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Pigeon Mites Will Feed On Sleeping Humans

2012 June 26

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.

When their normal host is not present they may also bite humans, causing discomfort and skin irritations. Fortunately, they do not reproduce on human blood, rarely transmit diseases or otherwise cause a health hazard to people. Bird mites found in homes can be difficult to distinguish, but their control often requires that they are identified correctly. The bird mites we encounter in New York City are most often northern fowl mites, Ornithonyssus sylviarum,

To reduce bird mites that may migrate indoors, treat outside around windows, doors and other possible points of entry with an EPA registered miticide. Follow directions and all precautions on the label. Do not use poison on pigeons, as it can harm other animals in the vicinity as well. Cats and dogs can be poisoned by feeding on the dead pigeons.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Will MacLeod permalink
    August 31, 2013

    Actually, what’s pictured, and unfortunately very common in NYC, is a red poultry mite. They have become increasingly common due to the large number of live poultry stores opening in and around the city. They travel on Pigeons, but also on sparrows, starlings, and most other birds.
    Although some bird mites are not selective in choosing a bird host, they remain loyal to and often spend their entire lives on the host they do choose. If a host dies, thousands of mites migrate in search of a new host. While these wandering mites have been known to bite humans, they do not attempt to infest human hosts long-term. Bird mites are not capable of surviving for more than a few days, depending on species, without a food source.
    To eradicate a bird mite population from the home, it is necessary to locate their breeding and nesting sites. Bird mites tend to reside within the nests of their hosts; so all such nests must be removed. All state and government regulations must be followed, since certain bird species may be protected: An example would be the mite infestation in Bobst Library (Washington Square park/ NYU) from the hawks that live there.

  2. Janet Esquerra permalink
    March 20, 2014

    I recently moved in a complex in Dec. that has thousands of pigeons.
    In the last two months I have been getting bites on my legs and arms during the night. Pigeons are nesting across from my patio and recently hatched out eggs. What can I do to get rid of pegoen mites. The complex manager doesnt believe me that pigeons are causing the trouble,however she just started managing in November so she hasn’t been there inthe start of warm weather. I live in Phoenix Az. Who can I contact in Phoenix about this problem?

  3. rashmi chettri permalink
    August 20, 2014

    please help!
    I experienced the same and had sleepless nights for months. I stay in hostel where the whole building, ventilation parts are covered with nests of pigeons. I had bug bites and started looking for it in my mattress but they are so small that i never saw except one that was running on top of screen of my phone. It was so small that u wouldn’t see without the lights on. When i killed little blood came out of the dead mite. Although I shifted to a new room, today I found bites on my face chest and tummy. Please name some pesticide…or whatever chemical.

  4. ramona permalink
    December 7, 2014

    Can you tell me how to get rid of mites from skin and what kind of dr to see

  5. Donna permalink
    March 24, 2015

    I have been infested for a few weeks now with an unknown mite ?? I have several being from birds after staying on a friends boat that had birds sitting on it continually. the other was we had killed rats in our ceiling and thought it could have been their mites and the third being we purchased a shag rug on the internet and don’t know if they were in that. I have been through a pest exterminator and pesticide bombs every week… Wearing deet on me morning and night..spraying myself with personal aerogard….it’s been relentless…finally I feel they are dropping off and it’s since I found a Bositos Eucalyptus Dust mite spray in a Woolworths store at Loganlea in Brisbane….other woollies don’t seem to stock it yet as it is new out…I seems to be doing wonders…. I think I have finally beaten them…It is for using on bedding and other fabrics…I spray the chairs,bed linen, carpet, wardrobes and think finally I am in control…also…pest fellow said it wasn’t bed bugs…couldn’t see them..only feel them running around on me…no real bites to see..the company listed on the can is Felton Grimwade & Bosistos P L at 61-81 Clarinda Rd, Oakleigh Sth, Victoria 3167. Australia..their website on the can is Also I am not connected to this company I can assure you…just want to help anyone that’s been going through what I have…very frustrating…t

  6. Qiru Walder permalink
    April 5, 2015

    I need help! My story is like lifted right out of Kafka. An exterminator from a company called “Bug Doc/Bird Doc” brought the insect problem into my home. Now m
    y apartment is infested with bird mites. I’ve been tortured for almost two years, being bitten and having them crawling all over me. I had fumigation done by a pro, which reduced the amount greatly, but not eliminating them. I also spent more than $6,000 of my hard-earned retirement money having the thermal treatment to no avail. I scrub myself with Epsom salt and rinse my hair with vinegar twice a day. I also launder my clothes and beddings every day. Recently, I had my hair shaved off, but I’m still haunted by them. I moved in with my ex. But they are still following me! I’ve exhausted all the means.
    I’m unable to catch any since they are invisible. The pros were not even able to trap any. Whom can I go to for help?? My dermatologist has confirmed that the bites are caused by insects, but he was unable to identify the bites. I did a lot of research. With the biting pattern and skin reactions, I was able to eliminate all the other pests, leaving the bird mites the most likely culprit. Whom can I go to to have the critters identified since I’m the host of them? How can I get myself de-mited???

  7. Felix Scerri permalink
    April 12, 2015

    Bird mites Permethrin is a synthesised and much more potent version of Pyrethrin a natural insecticide.. If handled properly it’s harmless to humans and dogs when DRY but “REMEMBER it is “DEADLY towards cats. In Australia it is SOLD as “DAVID GRAYS Ant and Termite SPRAY. Active Constituent 100g/L Permethrin 25:75 Solvent 792 g/L Hydrocarbon lIQUID. Recommended concentrations are on the side of the box depending on your requirements. I use 25ml in 1 Litre of water The box says 250ml in 10 Litres of light oil or water.I just scaled it down to suit my requirements. It is great stuff and kills everything it with which it comes in contact. It doesn’t have that nasty toxic odour about it, smells like moth balls or gamma wash dog flea rinse. I placed 25ml into a 1 litre bottle with an atomiser and sprayed it into the carpet bed clothes and walls , every time I got home. Oh yeah stay away from your flat for a week or so, some of the bugs will die or move out without a regular blood meal. This gives you a head start before you spray your flat. I sprayed every day before leaving and after arriving . I could smell the stuff from the elevator when I arrived on my floor. After a week or so you’ll notice their absence. You’ll have heaps left over which can be used for cockroaches flies and any bugs that piss you off. Good luck.

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