How do I get rid of bird mites in my attic?

Bird mites are tiny parasites that can take up residence in attics and other parts of homes where birds have nested. They are difficult to see with the naked eye, measuring only about 1/32 to 1/8 inches long. While bird mites do not typically bite or infest humans, they can cause itchy skin reactions in some people. Getting rid of bird mites involves removing any bird nests, thoroughly cleaning the infested areas, and using chemicals or heat treatments to kill any remaining mites.

What are bird mites?

Bird mites are tiny eight-legged parasitic insects that live on the feathers and skin of birds. Their scientific name is Dermanyssus gallinae. They are also sometimes called red mites or roost mites. There are around 100 species of bird mites.

Bird mites feed on the blood, skin, and feathers of birds. They typically come out at night to feed. During the day, they hide in dark crevices and cracks near bird nests. If birds abandon a nest, bird mites can disperse in search of a new host and end up infesting areas of homes near the old nests.

Bird mites are not the same as dust mites, which feed on dead skin cells and are commonly found in bedding and upholstered furniture. Bird mites also differ from rodent mites and scabies mites, which can bite and infest humans under the skin.

Signs of a bird mite infestation

Here are some signs that bird mites may have infested an attic or other areas of a home:

  • Itchy welts on the skin after being in the infested area – Some people react to bird mite bites with red, swollen welts, but others have no reaction.
  • Seeing very small bugs crawling on walls or ceilings – Bird mites are tiny, about 1/32 to 1/8 inches long, and red or brown in color.
  • Red or black dots from mite feces – Bird mite feces can leave behind red or black colored dots where they have infested.
  • An abandoned bird nest in the attic or outside near the home.
  • Waking up with itchy bites – Bird mites can crawl from infested attics down walls and bite people at night while sleeping.

Bird mites do not actually live on humans – they prefer birds. But if their usual bird hosts abandon the nest, bird mites can opportunistically bite humans and cause itchy reactions in some people. The mites can crawl from attics down into living spaces but do not reproduce or survive long term on humans.

Steps for getting rid of bird mites in an attic

If there are signs that bird mites have infested an attic, here are the main steps needed to get rid of them:

  1. Remove any bird nests and bird droppings. Bird mites cannot survive long without access to birds for feeding. Removing any old bird nests, feathers, and bird droppings in the attic will eliminate the mites’ food sources.
  2. Vacuum and clean infested areas thoroughly. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to suck up any visible mites. Scrub walls, floors, and rafters in the attic to remove eggs and droppings. Clean any areas where mites may have crawled like walls near attic access.
  3. Apply chemical sprays or dusts. Pesticide sprays and dusts containing ingredients like pyrethrins, permethrin, or carbaryl can kill remaining bird mites. Follow all label directions carefully.
  4. Use heat treatments if needed. Heating infested areas to temperatures above 115°F can kill bird mites. Professionals can use special heating equipment to raise attic temperatures high enough.
  5. Seal cracks and holes. After treating an attic, seal any cracks, holes, and entry points to prevent future bird and mite access.
  6. Monitor for recurrence. Check for any signs of continued bites or visible mites over the next few weeks. Retreat if needed.

It often takes diligent, thorough cleaning and treatments to fully rid an attic of an existing bird mite infestation. Seek professional pest control help if the mites continue to persist.

Detailed steps for removing bird nests and droppings

Bird mites rely on nests and bird droppings as food sources. Removing old nests and accumulated droppings in an attic is key to eliminating what the mites need to survive. Here are some safety tips for this important first step:

  • Wear gloves, a safety mask, and protective clothing that covers skin. Bird droppings carry diseases.
  • Spray nests and droppings with disinfectant solution before removal. This helps kill microorganisms.
  • Use a HEPA vacuum with a brush attachment to gently vacuum up nest material, feathers, and droppings.
  • Scrape off any dried droppings carefully without scattering dust.
  • Work slowly and carefully to avoid breathing in particles from droppings.
  • Place all waste in a sealed bag for disposal.
  • Disinfect the area thoroughly after removal.

Proper cleanup and removal of bird nests and droppings protects against diseases like histoplasmosis in addition to eliminating bird mites. Always take appropriate safety precautions when cleaning droppings.

Tips for vacuuming and scrubbing infested attic areas

After removing bird nests and droppings, the next key step is thoroughly vacuuming and scrubbing attic areas that were infested with mites. Here are some tips for effective cleaning:

  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which can trap tiny particles.
  • Wear protective clothing, gloves, and a safety mask to avoid touching or breathing in bird mites.
  • Start by thoroughly vacuuming any infested surfaces – walls, rafters, insulation, floors, and trusses.
  • Use crevice tools and brush heads to vacuum cracks and corners.
  • Next, scrub all surfaces with soap and water using brushes or sponges.
  • Rinse cleaned areas with clean water to remove any residue.
  • Seal used cloths and vacuum contents in a plastic bag for disposal.
  • Steam cleaning carpets or rugs can also help kill lingering mites.

Repeat vacuuming and scrubbing as needed until all visible signs of mites and residue are gone. This intensive cleaning removes eggs and helps ensure chemical treatments are more effective.

Using chemical sprays and dusts to kill bird mites

After physical cleaning, using chemical pesticides is recommended to kill any bird mites that escaped removal. Some effective chemical options include:

Pyrethrin-based sprays

Pyrethrins are plant-derived insecticides made from chrysanthemum flowers. Sprays containing pyrethrins will kill bird mites on contact.

