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Q: Lifespan of a Mite Without a Host
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So my question is this:

How long can snake mites survive without a host?

I'm keeping all of my unused cages and snake supplies out in the garage, with the hopes that between the lower temperatures (garage has been getting below freezing most nights for the past several months, though its starting to warm up to mid 50s sometimes) and the lack of a host, they'll all die.

I also have several plants that were in snake cages that I didn't want to toss and start over with, they're upstairs far away from the snake room and have been without snake contact for a good 2 months possibly. I did spray them once with Reptile Relief but am not sure if Provent-A-Mite can be used on plants? The plants are at room temperature though, so unlike the stuff in the garage they aren't getting too cold.

I don't want to re-introduce any of the supplies/cages or the plants into the snake room now that I finally appear to be mite free... but with the price of PAM and the fact that I don't have very much left, I don't want to coat *everything* with it but instead use it on the cages themselves.

I've read about mite lifespans being in the 30-50 day range roughly, but that's with a host... can't find anything about mites living in without the host.

Of course, if these mites have decided that my dogs or cat (or me!) would make a fine temporary host, then it doesn't matter too much...

Points: 100
Topics: Parasites
Tags: Mites, Parasites
Administrative: Show/Hide

Member Comment 3/15/2011 7:40:06 PM


I tried to do some reserch but reading about Mites  makes me to itchy !!!

Member Comment 3/15/2011 7:51:19 PM


Instead of using PAM you can get a can of drug store or Walmart brand permethrin spray for about $5 and use that on the plants and caging. They call it lice spray but it's the same active ingredient as PAM.

Assisted Answer 3/15/2011 8:33:13 PM


from VPI

"Eggs hatch in one day in ideal conditions, and at cooler temperatures they may take up to four days to hatch."

so, assuming your 40 days, ... they should easily be gone in a couple months. They hatch, find no host, and boom:

"They require a blood meal to metamorphose to the next stage"

So although theorhetical and part conjecture, all those items should be mite free!

It's that should word that's the tricky one. I'd spray everything with nix.


Permethrin is not phytotoxic, or poisonous to most plants, when it is used as directed. Some injury has occurred on certain ornamental plants (16). No incompatibility has been observed with permethrin on cultivated plants. Treated apples, grapes, and cereal grains contain less than one mg/kg of permethrin at harvest time (7).

Accepted Answer 3/15/2011 9:15:33 PM

Sonja K. Reptiles

Honestly, and part of this is speaking from experience, I believe a loooooong time! : (

Breaking the life cycle is the biggest key.

I say this because back in December, I began the process of expanding my herp room which was the back half of a double garage. While work was being done in the front half to make it better insulated so the wall in the middle could be removed, I moved the boxes of my "extra" supplies - hides, branches, etc. into the back half with my animals where it is a constant 78 degrees to give my brother room to work. Just trying to be nice, right, well it was about 7-10 days after that that I saw my first mites... I hadn't been to a pet store, to anyone else's house, nothing. Moving those supplies into a warmer area was the only thing that it could have been. And, the animals that I had in my house in quarantine didn't have and didn't get mites. I had been totally mite free for over 13 months prior to that, and I'm sure you know full well how cold a non-heated garage in Minnesota gets in the winter, which is the condition those supplies were in. LOL

I don't know what material your cages are made out of, but another very frustrating thing for me was that the times I've had mites, they have pretty much always, thankfully, only been in 2 CB 70 racks I had... which had bare wood frames - and that I got used from a reptile store. (I know better now.) Mites, I feel survive longer in a porous material. I loved those racks, though, because my animals did so well in them, but especially when you have the size of collection that I do and when you see even one mite, it means you treat everyone and everything multiple times every 4 weeks for the next 3 months to try and break the cycle... that equals to a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of stress!! I also suspect that mites like to and can hang out on fabric (couches, etc.) for a great deal of time, too.

This last episode, I decided was the last time for me - I had enough rack space - although bit smaller drawers - to move those animals out of those 2 racks. I took the racks themselves outside, and I'll never bring them back into the room, I won't sell them to anyone, etc. And, there have been plenty of nights here down to 20 below F, but I just can't imagine taking the chance again. I no longer have wood caging of any sorts or hides, etc. - I just don't want to take the chance again. It's amazing how even after it had been more than a year without seeing a single mite, that it comes right back to you and feels like you've been dealing with them the whole time.

