Mites ruined my season

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SSMartin
Posts: 122
Joined: Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:05 pm
Location: FL

I was always under the impression mites were a pest and ridding then simply made martins more comfortable. During my nest checks I never noticed any mites. I now had several nests about to fledge so I stopped dropping the racks to prevent any jumping.

Today I noticed too many nests seemed to be ignored and I dropped the racks and found 25 almost to fledge nestlings in various gourds just covered in mites. I found a few survivors very weak. I treated all the gourds with seven dust and I sprayed the inside and outside of all the gourds with permethrin.

I have never had this happen and it makes me wonder about all the martins I see nesting in light poles and unmanaged housing. It’s amazing they even survive.
4th Gen Martin Fan
Posts: 1483
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:19 pm
Location: TN/Collierville
Martin Colony History: I have been exposed to purple martin sounds in utero when my mother went out to get my father away from his martin colony.
I played around the martin colony every summer and watched as my father maintained his colony. In the late 50's until the 70's he did not notice European Starlings in south Texas.
When old enough, I helped maintain his colony. My primary task was eliminating English House Sparrows with a 1956 Benjamin 317 .177 air rifle.
When I settled into my own home, I started my first colony with an original Trio Castle and Trio Grandpa. When I moved again, I did not put up any martin houses. Frustration with European Starlings in the Southeast US was overwhelming.
Found PMCA Forum and learned about modern enlarged compartments and SREHs.
Inherited my father's last martin house, a Trio Grandma, modified it to modern specifications and have had good results since then.

Sorry for your losses.
I used your devastation to pre-treat purple martin compartments in the colonies I supervise to prevent mites.
Mark.
Firm believer in HOSP/EUST Control, Enlarged Compartments, SREHs, Pole Predator Guards, Owl/Hawk Guards, Mite/Parasite Control, Housing Insulation, and Vents for Compartment Cooling.
PMCA Member.
John Miller
Posts: 4768
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

Permethrin is a long lasting, lab created pesticide that can probably kills birds...will fish. I fear you have overreacted.

Mites sometimes explode in numbers after the babies fledge and you will see them moving over gourd surfaces. Mites in great numbers will weaken birds, but they also will tolerate quite a few, but the parents won't bring them back to roost at night in the cavities, putting them at risk for rain and from owl predation.

Only insecticide landlords have found effective that probably causes no harm is dry 5% garden sevin. Comes in powder in a yellow canister. Sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon in two or three corners of a nest when babies are 10 to 20 days old, trying to avoid direct contact, and all mites will be gone in 24 h ours. It's only effective for a day or so (inert after exposure to humidity). don't use in advance under nests and don't put on porches for adults to drag in -- try to use only in an indirect application.

A nest change will reduce mites loads without the use of pesticides at all, if one prefers.

John Miller
4th Gen Martin Fan
Posts: 1483
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:19 pm
Location: TN/Collierville
Martin Colony History: I have been exposed to purple martin sounds in utero when my mother went out to get my father away from his martin colony.
I played around the martin colony every summer and watched as my father maintained his colony. In the late 50's until the 70's he did not notice European Starlings in south Texas.
When old enough, I helped maintain his colony. My primary task was eliminating English House Sparrows with a 1956 Benjamin 317 .177 air rifle.
When I settled into my own home, I started my first colony with an original Trio Castle and Trio Grandpa. When I moved again, I did not put up any martin houses. Frustration with European Starlings in the Southeast US was overwhelming.
Found PMCA Forum and learned about modern enlarged compartments and SREHs.
Inherited my father's last martin house, a Trio Grandma, modified it to modern specifications and have had good results since then.

John,
I presume this is question is impossible to answer and possibly superfluous.
How do mites infest a purple martin nest? Are they born of eggs infested in nesting material that survive from year to year in the nesting material and/or compartment walls? Or are they carried into the nest by the adult parents and infest the nesting material?

I have an opinion that the mites are carried in by the adult parents at the beginning of the martin season, the mites lay eggs in the nesting material and the mites hatch in response to babies in the nest that cannot leave until they fledge.

It is a known fact that wet nest will make the mite population exponentially rise. I would describe it as an explosion! I may be biased but I think mites flourish in hot, humid weather even if the nests are not wet from rain leaking into a compartment.

