like they appear in large numbers out of nowhere as soon as the first warm period of the year begins. All the eggs were laid during winter, and have been waiting for warm and humid conditions. Now that those conditions have arrived, they are all hatching at the same time.

This is why it is very important to maintain preventive measures throughout the winter. Put up a red mite test and make sure to check it throughout the cold season as well. In addition, make the pen unappealing to red mites by installing red mite trays, spreading diatomaceous earth on the pen floor and spraying the pen walls/perches with Finecto+ Protect every three weeks.

7 –Failure to notice red mites in time

Red mites aren’t visible to the naked eye until they have gathered in large numbers. This is due to the fact that red mites are only active at night and only feed on blood once every six days. They spend their other days laying 8 eggs every day. This allows them to multiply unnoticed at lightning speed. The more red mites are present in the pen, the more difficult and lengthy treatment will be.

8 –Failure to seal cracks and seams in the pen 

Treatment of red mites

Red mites hide in cracks and seams. A wooden pen looks great, but it also makes for a perfect environment for red mites to hide. The fewer seams, the better; this makes it easier to get rid of red mites once an infestation has occurred. Keep the number of cracks and seams to a minimum by sealing them all or by using a different method. Plastic chicken pens are now available. They may not look as nice as the wooden alternatives, but they do make red mite treatment and prevention a lot easier!

Red mite treatment

As we’ve explained above, successful red mite treatment depends on reaching the mites in two locations, identifying the problem in time and persistence in the treatment itself. Do not expect to solve a red mite problem in a fortnight, which is impossible no matter what methods you use. Do make sure to combine as many different methods as possible.

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