1. About this Website

In 2009, we were a typical Lesbian family raising chickens in our backyard.  That summer we got four new baby chicks and raised them in our family room until they were big enough to mix with our backyard hens.

In most cities it is illegal to keep chickens in, or even near, a human habitation.  With good reason:  Chickens can carry a variety of ectoparasites, from bedbugs to several kinds of parasitic mites.  These mites are so tiny that to try to see one is like trying to see a piece of cellophane tape the size of the point of a pin.

By Halloween the house was so infested that I had to move out.  Eliminating these parasites took huge amounts of time, energy and money.  We received conflicting advice from many professionals.  The stress on our family was enormous.  All this even though, as a biologist, I had the advantage of being able to read scientific journals from all over the world on those long, mite-bitten nights.

I put up this website several years ago to share the protocols I developed, and to answer questions from people with mites.  It turned out that our family’s story was all too common, played out in cities around the world.  It could start with kids bringing home a bird’s nest, or pigeons nesting under an apartment balcony, or with poultry.  Rich and poor, gay and straight, families with parasitic mites experience stress, difficulty getting help, and a sense of isolation.  It is an honor and a joy to help others overcome this scourge.

Five years later I’m about to publish The Year of the Mite, a book that captures the particulars of our family’s history as a way to let others know they are not alone.  The book also discusses the biology of mites and how evolution has shaped their behavior, as a basis for problem solving how to get rid of them.  The protocols that helped eliminate our mites are in the book too.

If you are a person with mites, or a professional wanting to help, please look for the book in the Fall of 2015 from Bitingduck Press.  Excerpts and protocols appear on this webpage.  It will take all of us sharing information to help those still affected by parasitic mites.

Best wishes to all.

Jane Ishka

12 thoughts on “1. About this Website”

  1. Jane, I am an acarologist that works with macronyssid mites – the probably culprit in the text here. It’s coincidental, but just yesterday, I was working through a large collection of microscope slides of a mite found in bird nests. There were many specimens collected from “human,” “house,” “window sill,” etc. So, this scenario, where these mites leave the abandoned bird nest and end up feeding on human blood is not as rare as I had thought. However, they do not infest the human, but simply bite them, suck a little blood, and leave again. Your situation sounds different. Do you know about the condition known as “delusory parasitosis?” It is a very common psychological affliction causing great suffering and frustration. Have you tried to send the mites to a specialist for identification?

    1. Hello Don,
      Our mites were identified as Dermanyssus gallinae by the parasitology lab at the UC Davis Veterinary School. All five life stages were found on a hen from our yard — so, no, they did not leave the birds after biting. As an acarologist, you’ll probably be interested in a recent article by a group of entomologists that appeared in the journal Parasites and Vectors on the subject of under diagnosis of mite infestation in humans.
      And, yes, when mites are present and undiagnosed, there is an unfortunate tendency to assign a misdiagnosis of delusional parasitosis. See also this fascinating account of a near-miss in diagnosis (in this case of a non-mite species):
      Why call it “pseudo-delusional syndrome” instead of “actual infestation?” Just baffling.
      Please take a look around this site, and much more to come when the book “The Year of the Mite” is published in January.
      Best wishes,

    2. Don–

      Mite sufferer here with now two families suffering from the rodent mite ornithonyssus bacoti. We have suffered for six months now, and also have a mite identified under the scope. The problem is ‘professionals’ are not admitting there’s a problem with host switching. You need to stop automatically diagnosing it as delusional parasitosis.

      Come to our house–I can tell you for a fact if you spend a short period in my car, our house or anything that contains fabric, you will get attacked by them. They reproduce rapidly. We’ve tried every chemical and pest control company known to man. I traveled five hundred miles away to escape to my significant other’s house. They traveled easily with me in the car and in my clothes. I gave them to my boyfriend easily, who didn’t believe in them. Now the family has them here with crawling+biting and I’m surprised they haven’t killed me yet. But it’s reality. My parents still have not gotten them out of their house. We are struggling to get them out of our cars here and computer chairs ( fabric).

      So, if you professionals would actually like to study the problem, rather than pretend to be psychiatrists, we’d greatly appreciate it. We are normal people suffering from a problem that isn’t being recognized. This is easily ten times worse than a bed bug infestation because of their ability to generate rapid populations in short periods, trust us. And obviously they are living just fine off us. I obtained a sample from my upper arm the other day. If you want it, I’ll send it no problem, even though ours are identified. So, in short, please step up to the plate, and recognize this issue. It’s pretty muched ruined our lives so far. These things spread easily to car and work. environments, home. etc. And because they are more active at night, good luck with sleep.

      Jane, I sent you a message on Facebook by the way, I had some questions about the mites as we’re trying a new treatment, that we pray works this time, and I had some questions.



  2. Hi Jane. I am a fairly recent resident of Northern California; I’ve been here going on seven years. I had been a chicken owner for over 20 years in the state of Utah. I never had any problems with any kind of infestations until I moved to Mendocino county. I moved into a rental home that also, before my occupancy, acquired a rat infestation due to poor maintenance. I have finally gotten that under control. At this time, I have gotten rid of all my chickens due to a mite infestation, which I believe was started with the rat problem. I had tried everything from diatamecious earth to lice and mites sprays. I finally gave up and got rid of the birds, but now my house and yard are infested. I also have several neighbors with chickens. I have had a pest control company spray the yard and trees as well as bomb the interior of the house. They are experienced with bird mite infestation issues and I believe they have treated it with the appropriate types of pesticides, which I hate to use, but I’m at a loss. The expense is unbelievable. I also spend a lot of time at my sisters house in Suisun City, CA and I think that the mites have migrated to her new home via my dog. Can you give me any ideas on what you recommend for eradication and expected time frame if the regime is followed diligently? How can I avoid reinfestation of my home and pets? Any help would be greatly appreciated. I do construction in Davis, CA from time to time and would appreciate any references for information and/or treatment that you may be able to provide.