Your expertise, experience and wisdom are appreciated.
Mark.
Firm believer in HOSP/EUST Control, Enlarged Compartments, SREHs, Pole Predator Guards, Owl/Hawk Guards, Mite/Parasite Control, Housing Insulation, and Vents for Compartment Cooling.
PMCA Member.
Brad Biddle
Posts: 523
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

Mites do not survive in nesting material from one season to another. They feed on the blood of birds. Any fowl mites present came in with the adult Martins. Mites can survive for a short time in nesting material, but need a host to reproduce. Their population "explodes" when they're nesting because it takes several life cycles to get to the "explosion" level. That's why I use Sevin in my prenesting material and again when young are just hatching. Two treatments will keep them gone. If you have a HOSP or Starling build a nest in a gourd and you kill them, that gourd or compartment needs to be retreated.
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 132 plastic gourds with tunnels and all SREH.
Chris B
Posts: 378
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:10 pm
Location: AL/Toney

When I pre-nest my gourds, I always put some Seven dust on the pine needles. Mites haven't been a problem. The Seven does no harm to the birds.

I have read that jumpers jump because of mites. No idea, cause my jumpers don't have any that I can tell.
2014 8 gourds, 3 pairs nested. Ended w/ 24 total
2015 24 gourds, 22 nests. Lotsa birds!
2016 24 gourds and good activity.
2017 32 SREH gourds. Great activity.
2018 40 SREH gourds. Good finish despite big storm damage. No more dangling gourds.
2019 56+ SREH gourds, all on 3/8 rods. Birds did very well.
2020 56 SREH gourds.
flyin-lowe
Posts: 2929
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

I have had great luck over the years treating nests the day before my first eggs are due to hatch. That keeps them under control long enough for the young to fledge. I prefer to do it then as I don't have to worry about any newborns breathing in the dust. I have never observed mites at one of my sites using this method. The year I moved from one house to another I left the housing up to allow the martins to continue their nesting that season but I wasn't able to manage it like I typically do. A couple of times that season I was able to return to my old property just to see what was going on and that year I did observe a few gourds with mites crawling around the outside of them.
2020 Currently 42 nest, 110 babies, 64 eggs left to hatch(6-22-20) HOSP count-8
2019- 31 Pair over 100 fledged
2018- 15 pair last count 49 fledged
2017 3 SY pair nested, 12 eggs total, fledged 10. 4 additional SY's stayed all summer but never paired/nested.
2016 1 pair fledged 4
2015 Visitors
2014 Visitors
2013 Moved 6 miles away, 1 pair fledged 2.
2012 30 pair fledged 100.
2011 12 pair (11 that nested), 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair, 21 eggs, 16 hatched, 14 fledged.
Spiderman
Posts: 778
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:19 am
Location: Gladewater, Texas

Brad Biddle wrote:
Mon May 18, 2020 8:17 am
Mites do not survive in nesting material from one season to another. They feed on the blood of birds. Any fowl mites present came in with the adult Martins. Mites can survive for a short time in nesting material, but need a host to reproduce. Their population "explodes" when they're nesting because it takes several life cycles to get to the "explosion" level. That's why I use Sevin in my prenesting material and again when young are just hatching. Two treatments will keep them gone. If you have a HOSP or Starling build a nest in a gourd and you kill them, that gourd or compartment needs to be retreated.

I do exactly the same. When I do nest checks I always look to see if I see any mites moving, if so I will add 1/4 teaspoon to the nesting material.

As the Babies get bigger you will see mites pop up all the time. That is why late nest checks as the Fledglings are bigger are important.
2008 - 33 PAIR - FLEDGED 96 YOUNG
2009 - 51 PAIR - FLEDGED 166 YOUNG
2010 - 45 PAIR - FLEDGED 146 YOUNG
2011 - 33 PAIR - 128 HATCHED, 97 FLEDGED
2012 - 37 PAIR - 119 HATCHED, 101 FLEDGED
Dave Duit
Posts: 1715
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2020, 60 pair with 285 fledged youngsters. 83 total cavities available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified deep trio metal house units, 1 fallout shelter, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President and founder of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit www.iamartin.org and join.

I use sevin prenest and avian insect liquidator up to day 20 hatchlings.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
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