Ectoparasites on Reptiles

There are many species of reptile parasites, both mites and ticks of several species are occasionally found on reptiles. These are both small parasites that feed of animals by sucking the blood from the superficial layers of their skin. Ticks are usually only found in wild caught animals as their size and slower life cycle makes them easier to spot and treat. Reptile parasites are transmitters of viruses and bacteria, they suck blood from your reptile which could cause anemia. Infected animals are often agitated, search for scratching surface or lid in water trying to get rid of pests. An infestation with reptile mites can have deadly consequences for reptiles when nothing is done to control the pest.

Mites and other Acari species found in the terrarium:

1   Snake Mite

The Snake Mite (Ophionyssys natricis) parasite is the most common parasite on reptiles in captivity and despite it's name a threat to various reptile species. Adults are black in color and are probably the ones of greatest concern.

2   Lizard Mite

Lizard mites (Hirstiella trombidiiformis) are normally red colored and can spread to snakes from lizards. Lizards can also be parasitised by other acari species such as Pterygosoma or Zonurobia which settle themselves under the scale of agama, iguana or gecko species.


3   Ticks (Ixodidae)

Although not a common threat for captive bread and kept reptiles, various genera of ticks parasitise on reptiles, like mites they suck the blood of the reptile and therefore a nuisance but also a significant vector of diseases. Unlike mites they rarely ingest enough blood to cause aenemia. Ticks are easy to spot with the naked eye and therefore they can often be removed by the keeper before they start feeding.

4 Various mite species living in the substrate

These are usually non pathogenic mites and other small arthropods attracted to the substrate in the vivarium. Those should be found randomly throughout the terrarium  rather than concentrated on the snake


Snake mite

Lizard Mite

Ticks

 

About the Snake Mite

 

The most commonly found parasitic reptile mite is the Ophionyssus natricis, also known as the Snake Mite. Despite it's name it also affects lizards, bearded dragons and other reptiles and is one of the biggest killers of captive kept reptiles.

Snake mites feed from their host’s blood supply removing blood and vital nutrients leaving the reptile anaemic. This makes the snake far more susceptible to illness, and as the mites also introduce diseases into the snakes blood supply while feeding, the snake will eventually die.

This frequently found parasite seems to be related to the captivity of reptiles since it is rarely found in the natural habitats. Snake Mites can cause serious problems particularly in a collection or a shop because they are difficult to see in small numbers, breed rapidly and spread from cage to cage with ease.

Identify the presence of mites:
1) The eye and contour of the eye is damaged by bites
2) Presence of mite faeces (brown spots)
3) Mites present on the areas where skin tissue is soft.

 

About the Snake Mite

 

 

Symptoms of a Snake Mite infection

1   Restlessness

In early stages of mite infestation the reptile can show unusual restlessness behaviour

2 Digging

Unusual digging activity (snakes).


3   Baths

The snake seeking to immerse itself in water more often than usual.

4   Raised Scales

Scales taking on a raised appearance


5   Low Appetite

The snake seeking to immerse itself in water more often than usual.

6   Condition

As the infestation advances the reptile is rapidly losing good condition

 


 



Snake Mite


Symptom: Immersion in water


Symptom: Skin problems around the eyes

 

 

The Lifecycle of the Snake Mite

The duration of the lifecycle depends on various circumstances:

    • Warm temperatures and high humidity usually speed up the development of the parasite population.
    • Ideal conditions for the Oph. natricis: temperatures around 25 °C  and humidity between 70% and 80% (RH)
    • Temperatures over 60° C will kill the parasites in most cases
    • Humidity lower than 20% will prevent the eggs from the snake mite from hatching

Stages of the Lifecycle:

Nymphs
    • Very mobile
    • Not easy to spot because of its color (white, beige)
Males
  • Look like deutonymphs
Females
  • Significantly bigger than males
  • Dark red or black color
  • Live for several weeks and lays up to hundered eggs
  • Eggs are mostly translucent or white in color and often stick to the substrate

Lifecylcle snakemite

 

 

 

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