When a bird’s nest is empty, it provides room for other inhabitants like parasites to occupy. An empty bird nest harbors parasites like mites, ticks, fleas, and other scavenger insects particularly if it was recently abandoned by a bird. If the birds don't die, leave, or abandon the nest, the parasites will remain in the nest. They only bite humans when the birds are no longer occupying the nest. They would leave the nest in search for another host to feed on. Bird mites are more common among parasites that live in birds nesting. They come in contact with humans more than other parasites. Other parasites that also inhabit these bird’s nest are carpet beetles, hide beetles, spider beetles, and cloth moths.
Parasites feed on feathers, droppings, nest materials and dead birds. Some of these parasites also feed on other insects living in the nest. If the nest is located in a building occupied by people, they can also infect furs, hides, and stored food. These parasites often get into the nest when it's in a vent, under eaves, attic, or a window air conditioner. They are very tiny and not very visible. You need a magnifying lens to see them clearly. These parasites are more present in spring when new baby birds are born.
Parasites transfer a lot of diseases when you come in contact with them. When the parasite bites an infected bird and sucks in the contaminated blood, it transfers the germs to its next individual. This happens because parasites inject their saliva into the host while feeding on them. Over 40 different species of parasites live on birds, or in their nests or in places they roost. They transmit various kinds of viral and bacterial agents. The diseases include pox and meningitis etc. Control of these parasites is a very important phase of any bird control project.
Below are some of the parasites that live in bird nesting materials:
1. Bird mites
Bird mites are parasitic arthropods. Research have shown that they are over 45,000 species of bird mites. Only a few of these mite’s parasite on mammals. They can be very harmful to host and some of the symptoms include mild discomfort or even death. Studies have shown that these parasites have adapted to environmental change. Some are no longer host specific, rather they have become a source of problem for mammals including humans.
Among all the species, D. Gallinae is the most difficult to eliminate. It is very small and can stay alive without blood and food for a very long time. Some other species of bird mites are Demanyssus Gallinae, Ornithonyssus Sylviarum, and Ornithonyssus Bursa.
The life cycle of this mite is egg, larva, nymph, and adult. They complete this cycle in seven days if the environment is favorable. They have a very sharp mouthpiece which can penetrate deep into the skin to suck blood. The female mite is more dangerous because she needs blood to reproduce. They make up about 95 percent of their population. The lifespan of the male mite is shorter than the female. They are usually white and turn dark after sucking blood.
Bird mites are active at night, hide and reproduce during the day. When they can’t find a host, they find places to hide like bedding materials or furniture. They also hide in fabric and cotton because they can act as insulator where their eggs can be protected.
2. Sticktight fleas (Echidnophaga gallinacea)
You can find them on the head of birds. These fleas can also parasite on other animals like dogs, cats, and humans. Female fleas produce an egg in the surrounding environment. Their eggs take four weeks to hatch into an adult. They can be very deadly as they can kill their host.
3.Fowl ticks (Argas persicus)
This parasite is often referred to as blue bugs. Those found on birds are called soft ticks while those found on cats and dogs are hard ticks. These ticks are light reddish brown to dark brown in color. Adults are approximately ¼ inch in length.
Females lay approximately 50 to 100 eggs after a blood meal. They lay eggs in the bird nesting material. When the eggs hatch, the larvae looks for a host that they can feed on for four to seven days. Then the larvae leave the host and molt to the nymph stage. Nymphs and adults feed at night. Adult ticks are highly resistant to starvation and can live for about a year without feeding. This parasite can cause death in severe cases.
4.Bedbugs (Cimex lectularius)
These parasites are nocturnal. The young and mature bedbug’s parasite on birds and suck their blood. Bedbugs breed and lay their eggs in different locations such as poultry house, nests etc. They are very dangerous and can be found in most homes. They have a distinct odor similar to stink bugs. They also feast on humans.
They are blood-sucking insect parasites that feed on bats but find other birds. Bat bugs are similar to bed bugs, in appearance that they are mistaken for bed bugs. Bat bugs also bite humans. They can be found in nesting material of birds.
They are called red bugs. Chiggers are very small and difficult to see without magnification. Chiggers are six-legged larvae with hairy and yellow-orange or light red in color. They can be found on bird nesting even when it's empty.
They lay their eggs on the soil. After hatching, the larvae locate and attach themselves to a suitable host. The larvae do not cut into the skin, but rather inject a salivary fluid which hardens, and covers them. Fluids from the host are sucked through a feeding tube. Chiggers parasite on birds, wild and domestic animals, including humans. Their life cycle is completed within 50 days.
They are often found in natural habitats like birds’ nests and wasp’s nests. Some can be seen in food stores and houses. They usually have a route into the building from nests in the attics and chimneys. Once they are adults, they can be difficult to eliminate. Their larvae take years to complete development. Their average life cycle is between one to two years. The carpet beetle has other species that look similar in appearance and habit. The most common species is the Guernsey carpet beetle.
The adult beetles are about 2-3mm in length and they look like small ladybirds. They are often grey and gold in color. You can identify them simply by the pattern and shape of their scales. Adult beetles can fly in warm weather.
The most common species are the webbing clothes moth and case-making clothes moth. When they come in contact with carpets, upholstery, and clothing they cause colossal damage. The webbing clothes moth is the most popular species and it’s believed to have caused a lot of damage to the textile industry.
They have a lot of similarities to spiders. Spider beetles are opportunistic scavengers. When they get into a food storage facility, they can destroy virtually every item if not controlled on time. Spider beetles inhabit bird and rodent nests. They are typically unclean. Their eggs hatch within two to three weeks. They are a big threat to valuable artifacts in museums and in storage facilities like books, older woods, and textile fabrics.
These parasites can be controlled by treating the affected location with an approved insecticide. One of the ways to treat ticks includes thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the area. Another method is to vacuum or pick them up (especially mites) with damp cloths. You can also consult a professional pest control company to sanitize the affected area and kill the remaining mites. Discard the nest in a plastic waste bag. Make sure you wear gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself. Preventive methods include getting rid of the nest site by screening or sealing up openings or any part of the building that harbor birds nest.
Unless these parasites are wiped out when the birds have left their nest, the mites, fleas, ticks etc. will look for another host, mostly humans. Therefore, the best bird control project should include parasite inspection prior to installing a bird control system.
Aviaway offers ectoparasite inspections for all bird control projects.