  • Active ingredients: Pyrethrins, piperonyl butoxide
  • Brand names: Hot Shot Bedbug and Flea Home Insect Killer, EcoSMART Organic Insect Killer
  • Use per label instructions. Spray infested attic areas, let sit, then wipe surfaces.

Permethrin dusts

Permethrin is a synthetic insecticide that can be applied as a long-lasting dust. The dust will kill and repel bird mites.

  • Active ingredient: Permethrin
  • Brands: Eco Defense Permethrin Dust, Delta Dust
  • Dust lightly over attic surfaces, cracks, and crevices.

Carbaryl (Sevin) sprays

Carbaryl is another synthetic insecticide effective against bird mites. It is available as ready-to-use sprays.

  • Active ingredient: Carbaryl
  • Brands: Sevin 5% Dust, Garden Tech Sevin Concentrate Bug Killer
  • Spray according to label directions in attic spaces.

Always carefully follow all instructions on product labels when using chemical pesticides. Wear protective clothing and respirators when applying.

Using heat treatments to kill bird mites

Heating infested areas is another option for killing stubborn bird mite infestations. High temperatures over 115°F will kill all life stages of bird mites. Professional pest control companies have equipment to raise in-situ temperatures sufficiently to eradicate mites. Some methods include:

  • Forced-air heaters: Powerful heater units are placed in infested attics or rooms to raise the temperature.
  • Steam machines: Truck-mounted steam generators inject very hot steam into infested spaces.
  • Heat chambers: Infested items are placed in special heating units or containers to heat treat.

Heat treatments can be effective at penetrating cracks and crevices that are hard to reach with chemicals. The high temperatures kill mites hidden in insulation, walls, and other areas.

Advantages of heat treatments

  • Effective at killing all life stages of bird mites
  • Penetrates cracks and crevices
  • Leaves no chemical residues
  • Whole rooms or buildings can be treated at once

Potential disadvantages

  • Treatment costs are typically higher than self-applied pesticides
  • Requires professional equipment and training to perform correctly
  • Can be difficult for heat to reach inside walls or dense insulation
  • Requires temporarily vacating treated areas during heating

Overall, heat treatments provide a thorough option for bird mite control when performed by qualified professionals. The high temperatures reliably kill mites hidden in an attic or structure.

Sealing entry points to prevent new infestations

Once existing bird mites have been eliminated, it is important to seal up attic entry points and cracks that could allow new infestations. Recommended prevention measures include:

  • Seal any holes, cracks, or gaps in the roof, walls, and exterior overhangs with caulk or sealant. Pay special attention around attic vents, chimneys, and roof peaks.
  • Install galvanized steel mesh over attic vents and roof or gable end vents. The small openings keep birds and mites out while allowing airflow.
  • Add door sweeps or weatherstripping to any attic access doors or hatches.
  • Use hardware cloth, stainless steel mesh, or plastic netting to cover open wall or roof eaves, overhangs, and rafter ends where birds often nest.
  • Trim back any tree branches or bushes close to the home.

Inspect exterior areas carefully for potential bird entryways and seal these up. Preventing bird access is key to avoiding future bird mite issues inside.

Monitoring for recurrence of bird mites

After completing thorough cleaning and treatments, continue checking the attic and surrounding areas inside the home for any recurrent signs of bird mites. Here are tips for ongoing monitoring:

  • Do periodic thorough checks of the attic, looking in insulation, along rafters, and in cracks and crevices for any signs of mites.
  • Lightly dust areas like rafters and trusses with talcum powder and look for any crawling mite tracks in the powder.
  • Place glue boards or double-sided carpet tape in areas to trap any crawling mites.
  • Keep monitoring for any bites or skin itching, which could indicate mites are still present.
  • Watch for any new bird nests forming outside near the home.

Catching and re-treating any remaining pockets of infestation before they spread and become more established again is key. Don’t let your guard down after the initial treatment!

When to call a professional exterminator

While it is possible to self-treat some bird mite infestations, professional pest control assistance is recommended in many situations. Consider calling in an exterminator if:

  • There are signs of a widespread, heavy infestation in the attic.
  • You are unable or uncomfortable removing bird nests or droppings yourself.
  • Bites or skin reactions continue after trying to self-treat.
  • The source nests are difficult to locate and remove.
  • Heat treatment or professional-strength chemicals are determined necessary.

Licensed exterminators have specialized tools, protective equipment, and insecticides that may be more effective than self-applied products. They can also provide preventative bird exclusion and proofing services.

DIY bird mite treatment products

Here is a summary of effective treatment products available for DIY bird mite control and prevention:

Product Type Name Where to Apply
Pyrethrin spray Hot Shot Bedbug and Flea Home Insect Killer Attic floors, walls, surfaces
Permethrin dust Eco Defense Permethrin Dust Attic insulation, cracks, crevices
Carbaryl spray Garden Tech Sevin Concentrate Bug Killer Nests, attic framing, entry points
Bird nest removal supplies Gloves, respirator, disinfectant, HEPA vacuum Old bird nests
Bird exclusion products Steel wool, hardware cloth, roof vent screening Roof and attic vents, eaves, rafters

Using the right combination of products and following all preparation and application steps carefully is important for successfully ridding an attic of bird mites.


Bird mites can be frustrating and difficult to eliminate from infested attics once established. The keys are removing all nesting sites and food sources, intensive cleaning and vacuuming, and treating with pesticides or heat. Sealing up entry points helps prevent new infestations in the future. In some cases, calling a professional exterminator may be warranted to fully eradicate and prevent bird mites.

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