Monday, October 26, 2009

Mites, the enemy of Herpers


I have gotten them into the collection a few times, and every time it is a complete ordeal.

Let us begin from the beginning.

Reptile Mites, in terms of what you would find in Ball Pythons, are only going to show up on your animal if:

a) You had them before and you didn't notice
b) You have a new animal that has them
c) You touched a reptile that had them, then touched your own animals.
d) You are purposely bringing them into the collection

And, to make things more complicated, there are more than one type of mite that you may see in your collection, but... only one you need to be concerned about.

The ones you need to be worried about are Black. The immature form of them is Red.

They are the size of a ball point pen tip and black, and will be found more than likely under the chin of your ball python, under scales, and in heat pits, eyes, and cloaca. They can and will crawl around, and can crawl for a while, which is why having a few mites in a collection with lots of animals can result in a huge infestation in a short period of time.

Why are mites so bad?

They drink your snakes blood! They are little vampires, and enough of them can cause serious health problems in your animals, including the possibility of death.

They will not, however, bite you, a human, as they are specific to snakes. You can have them crawling all over you and you would still be safe.

This is not to say you should keep them around. I would not suggest it at all!

But, there are a other mites that aren't so bad.

If you see little white or cream bugs, that may be wood mites (if you have wood as a substrate). There is a type of mite called the Hypoaspis Mite (which is a type of wood mite) that actually will eat the other parasitic mites, and it may be a good way to keep your collection Parasite mite free. Then again, you will have little bugs crawling around, and most people dislike that idea.

I do not have any photos of either, as my camera is very limited in scope, and I haven't had an outbreak in years!

How do I prevent mites in my collection?

Lets go over my steps.

QUARANTINE: This is HUGE! 3 months of quarantine in a separate area of the house away from the rest of the main collection. (You can do it for longer, and I know people who do!)

Pretreating animals: I treat all new animals that come into the collection preventatively with Provent-A-Mite.

Fresh EVERYTHING: New animals come in, everything is NEW and Fresh. Fresh bedding, fresh bowl that has been sanitized with bleach, fresh water, fresh tub! I tend to use paper towels for new animals to see if there is anything they are "leaving behind".

But... like life, things happen.

What to do if you get mites???

1) Get a Mite Spray. Provent-A-Mite is a great product that I recommend. There are lots of products on the market that do not work. (ZooMed and ExoTerra have a few, and I have heard that they are not the best) I have used Provent-A-Mite as well as Frontline spray, as directed by my vet, with no ill effects.

2) Clean out the whole entire rack/tub/tank. Clean it WELL. Every crevice. Those suckers hide in the most odd corners. I found a little copse of them in the top corner of one of my racks once. It was gross. Clean with Chlorhexidine or bleach, but make sure to keep it safe (1:10 ratio or less!) and let it dry. If you can't see them, use a flash light to look for them. They will be hiding. Disinfect and clean all of your bowls, hides, and throw away all of the bedding.

You can spray the hides and tub with your mite spray as well. Just make sure to follow the directions, and make sure that they are DRY before reintroducing your animal.


3) After the tub/rack/tank is clean and dry, replace the stuff, but use paper towels as substrate. Why? So that you can monitor the dead mites falling off of your snake. Once you stop seeing black dots on your white papers, you can be more sure that the mites are gone.

4) Treat your snake. READ THE DIRECTIONS. Treat carefully, and treat minutely. Do not go overboard. Wear rubber gloves.


I cannot stress this enough.

If you choose not to use the chemicals, here are a few other treatments I have used that work, but do not eradicate as well as the sprays:

a) Mineral oil- This will suffocate the mites if done correctly. I usually only used this while getting mites out of heat pits. Use a cotton swab and rub gently around the areas where mites are. You can more than likely dislodge them with this method, but you will have to find them ALL, or you will get an infestation again.
b) Bath- This will wash off some of the mites, but more than likely not all. You can use a mild soap and wash them off. Make sure to rinse the animal off carefully.

I'm sure there are other options out there, but these are the two I work with when I have issues that I have had work.

If you are not comfortable doing any of this, or if you are failing in your attempt, take your snake to a Vet. That is always a good alternative!

It will take time to get rid of the mites, and patience and vigilance is key. You can and will get rid of them!

I hope this helps you in your quest, and as always, feel free to shoot me more questions!


Jackie M. said...

So I've heard that some breeders PaM all new snakes before quarantining them. Do you do that?

I haven't, and I've been lucky enough not to have mites. But neither do I want them--and I've got a new pied arriving this week, and my spider sense tells me to take a little extra precaution with this one.

Jackie M. said...

I have PAMed the quarantin tank and the substrate (blank newsprint), but not the hides. And I gave the new snake a bath in some soapy water before putting her in the tank.

...aaaaand I just stumbled over a forum in which several people explicitly told some guy to read the directions on the bottle and NOT to spray his snake directly, and then he came back the next day saying he'd sprayed down everything INCLUDING the animal.

I think I need a break from the internet now.