Knemidocoptidae mites may have a detrimental influence on the host condition; hence, they are among the most important pests of poultry and pet birds. Mange mites cause a condition known as knemidocoptic scabiosis, that is characterized by alopecia, acanthosis, hyperkeratosis, itching, feather damage, loss of appetite, and sometimes death in birds. Infestation is typically worse in older, injured, sick, stressed, or malnourished birds. K. pilae and K. jamaicensis mites affect pet or exotic birds in captivity. K. derooi mite affects wild golden eagles. Knemidocoptes mutans scaly leg mite primarily affects chicken and turkey. It is similar in appearance to Sarcoptes mites. Mites are either superficial or deep.
K. pilae is found on budgerigars, parrots and parakeets. It attacks bare or slightly feathered areas, particularly around the beak, causing a condition known as "scaly face." K. laevis feather mites cause feathers look chewed. In case of severe infestation a bird can lose its feathers. It usually starts on the beak and neck spreading over the entire body. Restlessness, severe scratching, feather picking and skin irritation are signs of infection. The mites may be seen as small, gray moving specks.6
Knemidocoptes gallinae causes "depluming itch" of domestic fowl and pigeons. The mites burrow into the shafts of feathers inducing inflammation and itching. The feathers break easily and are pulled out by the affected bird resulting in bare patches on the back and wings. The head and neck may also be affected.7
Knemidocoptes mutans burrows into skin of the foot and leg of domestic poultry, but comb and neck may also be affected.5 Females give birth to live larvae. The entire life cycle is spent on the host, burrowing into the unfeathered skin on the feet and shanks and is completed in 10 to 14 days. These highly contagious mites can be picked up from the ground, therefore infestations often develop from the toes upwards.1 Lesions include irritation, inflammation, blister and crusts formation. As the infection progresses, there may be distortion of legs, lameness and loss of digits. Scales become upturned. Mites are abundant and are readily seen with magnification in skin scrapings. Up to 50 mites can be counted on a single feather.
Birds can be treated by dipping the legs in a warm acaricidal solution. Alternatively, birds can be treated with ivermectin.2
- Veterinary Ectoparasites: Biology, Pathology and Control. R. L. Wall, David Shearer
- Flynn's Parasites of Laboratory Animals. David G. Baker (editor)
- Knemidocoptic Mange in Wild Golden Eagles, California, USA
- Multidisciplinary analysis of Knemidocoptes jamaicensis parasitising the Common Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs: proofs for a multispecies complex?
- Veterinary Entomology: Arthropod Ectoparasites of Veterinary Importance. R. Wall, D. Shearer
- Small Animal Care and Management. Dean Warren
- Parasitology: An Integrated Approach. Alan Gunn, Sarah Jane Pitt