Luckily, I have seen no mites since taking those racks out and completing the first round of treatment. It's closing in on 3 months, but I have continued the preventative treatments. I feel breaking the cycle is the only way because the eggs are nearly indestructible. Most of the products out there kill the adults, but not necessarily the eggs. 

Another thing I did - at least until I had completed the first round of treating everyone and everything - and while I was seeing the live ones, especially, was to strip down when I got in the house and put those clothes right in the laundry for fear of introducing the mites into my quarantined ones (I know... kind of funny because that's backwards from the norm - LOL) and then take a shower.

Not to be even more depressing, but I have even read that a newly hatched nymph can go into a dormant stage for 4-5 months just waiting for a host to become available again.... sigh...

Mites are evil without a doubt and are one of every keepers worst headaches. Just have to stay diligent. I think keeping a close eye on your animals and catching them early on is key... I've always caught them just with them on an animal or two... and they may end up getting in the water dishes of a couple more near by soon after, but yeah... no fun! I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to have them get to the point of affecting more than a handful of animals - I see any and I begin to feel so bad for my animals, I know I'd be a basket case.

I have also seen reference to freezing killing them, but I believe that mostly applies to the adults - I remember one reference that stated it would have to be equivalent to 4 below F for "x" amount of time to kill the eggs. I'm hesitant to say I believe that.... And as far as putting substrate in the freezer, most people's freezers are set at zero F, thus the eggs can survive. 

Sorry for the long post - mites get me worked up - I hate those little buggers so!

Stay diligent - you'll get them! : )

Assisted Answer 3/15/2011 9:52:18 PM


I have personally known a gal who once took in a foster who was loaded with mites. the snake didn't even come in her house till it had been treated with ivomectin at the vet's and given a soak to pull off loose or free mites.

she took it home. it was still shedding mites. inside a tub, she took it into her bathroom and did repeated soaks till all visible mites were gone, over several hours. cleaned up the bathroom and put the snake in a tub with treated paper. the snake never had a mite again. a few days later it went to someone else's house to continue fosterage, then was adopted out a few months later.


this bathroom is about 15 feet from her herp room; the space between is carpeted as is her herp room.


about 5 months after this snake was in her house for such a short time, mites exploded in her herp room.  no sign at all in between.  she treated with PAM-sprayed paper - in the tubs and cages where all her animals lived - for about 2 months. everything seemed OK and no mites were in evidence.

about 5-6 months later there was another outbreak. she cleaned it up. it was followed by another outrbreak 5-6 months later. that was the last and it's been over a year and a half so I think she's finally ok.  she never once took any other snake into her house during this time, and I think it's unlikely (but remotely possible) that the few geckos she purchased early on during htis time would have brought the mites in.

she never treated her carpet. she wasn't able to for other reasons. I think that has to have been where they hid. 

the only time I've ever seen a mite on a foster - knock on wood! - was a snake I picked up a few years ago. I keep all my personal animals in planted vivs and/or use dirt and moss as a substrate, so mites would be just terrible to deal with.  I treat every animal that comes in my house, no matter the source, and am especially diligent with fosters.  before outreaches I spray the tub and pillowcase I transport my critters with, so they can't pick anything up at a show or from other snakes at an outreach. not that this is a problem I've seen, but I like the err on the side of paranoia! before I go to pick up a foster I spray whatever I'll transport him in as well, so that if you show up and he's covered in mites hopefully nothing that comes into your house will be alive.  

this little rat snake had only 2 mites on him. I put him in my bathroom - only room in the house with no other herps at all.  I treated him for about 2 1/2 months (I usually go 6 weeks as a prophylactic measure).  I also sprayed a line on the floor around his tub. I also sprayed a line around the base of every cage in my house, just in case. 

paranoid? yeah. and I DON'T like pesticides.  I follow  the directions very carefully and always ensure everything is dry. as someone who breeds on a very small scale, I can't take the chance that my babies will be infested or infected by something my fosters may carry. I want to continue to foster, and I feel like it would be irresponsible of me to continue to breed if I didn't take every possible precaution for the health of my personal herps, and I also feel that it would be irresponsible to adopt out animals that I wasn't certain were free of external parasites.  it's totally overkill, but I've never, ever seen a mite in my house or on one of my snakes.

