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Snake mites - ugh!
 Do you have them?
How did you get them?
How do you get rid of them!

 

Do you have them?

 Snake mites are a external parasite that feeds on the blood of snakes.  The mites themselves are translucent and almost invisible until they have fed and have a blood meal in their stomach.  Able to stretch and expand several times their original size to accommodate a large meal.   This is a pic with several mites in it including some with larger blood meals and some with minimal blood meals.

Often times you discover there are mites by seeing your snake hanging out in it's water  bowl more than  normal or even seeing the drowned mites in the water - looks like pepper flakes on the bottom.  If you are observant, sometimes you can even see the mites crawling on the snake, most often towards the head although they can be anywhere.  Snake mites are only on a snake to feed.  They leave to lay their eggs away from the host often on wood or paper.

 

How did you get them?

  Snake mites most often come in on newly acquired snakes.  From a pet store, clearing house or even sometimes from a breeder.  Snakes are like magnets for mites so anytime they pass through a facility that has mites they run the risk of one or more "hopping on board" for a free ride with meal.  All newly acquired snakes should be quarantined at a minimum and have the enclosures properly treated for mites to prevent any hitchhikers from leaving the snake and laying eggs.  By treating the enclosure you could eradicate the lone mite on the snake and never have the infestation that could occur.    Any wood or paper product coming from a pet store could be harboring mites and/or eggs so should be handled with care and measures taken to prevent any living mites from propagating.

 

How do you get rid of them? 

 Step 1) Direct animal treatment - IMO should only be done for those animals visibly infested.  There are products available (Reptile Relief and others) that can be applied directly to the infested animal.  These products, while effective at killing mites themselves, are not effective at preventing re-infestation by eggs hatching from escaped mites.  ie your snake may be mite free right after treatment but re-infested shortly thereafter.  The real key in stopping any infestation is to not allow mites to get back to the snake to feed.  

Step 2)  Enclosure and surrounding area treatment - For this I use Provent-a-Mite (PaM).  PaM is extremely effective at killing any mites on surfaces.  NOT TO BE USED DIRECTLY ON SNAKE!  Follow the directions carefully as this is a poison and if used in proper amounts it's not harmful to you or your snake.  Not one of those if a little is good, more is better products.  Basically you need to strip the enclosure of any bedding and use paper towels for bedding until the infestation is over.  The added benefit of paper towels is being able to see the dead mites if there are any.  If you still see "new" dead mites on the paper towel(s), the war is not yet over.  You spray the proper amount of PaM on bedding (paper towels) and surrounding areas and any mite that crawls across a treated surface dies.  If they can't get to dinner without crossing a kill zone they can't eat and reproduce.  After a month of no new eggs being laid there are no more mites left!  

Let me re-emphasize, you need to continue to treat the bedding (paper towels) each time you change them out for ONE MONTH after you spot the last dead mite to be certain all the mites are dead and no more eggs are waiting to hatch.

One other point with PaM, the mites don't die instantly on contact with a treated surface.  They do however die before they can feed, leave the snake and reproduce.

Step 3) Other stuff - any time you bring in new bedding or new wood furnishings, branches, log hides etc.  They could have a hitchhiker on them.  Always best to give the new wood item a quick spray with PaM and  let sit away from your reptiles for a few days just to be safe.  Bedding can be frozen or baked to kill off any unwanted pests.

 

Hope this helps and remember, it's much easier to prevent the infestation then to cure it.

 

 

Dave Colling, Rainbows-r-us-reptiles.com                                        

 

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