Best method to kill bird mites. Safe for Pets and Children. How we got rid of bird mites without toxic chemicals.


Free Tutorials / Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

“People in my house are being bitten by a tiny insect that we can’t really see, but we can feel them”

If you feel itchy when you go to bed and you are covered in tiny insect bites in the morning, most likely there’s a bug infestation at your home.

You may feel the itchiness on your skin increasing based on the room of the house you are in. For example, if they bite you more when you are sitting on the couch, you probably have them living on your couch. The final clue may be that the infestation gets worse in the warmer months versus colder months.

I know this is bad news. Getting rid of an infestation can be a nightmare, but, with the right tools and a lot discipline, you will win, promise. This strategy worked for us, I hope it’s useful for you too.

What’s in the mattress? Why am I itchy at night?

There are several creatures that love to dwell in our homes, especially in those places where humans hang out, and even better if it’s made of fabric, so they can hide and, sometimes, reproduce.

First of all, you will need to name the bug. If it’s bedbugs you will see it plain sight. Nymphs or juvenile bedbugs range from the size of a bed bug egg (0.09 inches, 2.5mm) to the size of full adult bed bugs at ( 0.18 inches, 4.5mm). For reference, 0.1 inches is slightly over the thickness of a quarter. Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed.

If you have examined your bed up to down and still no clue of what is biting you, then it’s time to consider mites.

What are bird mites?

A mite is a minute arachnid that has four pairs of legs when adult, related to the ticks.

Most mites are tiny, less than 1 mm (0.04 in) in length, and have a simple, unsegmented body plan. Their small size makes them easily overlooked; some species live in water, many live in soil as decomposers, others live on plants, sometimes creating galls, while others again are predators or parasites.

Do mites spread diseases?

Mites do not usually spread disease, but their bites can irritate the skin and cause intense itching. Itch mites usually feed on insects but will bite other animals, including people. The bites usually go unnoticed until itchy, red marks develop that may look like a skin rash.

Bird mites and rat mites are parasites. They live and feed on their hosts until they are no longer around. If they can’t find their favorite meal, they will find something similar. That is, a warm and humid living meal full of blood to suck. This kind of mites can get easily in your house if there’s birds, wild birds or their nests, or rodents around the house. Bonus if the house has an unfinished garage, basement or attic.

If you suspect that this kind of mites is what is attacking you and your family at night, the first thing you need to do is to identify them.

How to Catch a Bird Mite

Bird mites are tiny little arthropods, very hard to see for the naked eye. Nevertheless, they ARE visible. They look like tiny coffee grounds, they are very flat, and they move around with their tiny legs looking for a new host. They don’t run as roaches and they don’t have wings. But they have a very toxic saliva that will cause you a rash or an infection (depending on your sensitivity to them). If they are around, it’s possible that you or any other member of the household starts feeling a crawling sensation, many times followed by the feeling of a little sting causing you a lot of itch. They move guided by their heat and carbon dioxide sensors, which lurk them to their next host.

A bird mite won’t live in your body or parasite you. You are just not their kind. But your presence sends them mixed signals, they are feeling your warmth (especially in your armpits) and the carbon dioxide expelled by your breathing, and that’s enough to make them think it’s a good idea to try your blood.

Unless the infestation is very obvious, is really difficult to catch them alive and moving. They can be easily mistaken by a flake of dirt. You are going to need a magnifier or even microscope. We tried a 20x we had no luck. Only when we got one of 40x magnifying power and we spent some time looking/waiting for them to show up, we started spotting them here and there.

These are some pictures and videos of bird mites that we took in our laundry room and our bed sheets. As you can see, they have 8 legs and very ugly mouth. They have some dark spots on their backs, which is what you see when you are not using a magnifier. Most of the body is translucent, and they are probably even harder to see if they have an empty stomach.
It took us several tries to take these pictures of bird mites

Alive bird mite through a 40x magnifying glass

We needed a sample to show our landlord and the exterminator, so we looked with the microscope onto a lot of surfaces that were good candidates to have them. We have been cleaning the bed sheets daily since these little investors are around (more on this later), but somehow, a couple of them managed to get there every night. I sat on my white bed sheets and started looking around patiently for more than half an hour until finally one of them showed up. I took pics and videos and also used clear tape to preserve it.

This is what I used to capture a bird mite on camera.

 

Once you have your culprit and you are sure what you are facing, you can start making a plan.