Member Comment 3/15/2011 11:06:26 PM


To be safe I suggest not using the same plants in any snake enclosure if you have any hesitation about treating them with pesticides. The enclosures them selves can be sprayed with pesticide, left to dry for 48 hours and then cleaned with either bleach or clorhexadine(nolvasan). Most cage furnishings can be either bleached or baked to kill mites and eggs. For eggs, you are better off spraying with pesticide than baking. I have seen mites survive as long as 6 months in moist bedding with no host (bag of cypress mulch) only to hatch out and resume the cycle all over again.

Assisted Answer 3/16/2011 4:11:42 PM


The last paper I red on snake mites, stated that a sub-adult mite can drop off the host and travel up to 45' to find a new one. 

 I think I remember the animal that Aimee is talking about, as it fostered at my place before being adopted, and was still visibly infested with mites when I got her home and decided at that time to treat with Fipronil.  ALL mite infested fosters at my place get treated with Fipronil (frontline) and all foster tubs/cages get PAM treated papers, I don't keep fosters on any kind of mulch bedding for this reason.  Fipronil does not work with all snakes, as I understand that the higher humidity animals (chondros, atb's, etc) don't tollerate it well.

It took 2 treatments directly on the snake, and 4 treatments of the cage (glass 40 gal breeder, also with Fipronil), and continued use of mite treated papers (PAM) for 3 months before I was confident they were actually gone.

So all of that to end to the question of how long can they live off the host? I am beginning to think that they're like mini cockroaches or bedbugs on steroids and a "simple" freeze isn't enough.  I think we're going to end up discovering that you need to either treat chemically (PAM or Fipronil), or have a guy come in like they do with bedbugs and spray liquid hydrogen to actually freeze the guys dead.

Member Comment 3/16/2011 4:12:24 PM


gods... long day... the last paper I "READ" <sighs>

Member Comment 3/16/2011 4:21:29 PM


I read over my response from yesterday and realized it was a bit of a rant - sorry!  mites give me the creeping willies and I get a little carried away. I think I'd rather see fleas on the dogs

Member Comment 3/17/2011 4:47:57 AM


Although this does not directly answer your question, I believe it may help solve your underlying problem...


Simply buy some dry ice, place them in a few cups until they have melted (the fog will be heavy and settle in the cups) and then place the cups in your vivs and turn them sideways....it will gas out ANY bugs you have but plants are not harmed by the carbon monoxide so they will be perfectly fine. Not to mention it works very quickly :) make sure to COVER your tank and let the fog of CO sit in there for 1-5 minutes before airing it out.

Member Comment 3/18/2011 2:42:53 PM


I found a website that seems to be pretty thourogh about the eradication of mites for various species. http://www.triciaswaterdragon.com/mitetick.htm 

Also in response to EvilLost's suggestion of using CO2 to kill off mites:

This is the same method used by hydroponic farmers to kill off spider mite infestations. It usually involves raising the rooms CO2 level to 10,000ppm or higher and holding for 5+ hours, and then repeating the procedure every 5 days until no evidence is seen of mites (usually 2-3 treatments). From what I have read it is very effective in this situation, but different species of mites may be more tolerant of high CO2 levels, and I also do not know how this affects the eggs.

Member Comment 3/18/2011 2:50:52 PM


Just remembersed one of the best resources I have found for Herps. Anapsid.org It turns out they have an amazingly amount of detailed information about mite lifecycles. It probably has some answers to your questions on the page ( http://www.anapsid.org/mites.html )

Author Comment 3/19/2011 2:06:37 PM


Thanks everyone! :)  I did end up getting a few cans of the permethrin spray at Walmart and have just been coating everything in the room that the snakes will be moving back to, the extra supplies and cages and all the wood cages.  I also did another round of PAM on the plants and they seem to be surviving okay, will do some more over the next two months before sticking them back in cages probably.  Kind of going on overkill right now in the [empty] snakeroom but I don't want them coming back. Bah!

Definitely some scary stories, mites sure suck.

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