Predatory Mites (Hypoaspis miles): The natural method of eradicating parasitic mitesTarron Boon
Whilst they shouldn’t be, parasitic Mites are a problem most keepers will come across at some point or another in their lives. Whether they come in on infected substrates, a new addition, or the purchase of WC animals, they can be an enormous pain to get rid of.
There are many products on the market at the moment, all claiming to be the best method of eradicating Mite issues, but they all have a few flaws. Most are extremely harsh chemicals, designed to kill the mites on contact. They also require the complete removal of the animal, removal and either destruction or treatment of all furniture and intense wash downs afterwards, otherwise the chemicals could then pose a threat to the inhabitant,
With this, comes a great deal of stress, both for the owner and, more importantly, the animal involved. Being removed from familiar surroundings, placed into a new enclosure for days on end, then being returned to the same enclosure but with new smells, new ornaments or, worse, chemical residues, can take an effect on their physiological and mental wellbeing.
None of this takes into account sensitive species, such as Hognose Snakes and Garter Snakes, which it is extremely dangerous to use these methods upon.
So we need to find a new method, one that is more in tune with nature, kinder on the environment and the animals in our care, but one that is just as effective. Surprisingly, the answer came from the Horticultural world.
Our gardening friends are much more in tune with natural methods, especially those invested in organic produce. Not wanting to use chemicals on the food they will eventually eat, they began dealing with pests, such as the Two Spotted Spider Mites, with various types of predatory Mites. Some of these are natives of the British Isles, others have been imported and cultured en masse.
At some point, unknown to me, a bright spark realised that some of these Mite species weren’t fussy about their prey, and decided to use them as a method of eradicating parasitic Mites in the enclosure. The most common species became Hypoaspis miles (as it is commonly known, although it has since been reclassified as Stratiolaelaps miles), though others are also used, we will focus on these for now.
Hypoaspis miles are small beige/light Orange species of soil dwelling Mite. With a life cycle span of 7 to 10 days, it doesn’t take long for numbers in your enclosure to expand rapidly, to smother any parasitic Mite infestation.
These voracious predators will seek out any prey, walking great distances (relatively) in search of food. They are also able to survive up to 7 weeks without live prey, as they can feed on some dead or decaying organic matter, though at this point they will also begin to turn on each other, reducing their population numbers down.
So how do we use these wonder Mites? The answer is very simple. Once purchased, you will receive a tub of approximately 1000 mites in vermiculite. It is advised that you use these immediately, but if you must store them, keep them above 11°C. Whilst they won’t die off until they begin to freeze, keeping them above this will ensure they are active and in their prime. However, remember that every day they are not being used, they may be eating each other, so it is wise to only order when required.
If you are using a natural substrate, such as those used within Bioactive Setups, it is beneficial to spread the mites out across the substrate, encouraging maximum range for a quick start.
If, however, you are using a more artificial setup, we advise placing the mites in one or two corners of the enclosure, in the cool end. Either way, it is also advised to keep a local humidity (if not required across the whole enclosure) by spraying their distribution locations lightly every day or so.
After you have placed them in the enclosure, just let them do their thing. Try to reduce stress to the inhabitant as much as possible, keep them in a quiet, undisturbed location. There is no need to remove them from the enclosure, nor do you need to remove any decoration. Feeding schedules can be maintained, provided your pet isn’t stressed due to the parasitic mites, and refusing feeds.
Within a few days, you should begin to see a marked improvement in the number of parasitic Mites in the enclosure, with most keepers noticing a complete eradication within a week or so. It’s at this point that you should ensure you don’t assume the issue is gone and begin your normal routine. It is best to give the Mites another week or so to catch any stragglers, or newly hatched Mites that may have been missed.
But overall, that is all there is to it. No Stress, No Chemicals, No Messing Around.
At Bioactive Herps, we currently sell these in tubs of approximately 1000, which we recommend as 1 tub per enclosure (some smaller enclosures and tubs could share a pack, but the more mites you start with, the quicker the infestation is relieved) for £5.
© 2015 Tarron Boon, Bioactive Herps