Call a pest control company

Call several companies and tell them about the problem. If you got your sample, it’s going to be really easy to see if they are familiar with this kind of pest and what are the options they can offer to you.

Get several estimates, and ask all kind of questions about the method they would use (sometimes they heat your house up to kill them, sometimes they involve chemicals), and what are the risks for you and your family. Consider the possibility of staying in a hotel for some days (including your pets!) if the pest control company needs to take over your place to kill the mites.

Even if you can’t afford them and you decide to fight them yourself, calling them will give you a lot of information and advice that will be useful for your particular case. They will tell you where they think the source is and what they recommend to do with it (sometimes you can’t just remove a nest, your local animal control authority may want to move it to the safest place for the birds).

If you are renting, the landlord is normally the one responsible for solving the situation and pay for the expenses caused by it. I would recommend exquisite communication and touch when requesting their help, and remember all proof you can get to them will be helpful.

In any case, while all of this happens you need to control the situation at your home. And that means you have to start working on it right now.

Remove the Source.

If there’s a bird mite infestation at your home, the most important thing to do is to remove the source of hungry mites willing to land on your couch. You will need to remove the nests on your roof and or nearby trees. Double check for rodents in the area (remember it could also be rat mites, they are very similar).

If you can’t remove the source straight away, you want to minimize the chances of getting new bird mites into the house. Consider using window filters to catch the mites that could get in through the window. You can also keep the windows closed, but you will miss fresh air and ventilation. These filters can make really easy to keep opening your windows without the worry of getting more bird mites inside the house.

How to Kill Bird Mites.

Bird mites (and mites and small bugs in general) can be killed in several ways:

 

  • Burn them. They will die in temperatures above 140F.
    • Use the hottest water possible when you wash clothes.
    • Use the hottest temperature when you use the dryer. Gas dryers typically reach higher temperatures than electrical ones.
    • Steam your sofa, carpets and mattresses often.
    • Steam iron your clothes right before using them.
    • A trick that could work for you: place everything fabric in black trash bags and leave them in the sun for at least 5 to 6 hours. The heat will kill the bugs, although you probably need to repeat the process a couple of times.
  • Dry them. Their body dries in environments with less than 30% humidity.
    • Leave the laundry in the dryer for long periods of time (allow extra 15 minutes when it’s already dry). Bounce drying sheets have been reported to keep them away.
    • Get a dehumidifier and use it in your room in the morning and before going to bed.
    • Place Silica Gel Packets in every drawer and every pair of shoe. They are desiccant  and will act as dehumidifiers that will keep your clothes away from bugs and mold of all kinds.
  • Melt them. Some cleaners (ammonia, bleach, enzymatic cleaners) dissolve the exoskeleton of the bug and they die). Using an enzymatic cleaner has become a must in my life after dealing with bird mites: They are super effective, non-toxic, you can use them safely on yourself (you can even take a bath in them!) and you can use them over and over without risk of irritation or any other harm. I started getting some spray bottles to dilute it, but ended up getting a garden sprayer (highly recommended) to use on every single surface that was water-resistant in my house.
  • Vacuuming. Vacuum is now your most important task of the day. Vacuum EVERYTHING: the floors, the walls, the furniture, the windows. Many bird mites will survive in the bag, but if you have a good vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter you will be fine. You want a machine that is easy to transport around the house and to sneak into every single corner you can imagine. We have this german beauty that is super easy to move around, has HEPA filter and doesn’t take a lot of room. To avoid fugitive bird mites to come back into our lives by crawling though the pipes, we store the vacuum cleaner in a big plastic storage box, and we clean it regularly with Kleen Free.
  • Starve them. Isolate them from the rest of the world and starve them to death. This what you will achieve when you get a good hypoallergenic mattress cover with zipper. All bugs living inside of it won’t be able to come out and will die in few days. This cover will also keep new bird mites away from your mattress. If you have bulky bedding items store them in vacuum space saving bags with moth balls until you can wash them.
  • Freeze them. They will die in temperatures below -4F.
    • Place the vacuum cleaner used bag in a ziplock bag in the freezer for some hours before trashing it. This will kill the mites in the bag and it will prevent them from running away from the trash can.
    • Use the same method for delicate garments that you don’t want to wash in hot water, like wool sweaters or scarfs. Leave them in the freezer for at least 5 days. This way you will get rid of moths too.
  • Poison them. Some chemicals will mess with their nervous system and will make them die. This method has several downs that made me discard it from the start: most of the times you need to use a harsh chemical (as in sprays and foggers) that is hazardous for you and your family, including your pets, and that will stay in your home for years. The other con is that some mites will survive poison, and those who survive will multiply to bring you a new generation of poison resistant mites…and we don’t want that.

