Itchy stings: How to prevent invisible bird-mite stings.
Description of bird mite and an effective repellent.
I have been bitten by bird mites for several years. The itching is unbearable. The bird mites do not sting indiscriminately, and they only sting certain people. Therefore it is less likely to be understood by most except those who are bitten. Victims seeking medical help are often advised to see a psychiatrist. If you are bitten by bird mites, one distinct symptom is the appearance of numerous tiny bumps on your face, especially on the forehead and the chin.
Bird mites infect birds and flourish. The body temperature of the bird is about 101 F to 104 F, far higher than humans. When they leave infected bird nests, they probably migrate toward humans with relatively higher body temperature.
In this report, I would like to present how I have succeeded to avoid the painful bird-mite sting.
Belonging to the tick family, bird mites are about 0.4 mm in length and harbor a very sensitive heat sensor. They are colorless and opaque so they are generally invisible, except just after feasting with blood. Sometimes I have perceived a tiny speck flying across my face immediately after being stung on my face. Their life cycle consists of four phases: egg, larva, nymph, and mature mite. One cycle lasts about 7 days. Nymphs have 6 legs, whereas mature mites have developed 8 legs. There was a report that crawling sensation was from nymphs, but nymphs would not sting your skin, mature mites would. Like mosquitoes, bird mites probably move away immediately after the sting and do not stay on the skin or cloth to be carried around.
The reports about bird mites are rare but since they belong to tick family, I have found that the information from the ticks useful in searching for the methods to avoid the bird-mite sting.
The most effective repellent I have found is Lemon Eucalyptus Oil (I would abbreviate as LE here), a tick repellent. (Not Lemongrass, which is a mosquito repellent). Lemon Eucalyptus Oil is an extract of leaves of the tree from South America, is pure essential oil. I purchased LE from Whole Foods (Lemon Eucalyptus, Aura Cacia,15 ml). You could find on Amazon also. It should be noted that it is not "Lemon and Eucalyptus", it has nothing to do with lemon oil or eucalyptus oil (it is wrong to mix lemon oil and eucalyptus oil!). I dilute LE with 10 times the volume using water in a spray bottle and spray the dilution on any exposed areas, like face, ears, around the neck, arms, hands, and legs, and spreading the repellent thoroughly with my fingers and palms rather than with a towel. Towels tend to retain LE themselves. Any area not covered with LE would be bitten since the bird mite is able to quickly locate uncovered areas for the sting. Remember to shake the bottle vigorously each time before the spraying since LE is not miscible with water. After spraying with LE, it is effective against the sting until it is washed away. (I also add small amount of LE to my facial cream and hand lotion). I always keep that dilution of LE in a small spray tube in my bag since numerous places are infested with bird mites.
How to remove bird mite from the residence
To remove the mites from your residence, it is important to seal the entire area first. The outlet of the fireplace must be sealed (never use the fireplace after it is sealed). The fresh outdoor air leading to the air conditioning unit must be filtered with a good air filter.
Bird mites become active from early afternoon and especially so after 11 pm until early morning.
The bird mites are large enough to be trapped by an allergen filter. I use TrueAir Filter purchased from Amazon. I removed the front panel (which is unnecessary and inconvenient for the present purpose) and turned on the unit at full speed to filter the air. In the night, I turn off all the light except one small desk lamp with incandescent light with the black cover placed at the corner of the living room to attract the mites since they would flock to the warm, bright light. The flocked mites would be drawn onto the filter of TrueAir which I placed next to the lamp. I placed the lamp on the floor between the wall and a file cabinet to minimize the lighted area. I left the TrueAir Filter on full speed from late afternoon till morning, then turn the speed down to lowest in the morning since the mites are not active in the morning. Every month or two, I spray the filter with 70 % isopropyl rubbing alcohol to kill or weaken the mites, and after drying, I turned off the TrueAir and vacuum the filter with a vacuum cleaner.
