Mites: The Bane of Reptile Keeping


No organism is so widely despised among reptile enthusiasts as the reptile mite, Ophionyssus natricis. This blood-sucking parasite prefers to feed on snakes but will also prey on lizards if provided the opportunity. About the size of a grain of sand, these devious gluttons will burrow into the spaces between a snake’s scales and feast on its blood until they are completely gorged. If not found and eliminated in a timely manner, this pest can go from being a nuisance to a potentially fatal threat to your reptiles. In addition to sapping your pet’s vital resources by drinking their blood, mites can transmit diseases from animal to animal.



How can I tell if my snake has mites?

There are some early indicators of mite infestation to be aware of when keeping reptiles, particularly snakes. If you see your snake soaking in its water bowl much more than usual, this may be due to infestation. Snakes will submerse themselves in water to try and drown mites living in between their scales. Many snakes enjoy a soak before shedding, so don’t be concerned if you see your snake soaking every once in a while.

If you notice your snake taking lengthy, repeated soaks, it is a good idea to look into their water bowl and look for little black specks in the water. If you notice these, be sure to handle your snake and thoroughly examine them for mites. Reptile mites can be difficult to see, particularly on brown or black snakes. Be sure to look in between your snake’s ventral scales, as well as the areas surrounding its eyes, nostrils, heat pits, and cloaca, as these are mites’ favorite places to hide. If you find black specks in these areas, gently try to dislodge them with your finger to ensure that they aren’t bedding/dirt. If the specks don’t move, your snake likely has mites.

How do I get rid of snake mites?


If your snake has a mite infestation, there are a number of steps you should undertake to get the parasites off of your pet.

Step One: Getting rid of suspect bedding

Mites and mite eggs can live for long periods of time inside bags of bedding. This makes it very easy to re-infect your pet when replacing their bedding after treatment. As soon as you realize that your pet has mites, it’s a good idea to throw away any opened bags of bedding to keep from continually re-infecting your pet. To make identification of mites easier, it is a good idea to use white paper towels or newspaper as bedding during mite treatment.

Step two: Removing terrarium accessories

While your snake is being treated for mites, these pests can take refuge on terrarium accessories such as branches and decorative hides. If you’re dealing with a reptile mite infestation, the safest course of action is to remove terrarium accessories from your pet’s home during the course of mite treatment. Be sure to clean these items with scalding water and an insecticide product such as provent-a-mite. Provide your pet with a simple, plastic hide during the course of treatment that will not harbor mites.

Step three: Cleaning and treating the terrarium

After having emptied your terrarium, it is a good idea to completely clean it out using hot water to remove any mites crawling around the bottom of the enclosure. Next, use an insecticide product such as provent-a-mite or reptile relief and spray down the inside of the terrarium as instructed by the procedure dictated by the back of the bottle. MAKE SURE you follow the directions provided on the back of the bottle of whatever product you buy! These products are potentially toxic insecticides that only work as desired when administered in the proper amounts. Too much of these products can hurt or even kill your pet!

Step four: Treating your snake

After you have followed the above steps to ensure that your snake’s home is clean and mite-free, it is time to kill the mites living on your snake’s body. Prepare a warm bath for your snake in a water-tight tub that can be closed, and treat the water with the product of your choosing, such as mite guard. Some of these products can be applied directly onto your pet’s skin. As with treating your pet’s enclosure, make absolutely sure to follow the directions spelled out on the back of the product to ensure that you don’t harm your pet. When you have finished spraying down or bathing your pet, you can wipe it down with a dry cloth to remove any harmful residues from its skin. With particularly bad infestations, multiple treatments of this type may be necessary. Be sure you allow your snake to rest in between treatments as dictated by the instructions provided by the product you use.


How do I make sure my snake never gets mites again?

Now that you’ve dealt with the long process of ending a mite infestation, you’re likely asking yourself, “How can I make sure I NEVER have to deal with that again?” Luckily, there are some dependable ways to drastically decrease your chances of introducing mites into your collection. The foremost way to keep form bringing mites home is to refrain from handling other people’s reptiles. Other keepers may unknowingly harbor mites in their collections, which can easily cling to your clothing and go home with you, infecting your pets. If avoiding contact with other reptiles is out of the question for you, then you may want to invest in products such as mite guard powder that make your terrariums uninhabitable to mites. These products can stop infestations before they start and are often a great investment for keepers with large enough collections that individually treating snakes would be impractical.

Need further help?

The staff at Painted Reptile is always happy to help you provide the best care for your animals. Come in if you have questions regarding preventing reptile mite infestation and we will assist you in any way we can.

Call 818-654-9441 with any questions or stop by the shop at 18730 Oxnard St., Tarzana, Ca, 91356.



Written By:

Katia Shinkle

Sponsored By:

The Painted Reptile



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