Poultry red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) is the most economically important parasite affecting commercial egg production facilities worldwide, causing an estimated annual production loss of €130 million in Europe alone.
Infestation levels are estimated to range from a “normal” 50,000 mites per bird to over 500,000 mites per bird in severe infestations.
The impact on bird health and welfare can be severe and involves agitation and pecking, weight loss and anaemia and production losses attributed to increase bird deaths, a decrease in egg quality and output and mite control costs.
Poultry red mites can also carry viruses and bacteria which cause illness in hens.
Mite control is usually carried out by spraying commercial premises with pesticides but resistance to these chemicals has been identified in red mite populations across the EU, prompting research into new ways (i.e. vaccine development) of controlling this debilitating parasite.