The red mite, or red chicken mite as it is sometimes called, is an external parasite often found on birds. Red mites drink the blood of birds but they also eat feathers and skin. Red mites can cause health problems for birds such as anaemia, lower egg-laying rates, weight loss and even death. Red mites can carry such diseases as fowl typhoid, chicken pox and Newcastle virus. Red mites are most active at night and generally only feed on birds' blood for one or two hours each night.
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Female red mites usually lay their eggs in dark cracks and crevices where adult mites hide during the daylight hours. The female red mite will also lay her eggs on small tree branches and twigs. Eggs are very small, only about 4 mm in length. They are oval-shaped.
The red mite eggs hatch during periods of warm weather. The larvae emerge from the nest about 2 to 3 days after hatching from the egg. They are red in colour like adult red mites. Red mite larvae have three sets of legs.
Within one day of hatching, the larvae undergo their first moulting phase. They are then called "protonymphs." The protonymphs have four sets of legs like adult mites. The protonymphs drink the blood of birds such as chickens. They are smaller and rounder than adult mites.
After one to two days, the protonymphs moult once again. After this second moulting phase, the protonymphs then become "deutonymphs." Duetonymphs are larger than protonymphs. The duetonymphs feed on the blood of birds.
If conditions are ideal, a red mite can go through an entire life cycle in one week's time. Because of this, red mite populations can increase very rapidly. Female adult red mites are typically larger and rounder than male red mites. Both sexes have bristle-like hairs on their abdomens. Adult red mites have unsegmented bodies and four sets of legs. Adult red mites can survive for up to eight months between feedings.
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