One problem with the TrueAir Filter is the angle between the air flow of the inlet and outlet of the filtered air is less than 90 degrees, which would result in ineffective filtration because of re-filtering of the filtered air. I taped a card board cut between the two air flows as a barrier to prevent re-circulation of the filtered air. I found it is very effective in removing the mites. The filtration of the mite is not effective if the TrueAir is not placed near the lamp. Bird mites also flock to the warm, bright computer screen. I vacuum the computer screen when I feel I am bitten with a small hand-held vacuum cleaner.
One might wonder where those mites are when they are not active. I think they are just floating in the air and resting. To eliminate bird mites, therefore, it is more effective to leave the filter on constantly even if I don't feel that I am bitten. Since if they are floating in the air, whether they are active or not, they should be trapped on the filter.
I noticed that there are hardly any mites in my second floor. I think it is because they don't have wings and just floating in the air, therefore it would be difficult for them to float upward to the second floor. Still, I close each door in the second floor. The third floor is an attic, which is filled with mites, since it is very warm in the summer and leaky and not sealed at all. I always close the door to the attic tightly, and I never enter the attic in the afternoon when bird mites are active. I don't use the ceiling fan in the first-floor living room since it might stir the air and propel the mites floating upward to the second floor. If I were to move into a high-rise building, I would choose a unit of highest level available.
It is also possible to eliminate mites by simply vacating the residence for several weeks by sealing the place tightly to starve the mites. Re-infestation with mites easily occurs if the air surrounding your residence is infected with bird mites.
It needs government action to eradicate bird mite infestation
When the surrounding is infested with bird mites, it is impossible to be mite-free. My backyard is a large, forest-like woods with very tall trees. I could hear the birds chirping. With all those efforts to eliminate mites, inside my residence is not mite-free. I have to keep my first floor dark in the night and I have to keep the TrueAir Filter on constantly. It is impossible for me to remove any bird nests from that woods. It is also illegal since the woods belong to the town.
The bird mite sting is a serious problem now. I think it is probably caused by global warming. Numerous places are infested. If I don't spray myself with LE I would be bitten in the public library, supermarkets, department stores, restaurants, and malls and many other places. I think it is possible that they also infest schools, kindergartens and day cares. Children could be suffering and distracted but could not tell the suffering. I read some report that their 6-year-old daughter's health was deteriorating. Since they only sting certain people, when only children are stung in the family, they are miserable since the parents might not understand and the children suffer terrible ordeal without any help. Pediatricians and even parents should be warned to examine the foreheads and chins for the presence of the tiny bumps which might indicate bird-mite sting.
To eradicate bird mites needs government action. The infected bird nests must be treated with proper insecticide. One insecticide I would suggest is Garden Insect Killer from Garden Safe which I found at Lowe's. It contains pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide. Pyrethrins are prepared from chrysanthemum. Dried chrysanthemum was found to be a powerful insecticide in China 3,000 years ago and has been used extensively. Pyrethrins are reported to kill ticks on contact and safe to the humans, but it is not stable. Garden Insect Killer contains piperonyl butoxide beside pyrethrins to stabilize pyrethrins.
I don't know bird nest could be treated with Garden Insect Killer to exterminate the bird mites since I never did any testing myself. Maybe CDC could do the testing, or find a more effective insecticide. It needs government's action to treat those infected nests once the effective insecticide is determined.
Bird mites infect birds and flourish.
- Bird mites have no wings so they could not fly, but since they are so small and equipped with sharp heat sensors, they float on the air and move toward the targets for the sting.
- An aqueous dilution of Lemon Eucalyptus is found to be an effective repellent against the bird-mite sting.
- Since bird mites flock to the warm bright light, placing small desk lamp on the floor at the corner of the darkened room would attract mites to the lamp. By placing a filter, TrueAir Filter, next to the lamp, the bird mites are then drawn onto the filter and removed from the room.
- Government action to eradicate bird mites by treating infected bird nests with proper insecticide is suggested.