Snake mites are very close relatives to ticks and fleas. Every time that you visit a reptile expedition, pet store, or interact with other reptiles, you risk transporting snake mites back to your reptile area.
Mites are characterized as eight-legged, bloodsucking organisms that transmit disease between reptiles. Ticks are bigger than mites and generally once they make a home on your reptile’s skin, they do not really move around too much. On the other hand, snake mites are quite tiny and transition through many stages with some being non-feeding morphs. They are extremely mobile and are often found moving around your reptile’s body. They are usually black, red or orange and often resemble dried up blood.
When a wild reptile has snake mites, they generally do not present a problem and when the lizard or snake sheds its skin, it sheds the mites as well. Captive reptiles have constant access to the same mites that are harboring in its enclosed environment.
Mites can easily be overlooked since they are so small but they are dangerous. They will usually make themselves a home under the projecting or overlapping scales in the heat pits and the eye area. Reptiles with a moderate or severe infestation of snake mites may require nutrient supplementation and fluids to restore balances for a rapid recovery.
How To Kill Mites
Snake mites are so small that they are not nearly as easy to treat as a flea infestation. At least with fleas you can let off a flea bomb in your home and drop your dog off at the groomers. Sadly, most store bought mite treatments are not effective. There is just not a simple way to get rid of these pests. You have to be very aggressive not only treating the reptile, but the environment as well.
The environment can be treated with toxic pesticides after you move the reptile to an alternate location. While the fumigation is taking place, you can tackle the reptile. Do not attempt to treat snake mites with homeopathic or herbal remedies, they will not work. Many people will try every option they can to avoid toxic chemicals but these are hard-shelled pests that only respond to the extreme.
Simply cleaning the environment and disinfecting it will not kill snake mites. It may get rid of feces and a good amount of exposed mites but it will not destroy larvae and non-feeding morphs that are hidden well in almost invisible crevices. Since unhatched eggs and those that are in non-feeding state are not affected by chemicals, you will need to repeat treatment on the reptile and the environment a few weeks later.
Treating The Snake
Snakes need to be soaked in a Betadine bath that is diluted to the appearance of a very light tea. The water will drown most of the snake mites while the Betadine will treat the bites. You may want to give your snake a bath in plain water first so that it can drink a little water and then add the Betadine in.
After the bath, dab a bit of mineral oil to the eye area and heat pits and check all of the grooves and vent folds to be sure that there are not any mites hidden away in those areas. If you do find left over mites, rub them gently away with a cotton swab that has been dipped in mineral oil.
Why They Are Hard To Kill
Chemicals that you need to clean the environment with can also kill your reptile which is why treating snake mites is so dangerous. Additionally, when bathing them, if you do not work quickly, they will just make their way to the eye area and hang out there until things settle down.
They are hard to treat because a good percentage of their life is spent in a reproduction or non-feeding state in which they hang out in moist, tiny crevices. At any given time you can have mites in all life stages living on your reptile which is why it is so important to be sure to treat the animal again within a few weeks.