“Poultry red mites are the most significant mite threat throughout Europe,” warned Maureen Prendergast, technical manager at MSD Animal Health.

“In fact, recent surveys have confirmed high levels and increasing prevalence with infestation considered to be the second most significant poultry disease threat in Ireland and the UK at present.”

An infographic, outlining some of the key facts and figures about poultry red mites (PRM), has been produced by MSD Animal Health to emphasise the potential impact of ignoring the problem.

Red mites live and rapidly breed within the hen house, emerging at night to crawl onto and suck blood from the birds.

They can lie dormant for up to nine months, but in optimum conditions (15° to 25°) their lifecycle can be as little as five to eight days. This means that during the warm summer months, one female mite can produce 2,000 more mites in a month.

“We know from speaking with farmers, vets and egg producers that red mites are seen as a growing problem in Ireland,” explained Maureen.

“Recent years have seen a reduction in the products available due to the enforcement of the EU directive on Biocidal Product Regulation 528/2012, which controls poultry disinfectants and mite powders.

“There is also a greater awareness about safety for birds and humans and of the issue of residues in eggs and poultry meat. Add to that the recent trend of warmer summers and milder winters and the impact on welfare becomes considerable.”

A financial impact

Whilst small numbers of mites may be tolerated by laying hens, heavy infestations result in reduced productivity due to anaemia, decreased quality and quantity of eggs produced, reduced growth in younger birds and increased mortality from stress, reduced immunity and the presence of other diseases.

Mites are also known to carry a multitude of viral and bacterial pathogens that can be transmitted to both birds and humans, including E. coli, salmonella and listeria.

The impact of PRM on the farmer’s wallet can be substantial, according to studies by a layer industry expert. Productivity losses can reach €0.57/hen/year in the case of moderate mite infestation and up to €2.50 in high infestations¹.

“I would really encourage poultry keepers to be aware of PRM and to understand how such a small creature can have a marked effect on Ireland’s poultry flocks.

“If you are concerned about a sudden increase in mite numbers or are worried about the effect they may be having on your hens’ welfare and productivity, speak to your vet.

“Treatments are available but, especially at this time of the year, it’s important to act sooner rather than later,” concluded Maureen.

Further information

For more information on poultry red mites, go to: www.redmiteexpert.com; or simply click here

Further information is available from the SPC, your veterinary practitioner or MSD Animal Health, Red Oak North, South County Business Park, Leopardstown, Dublin 18, Ireland.

MSD Animal Health can be contacted on: 01-2970220; or emailed at: [email protected].

¹ Mozafar F. 2014. Poultry Red Mite, a big challenge for egg producers.
Frühjahrveranstaltung; Deutchen Vereinigung für Geflügelwissenschaft. Leipzig, 11-12 März O2014