Depending on the surface/item that you want to clean, you will want to apply one or several ones of this methods. Each one requires their own tools and techniques, and master them is going to be crucial in your quest to live without bird mites.

You will need to clean your house thoroughly, several times until all bird mites are definitely dead. This includes vacuuming, steaming, washing and drying your clothes, towels and bed sheets, several times until the pest is gone. This can take a couple of weeks or some months, depending on the situation, and can be highly discouraging sometimes. Don’t give up, stick to your plan and you will beat them.

Cleaning Routine to get rid of Bird Mites

  1. Clean the laundry area in your house. Vacuum every corner and then spray it with Kleen Free and leave it to work for 5 or 10 minutes. Wipe it out with paper towels and throw them away immediately. When you start cleaning forgiven corners you will probably feel them more. You might want to use protective caps and goggles to be sure they don’t end up in your hair or your eyes.
  2. Put all the exposed clothes and house linen (including curtains) in plastic bags with moth balls. You want the bags to be clear so you can see what’s in them (believe me, a room full of trash bags is not a nice place to find any of your clothes). If your clothes have hung in exposed racks or sitting in open shelves, you will need to wash everything. If this is the case, get new furniture or some plastic boxes to store you clean clothes away from bird mites as you clean the rest of the house, and if it’s too much laundry, consider doing it in a laundry place (some of them will pick it up at your door).
  3. Wash everything as hot as the garment allows and dry in the dryer for a long time. Add some borax and Kleen Free to the load to ensure the bugs die. This is going to take several days, be as organized as you can be or you will desperate looking for a pair of socks in no time.
  4. Vacuum vacuum vacuum. You will need to vacuum so often, in so many places, that you might want to have several vacuum cleaners around the house. If you have a standing vacuum cleaner that is hard to use in cranks, you might want to get a manual one with an UV light that will eliminate all allergens in your furniture.
  5. Kleen Free everywhere. I use the garden sprayer to spray it on every surface big time. I use it on the walls and ceiling too (only on washable paints!). I wait for a couple of minutes and then wipe with paper towels. This product kills them and their eggs (and every other bug that is soaked in it by the way) and will leave your furniture and floors clean as new. It has a very slight vinegar smell (because it’s a yeast) that goes away when it dries out. It’s not toxic for pets or children and has a tone of other uses around the house (I even used it to clean my retainer and I was very pleased with the result, it removes *that retainer smell* better than anything that I have tried before). If there’s big areas that you can’t clean right away (like a basement), use Kleen Free there and leave it to sit. It will considerably cut the amount of bird mites until the pest control company do its job.
  6. Use steam on sofas, beds and upholstery. Add a tap of Kleen Free to the water so the enzymes get into the fabric for real. You want to use a steam cleaner that reaches temperatures high enough to kill the bugs. Hand held steamers are normally too weak for this purpose.
  7. Consider buying a dehumidifier to reduce humidity in the house. Use it after steaming or spraying with enzymatic cleaner to make the air so dry they can not survive it.
  8. Purify the air. Bird mites float in the air, thus an air purifier will surely make easier to live in a house infested with mites. I also use a small humidifier/oil burn mistifier with a bit of Kleen Free to balance the dryness caused by the humidifier.

Shower routine to get rid of bird mites

  1. If you feel them crawling on your skin, spray yourself with Kleen Free and wait for 5 minutes before getting into the shower.
  2. Bird mites will try to hang onto your skin no matter how hard you try to pull them away. That’s why you feel those little bites when you are having a shower. Most of them will just fell off your skin if you use soap and a loofah. If you are hairy and you want to be sure that they are 100% out of your body I highly recommend taking a soaking bath in Kleen Free (including your hair) for 20 minutes and then using coconut oil to help your skin recover (coconut oil will provide an oily environment which makes it impossible for them to walk on your skin).
  3. Use towels only once. If you can’t catch up with the laundry, spray them with Kleen Free and put them in the dryer for 20 minutes every day.
  4. Iron or steam iron your clothes right before wearing them. If you don’t have a steamer, spray the clothes you are going to wear with Kleen Free and put them in the dryer for 20 minutes.
  5. Place the dirty clothes in trash bags BEFORE leaving the bathroom.
  6. Spray the shower with Kleen Free after every use.