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Snake Mites (Ophionyssus Natricis)

By: Dr. Ray Wak

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Mite infestations cannot only be a discomfort to your reptile, but it can also be a source of serious disease. Over 250 species of mites have been identified on reptiles but the snake mite, Ophinonssus natricis, is the most common. This mite is often found on snakes of any species and occasionally on lizards.
The adult mite can be seen with the naked eye as a very small black dot moving on the skin of the snake. Although they can be located anywhere, mites are most commonly seen around the crease where the eye speculum meets the scales, in the gular fold under the jaw and around the cloaca.

Snake mites cause discomfort from their feeding on the blood of the snake. They can transmit bacteria (such as aeromonas hydrophillia) and blood parasites to the snake. They have been implicated as a source of transmission for the boa encephalitis virus.

Mite infestations are generally an indication of poor husbandry practices. Mites can be extricated with the judicious use of insecticides, good sanitation and attention to quarantine practices.

Mite Life Cycle

A female mite lays up to 90 eggs in the environment. The eggs hatch in as little as 30 hours, depending on the environmental conditions. A blood meal is required for the mite to gain energy for a molt to each sequential life stage. The larva molts into a protonymph, the protonymph becomes the duetonymph and the duetonymph molts into the adult. Under warm conditions with moderate humidity, the lifecycle can be completed in 13 days. Mites can survive over a month off the host waiting for another blood meal.

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