Monday, June 3, 2013

Reptile Mites are NO FUN! (pt 1)


I know it’s been a while. I am and have been around, but I have also been overwhelmed and busy. Sorry for the periods of silence. Although, I have to say, if you want to get a hold of me or inquire about my absence, please feel free to message me.  Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or plain old e-mail works fine. (

I am going to go off topic today and talk about REPTILE MITES. Yes, I’m an author. Yes, I normally talk about writing. But I am also a fan of reptiles and I own 9 snakes, a turtle, and a Tegu. I have owned lots of pets in my life, and at the moment reptiles are my hobby. I was interested in being a herpetologist at one point, but the schooling was too long and I was not in a position to go to college full time. Anyway, I am in the beginning stages of possibly breading ball pythons. There are loads of very interesting morphs out there, and the prospect of learning about snakes and genetics is interesting. So, I’m giving it a go.

I got two snakes recently and ONE I believe had mites. I have no proof. I have no actual evidence to where the mites came from, BUT the boa is a arabesque Columbian red tail and she is very speckled. Mites are tiny to begin with and even if the boa had one or two, those little suckers multiply quickly. I brought the snake home on April 27th, and in 4 weeks ALL my snakes had mites. How did I know? Well, I picked one up to feed her,--I do this by placing them in another box. I hardly ever feed them in the habitat they sleep in—and I saw lots of tiny little mites walking over her back. Two or three days that week I noticed several snakes bathing in their water bowls. This was unusual, but it was hot so I didn’t think anything of it. After I saw the mites on my pastel ball python, I knew it was because all the others had mites too. Mites bite. They irritate. And mostly they suck the blood out of the snakes.

Think about a flea infestation in your house if you have dogs or cats. They are terrible. And if they go untreated, they can be very bad news.

I didn’t know what to do so I looked online. I found a few websites. Reptile Mites: The Bane of Herp Lovers, A Better treatment for Reptile Mites, and Getting Rid of Reptile Mites. All of these were informative, but all seem to have a little different approach. I think I looked over like 6 different sites, and my brother even looked up some things too. Getting rid of mites is not easy.

You may note that the title says “part 1” and that is because I COULD very well have another break out in 2-3 weeks, so I will be checking back in if that happens. Basically, this is what I did:

1.     I noticed the problem! One reason I always check my snakes before I go to bed is to make sure they are all in their habitats. SOMETIMES they escape! So handling your snakes is good because you will notice differences in behavior and, in this case, large amounts of tiny bugs crawling on my baby!
2.     I DID NOT PANIC! Going into a panic and removing the snakes and trying to rush to fix the situation doesn’t always help. The mites are there. They aren’t leaving. My snakes were ALSO not at the point of death. They had eaten recently. Most of them were moving around and looking fine except for excessive bathing. Before I went about making a move, I researched the best approach.
3.     I left them alone and went to buy plastic “Tupperware” type containers. I tried to get ones that were size appropriate. They snakes would have to be in them for possibly more than a week. Maybe up to three. I didn’t want them cramped up, but they are also called “ball” pythons for a reason. They ball up. They don’t NEED loads of room. I found ones that had lids that latched on so they could not escape. (If you need pictures, message me or comment.)
4.     I drilled holes in the containers. Like 4 small holes on each side. Enough for air to get in.
5.     THEN, when I had a place to put the snakes, I took them out of their habitats and places them into the bath tub. The first method of eradication was a Betadine solution bath. (GO HERE for the explanation.) I took Betadine that I bought at Walmart and added enough to make the bath water the color of tea. Like brown. Not DARK brown, and not barely brown. MEDIUM TEA brown. I also made sure the water was around 80-85 degrees. Most of the snakes did not mind being in a bath. They mites make then itchy. They like to soak. But if you have loads of snakes then doing them all at once could be overwhelming. You could do one at a time.
6.     I removed the habitats from my house. As soon as the snakes were absent, I figured the mites would start seeking out a food source. I didn’t want them venturing out into my house. I have a lizard. He didn’t need mites too. I actually just took everything outside onto my deck and left it there. My snakes were the priority.
7.     After bathing the snakes, I wiped them down and placed them into the Tupperware containers with a paper towel in the bottom. The white paper towel allows for mites to be seen easier, and it is easy to replace if the snakes defecate. This was good for the night. (NOTE: I gave them a small bowl of water that they dumped every night, which then made them all wet. I am amazed they haven’t grown gills.)
8.     NEXT, I repeated the bathing process the next morning and evening. I don’t know if I was using to weak a solution because the mites were still kicking.
9.     Next day, one more betadine bath. NOTE: I only did the communal bath once. After that one snake at a time was easier.
10. Next day I tried Olive Oil. My brother said he found that online somewhere. I used olive oil on ice before so I figured what the heck! The problem with oil is that it doesn’t allow for snake skin to breathe. It DOES smother the mites, but it can damage their scales. Two snakes of mine lost a few scales, but they also shed pretty regularly so they will be fine eventually. I rubbed the snakes down and waited maybe 5 minutes and then rinsed them off. Not easy to rinse off OIL without dish soap. I did the best I could, dried them, and put them back in their Tupperware containers.
11. NOTE: They snakes were in containers for 7 days. I waited until it did not look like anything was going to start crawling around before putting htem back into the habitats.
12. While the snakes were resting elsewhere I took care of the habitats. I removed ALL the Eco Earth and disposed of it. I washed out the habitats with soapy water as per instructions online. This is the first time I have ever done that! I normally use salt and vinegar on any cage that houses live animals.
13. It has been HOT out so I rinsed the Exo-terra habitats and left them in the sun to dry.
14. I have WOODEN accessories in my cages. Wood needs to be baked or bleached. I tried something new and put my logs and branches into my dishwasher! It is HOT and I used two capfulls of bleach instead of soap. My dishwasher does a rinse then a wash then a rinse, so during the “wash” cycle it added a little bleach. After it was done, I put them all in the hot sun for several days.
15. I also bleached the cages. The snakes were out of them a week. In that week, I washed them with dish soap. Two days later, bleach water, and then soap again. And rinsed thoroughly and let dry in the hot sun. It was like 1000 degrees outside so that helped a lot!
16. Then, the wood “snake caves” went into the oven. Baked at 245 degrees for 3 hours. (As per a website suggested.)
17. The snakes were put into betadine bathes several times this week. Then the olive oil to smoother mites. Then betadine again before I placed them BACK into their habitats again Saturday night. I did not replace the Eco-Earth for fear that the mites would return within 2-3 weeks. I gave water bowls ontop of papertowels.

I will update IF the stupid little buggers return.

For the readers who are not “herpers” so sorry to drift away from my normal topics. My writing was slowed due to my pets needs. Plus, I bought a dog! Lots going on.

I have a review coming up on Joyfully Jay and I will post it soon, probably today. As well as some others from Amazon. All on When Love Is Not Enough because  the sequel comes out soon. Keep watch! Lots coming your way!

Wade Kelly

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