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How To Get Rid of Reptile Mites

Reptile mites are tiny parasites that feed off the blood of reptiles (similar to fleas except they don't jump). They are a parasite specific to reptiles - mainly lizards and snakes - and do not pass onto humans or other animals.

It is thought that the microscopic eggs lay dormant in reptile substrates which are often stored in cooler temperatures in wholesalers, then once they experience a rise in temperature - in a reptiles vivarium - they hatch and wedge themselves in-between the scales of an unsuspecting reptile and feed off its blood.

Sometimes just a sudden change in temperature such as a heat bulb blowing or even when turning the heat back on after a period away when the reptile has been boarded elsewhere is enough to trigger mite eggs to hatch.

You can prevent this happening by microwaving the substrate before you add it to an enclosure as this will then kill off the eggs before they hatch. An alternative is to put the substrate in a freezer for at least a month (if you have the time and enough freezer space!). Personally, I choose to microwave my substrate as it is quicker and more effective.

Snake mites are usually easier to remove than with lizards such as beardies as bearded dragons have so many areas that they can hide - mites particularly like hiding in the ear holes and the eyelids! Snakes can get mites stuck right under their scales tho so for this reason the frontline method works really well with them.

However, once you have mites, don't panic! Although they are annoying, it's no more serious than a cat or dog having fleas and there are 3 ways in which to get rid of them.

METHOD 1: Frontline spray

The quickest and most effective way is to spray your reptile with frontline spray. Frontline has not been licensed for use on reptiles (as it costs so much to do this and drug companies probably don't consider it cost effective enough to do). However, a specialist reptile vet recommended and used this, it works really well and it is safe for the reptile. You can buy frontline from vets, but it's quite expensive. If you're local, I will spray your reptile with frontline for you for £5 to save on vets' fees.

  1. First, use a DRY toothbrush and over a sink brush the reptile to try to remove as many mites as possible. Be careful to check lizard eyelids, and folds of the skin such as under the chin, under the tail near the cochlea and armpits etc
  2. In a well ventilated area, spray the reptile front and underside and use your hands to spread the spray over the body.
  3. Put the reptile back in the enclosure (with the same bedding and decor).
  4. Wash your hands very well (don't get it in your eyes as it stings!)
  5. Remove any feeder insects from the cage.
  6. Leave it 2 or 3 days. Don't feed any insects to the lizard and don't handle the reptile. This allows time for any mites still in the enclosure to hop onto the reptile to feed and this will kill them. Take any water bowl out of the cage and don't bathe the reptile during this time.
  7. Clean the enclosure out completely, new (microwaved!!) substrate.
  8. If you spot any mites, you might need to repeat this once but usually this is extremely effective five and works first time.

METHOD 2: Reptile mite spray

There is an anti-mite spray made for spraying enclosures (NOT the reptile tho). The idea is that you spray the entire enclosure and the chemical creates a layer which then kills the mites. However, it is less effective that the previous method as it does not penetrate the full layer of the substrate and so sometimes it is necessary to repeat the process more than once. This is what you do:

  1. Use dry toothbrush over a sink as before as try to brush as many mites off the reptile as possible before starting. Remove any food or feeder insects from the enclosure.
  2. Whilst the reptile is OUT of the enclosure, spray inside the cage heavily until there is a visible mist, then shut the glass to let the mist settle.
  3. Once settled, put the reptile back into the enclosure.
  4. Leave it 2-3 days then repeat if necessary.
  5. Clean out the enclosure remembering to microwave any new substrate first!

METHOD 3: the non chemical, slower method.

This is more of a faff tbh but if you don't want to pay for the expensive anti parasite solutions or simply prefer a chemical-free solution, this is for you. Be patient, it does work, just takes around a week to 10 days, depending on how diligent you are at finding and eliminating the mites and cleaning the cage.

  1. Bathe the reptile in water. Use a toothbrush to rub over the scales and remove as many mites as possible. Take extra time with lizards to check folds of skin, eyelids, under the base of tail and armpits etc
  2. Remove EVERYTHING from the enclosure. All substrate, decor, plastic plants etc
  3. Clean the enclosure really thoroughly and wipe with a damp cloth, especially in all the edges and behind electrical equipment where kites could hide.
  4. Use newspaper or kitchen roll to line the bottom of the enclosure, replace any food/water bowls and for snakes use a makeshift hide from a plastic box or washable container (not wood or bark)
  5. Replace the reptile back into the enclosure.
  6. Thoroughly wash any decor items such as branches, cork hides or wooden tunnels etc in water with mild bleach and leave them to soak them dry completely.
  7. Repeat steps 1-5 every day for around a week or until you are no longer finding any more mites.
  8. Once you are certain there are no more mites to be found, replace all the newspaper with fresh substrate (taking care to microwave it all before adding it to the enclosure!) and add the original decor etc
  9. If you've left it long enough to break the cycle and been diligent enough with brushing your reptile and finding the mites, their reproductive cycle will have been broken and they should hopefully now be gone.

Good luck!

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