16 March 2015
Last summer our hens suddenly started looking peaky, almost twitchy, egg laying dropped. Closer inspection revealed the dreaded red-mite,Dermanyssus gallinae. The most insidious and horrible pest I've come across in a very long time. This tiny mite (0.7mm at its biggest) is hard to spot as it spends daylight hours hidden away in cracks and crevices in the hen house, under perches, ledges and perch ends. Most of its feeding is done at night, when your poor hens are roosting, the mites crawl out and such the hens' blood. No wonder then that once you have an infestation, hens often seem disinclined to go in at night. Other more worrying symptoms include anaemia (often easiest to spot because the combs may become pale), lethargy, and death is not uncommon. The red mites start off greyish in colour and then, after feeding on the unfortunate hens....and once full of their blood, the red mites become red. Grim!
The main season of attach is March to October, with red mites often being most severe from May onwards. The red mites become dormant over the winter and seem to be frighteningly resistant to harsh winter weather.
I was thrilled to read that there is now a biological control available called Androlis. These predators kill all the stages of the red mite (unlike many chemical treatments which only kill the adults). Androlis predators are also a natural, environmentally friendly and safe way to control the mites swiftly and effectively. Unlike many chemical treatments for red mite, with Androlis predators there is no possibility of the red mites becoming resistant....and there are no harmful residues either.It may sound strange to be introducing a mite to kill a mite, but this is biological control at its best - Good Mite versus Evil mite....and it works a treat.
Androlis predatory mites are now available in the UK and what's great is that we are now able to offer them at www.pippagreenwood.com/products
in the 'Protect your Crops' section. Available in different pack sizes Androlis M (treats up to 10 birds) and Androlis L (treats up to 30 birds) the Androlis can be put i heaps in the hen house or, better still, put it into special 'Prevorus Tubes' . These slow-release tubes can be suspended in the hen house eg from perches, allowing the mites to be releases slowly through small holes.
Androlis can either be used preventatively or ideally when there are the very first signs of an infestation or as a curative once the infestation has taken hold....though obviously it is a lot nicer for the hens to catch the pests early!! Repeat applications should be made every 4-8 weeks, depending on the level of infestation.