    1. Hello Cyndi,

      Very sorry to hear of your problems with mites. And, yes, it is quite possible for mites that started on rats to migrate to chickens and humans. There is evidence now that certain species of mites are able to shift hosts fairly readily.

      Elsewhere on this site is a set of protocols for mite eradication. I hope you find the protocols useful. Unfortunately, time frame is tough to predict, and even tougher with multiple locations and hosts. It will be helpful if you and your sister maintain the same protocol. And you did not mention what kind of dog you have, but the longer fur, the more difficult to kill off the arthropods. You might consider getting a car without carpeting like a Honda Element, given how much time you and your dog apparently spend in the car.

      Dehumidify, simplify (as in throw away most of what you own), and clean a lot.

      Do you have a specimen? If so, you can take it to the UC Davis Veterinary School when you are in town and get an identification. This will enable your pest control operator to use a wider range of (really nasty) chemicals.

      Wishing you the best with this rotten situation.
      Take care,

  3. We have what I believe to be a bird/rodent mite issue. Only myself and my daughter and maybe the one dog is effected. My husband is not and my family and him are calling me crazy. I started getting bites and itching in mid August. We then found a large empty birds nest taking up our whole sofet and into the attic. I found a couple mites under the micrscope and sent one off for Id but the slide broke in transit. I’m a veterinary professional and im being blown off. It’s very frustrating. Now I can feel them in my ears etc. We live on twenty acres, rodents get in as well. I just bought an ozone machine to try bc Noone will tent without a positive Id. I have taken them to work and my moms house. Of course no one iseffected there so once again they blow me off. This is so scary bc I can only see them under a micrscope and keep trying to use tape to get one offmy skin for proof, but I cant!!! I look at the tape and now can’t find one. I’m not sure if they don’t come off with the tape or if they do but then get off the tape. This IS so frustrating
    Also we have a lot of mold so I thought maybe soringtails are also in the environment.
    Any advice would be great. I can’t ckean everything in this large house. My three year old reinfects everything. Do you know anything about ozone treatment?
    I would walk away and never look back but my car and work are infected and my husband doesn’t even believe me.

    1. Sorry to hear of your troubles, Nichelle. One of the many challenges of a mite infestation is the tendency of parasitic mites to choose particular hosts within a group. The advantage for an ectoparasite of repeated exposure of one host is that the parasites are able to leave behind enough immunosuppressant protein to make the host more hospitable. The disadvantages for the “favorite” host include the difficulty of explaining to others that your experience and theirs are not the same.

      1. So does this mean that eventually they could also start bothering my husband? Or would they have done that by now.
        The problem is even when I found these mite samples they were so small I didn’t even see a spec on the tape! I only saw them under the scope so it’s very hard to get a sample. Any ideas?
        I’ve tried taping my arm when I feel crawling etc and either it gets off the tape or it doesn’t come off. I’m not sure what to think bc I’ll take it to work and look and find nothing except skin cells.

      2. The article is about the ability of mites to change species of hosts.
        Thus what we think of as chicken mites (Dermanyssus gallon) actually can live and reproduce on the blood of other organisms.

        The question of whether they will choose more than one favorite host from within a flock (or family) of the same species is a different matter.
        There is a survival advantage for mites and other cave ectoparasites to choose one favorite within a flock — IF they leave behind an immunosuppressant protein when they feed. In general, one particular host animal has many mites and others in the same flock have few.

        The problem from our point of view is that it can be tough to convince others in the same family that your experience with the same parasite is so different from theirs.

        All the best,

  4. Do you have any ideas for treating young children. My daughter is bad like me. We have been fighting this for 4 months. Treating ourselves and environment. It is getting a little better.My daughter and I itch from head to toe but my son does not. He was itchy in his scalp but after many different treatments he is not. He does get bites every once in awhile. My husband is fine. It seems like it is exactly what you were talking about with other people on here. Do you need to treat internally with medicine?

    1. Hello Christine,
      I am very sorry to hear of your family’s difficulties with mites.
      Unfortunately your experience is not unique. Because mites tend to choose particular individuals as hosts, different people in a family can have very different experiences, and this can lead to misunderstandings between family members. I hope you and your husband are able to bridge the gap in your experience and communicate well.
      I haven’t seen any statistics about this, but anecdotally it does seem like more women than men are affected.
      You sound well informed and are likely reading many sources and finding good resources for treatment. However treating a young child requires particular caution.
      Have you been able to capture a specimen and have it identified? If so, your pediatrician or a pediatric dermatologist may be able to help.
      It is always best to use the least toxic treatments, but with young children at home it is even more essential. Cleaning your environment, throwing away the things you don’t need, getting rid of carpeting and drapes, replacing your carpeted car with a Jeep or a Honda Element, running dehumidifiers and air conditioners — these are all relatively safe approaches. If you engage a pesticide operator, you’ll want to observe carefully all the safety precautions they give you. Structural pasteurization is a non-toxic alternative to pesticides in the environment, although my family did not find it effective.
      As for taking medicine, the difference between the effective dose and the toxic dose for Ivermectin may not be all that large (especially for a child), and this is definitely a conversation to have with a well qualified physician. Again, when my family treated with Ivermectin, it was not that effective — which may be because we had not yet fully treated the environment.
      Good luck to you. It is tough to be patient with parasitic mites. But keep in mind the non-toxic alternatives will decrease the numbers over time.
      All the best,

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