Pigeon Mites Will Feed On Sleeping Humans

By Marcia Anderson

Last week I received a call from Mike who lives with his 80+ year old mom in a high rise building in lower Manhattan. She had bite marks on her legs and chest and his first thought was of bed bugs, but finding no evidence or actual bed bugs, he called for advice on what else could be biting them.

They live on the 30th floor of the building and have pigeons roosting on their terrace. Some nights have been unusually warm this spring, so they tend to leave their windows open for a cool breeze. As pigeon fledglings leave their nest each spring, the starving mites find their way into buildings and attack the first warm-blooded host they find.

If you have pigeons nesting on your building or home beware, for as night falls pigeon mites may temporarily leave their nest, enter your bedroom and gorge themselves on your blood.

A pigeon mite up close

The female pigeon mite lays small batches of eggs in the fibers of a pigeon’s nest. The eggs will hatch within one or two days and then the first nymphal stage (with eight legs) goes in search of its first blood meal. Pigeon mites are very small (about 1/32” long), and can be seen with the naked eye.

Pigeon mites are quiescent during the day and emerge to feed at night. The first-stage nymph usually only feeds once before moulting, but the second-stage nymph may well feed several times before its next moult. There are usually only two nymphal stages before the adult and the entire life cycle may be completed within a week with reasonably high temperatures such as what we have had this spring. The adult pigeon mites may live up to a year and may survive for several months without a blood meal.

The incidence of these pigeon mites in domestic premises as a result of their migration from pigeon nests, is quite common. This problem is even more common in urban areas and this is usually due to the occurrence of pigeons nesting outside on window ledges and terraces. More