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'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

Posted by dirtgirl (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 5, 07 at 14:34

Hi everybody.
I posted a query on this same topic a year or so ago and I don't recall if I asked the folks on here what they know about it.
We had wild turkeys reintroduced here about 15 years ago and they are now commonplace. Now there is a new complaint circulating among hunters and outdoor enthusiasts about these birds spreading "turkey mites". I have been asking around, trying to get some understanding as to what this is. I wonder if there actually is such a thing or if it's just another round of misinformation and wrongly placed blame. Sure, there are several different types of mites and lice found on all sorts of fowl, but is there something like a chigger dropping off wild turkeys and going after humans?
I have noticed years where the chigger (the usual mite we call 'chigger')population seems higher than usual, but this goes for dog ticks and deer ticks as well. Can't say I ever noticed anything new clinging to my ankles and we certainly do have a healthy number of turkeys around.

One person I heard going on and on about these mystery mites also swore that spike bucks were the product of whitetails and goats getting amorous. So I wonder if anyone knows what they are talking about or if it's just more backwoods hooey.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

I was in avian rehab for over 10 years. I rehabbed turkeys. I never encountered turkey mites.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

I googled turkey mites.
http://ces.ca.uky.edu/Lyon/anr/Insect_Bites.htm
http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/204718.htm
http://ces.ca.uky.edu/lee/anr/Ticks Are Out.htm:
(from last link) Q: Some clients use the terms "deer tick" or "turkey mite" ... what are they referring to?

A: These terms are often used when referring to immature (larval) lone star ticks, a common tick throughout much of Kentucky. A person who walks through infested vegetation may find hundreds of the tiny ticks (about the size of the period at the end of this sentence) crawling on them. Unattached larvae can be removed by bathing or showering. However, once ticks are attached, removal is difficult, and their bite can be very irritating. The lone star tick is not considered to be a vector of Lyme disease, although it can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

So, Merck says there is one that pertains to turkeys, the others deal with what people call a turkey mite, and humans.
So it may be just a general bug term that people use?

Jeanne


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

DG I don't know anything about turkey mites BUT I am ROTFL with this goat-white tail deer thing!!!!! I can't believe that this person actually believes that one. Definately backwoods hooey.
Cathy


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

Myth. Just one of those colorful, folksy names. When I was a kid our jeans would get covered with tiny burrs we called beggars lice. Had nothing to do with beggars or lice, lol.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

I have to agree with you all, but SOMETIMES with a little investigation , what seems to be an old wive's tale will come up bearing a little shred of credibility. Not always, but sometimes. I have been hearing about this occurrence for about 5-6 years now and the fact that I could not get a definitive answer from anybody was bugging the heck out of me. I thought, well, maybe since turkeys have been missing from our local equation so long, a parasite that goes along with them was absent as well.
But anyone who spends time in the woods has always had to deal with chiggers and ticks and yes, those larval ticks (personal favorite) so how are these old acquaintances now being confused with something else?

Unless someone can actually show me one of these and describe it in technical terms I'm going to write this off as yet another bit of misguided folklore. I would LOVE to write a book about the things I have heard. And YES, just like the deer/goat combo, these people BELIEVE what they are telling you.
Who hasn't heard the one about the hummingbirds migrating on the backs of geese??

But wait a sec, people. When was the last time we all watched some documentary on PBS or Animal Planet and learned some facts about the natural world that seemed , well, almost made up? Like Komodo dragons that can lay fertile eggs without ever having mated?

I guess the key is to never stop questioning.
Thanks for your responses.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

No one is saying these aren't real, just that it isn't the real name or even a mite. They don't have much to do with turkeys...except turkeys are victims like anything else ticks catch a ride on. You will find information on google.

From the U of K:
Lone star tick larvae and nymphs (immature stages) are very abundant now. Earlier in the summer, female ticks deposited masses of several thousand eggs on the ground. Anyone unfortunate enough to stand in or to pass through such a site can easily pick up dozens (and dozens) of larvae. A sample that arrived this week contained 104 pin- head sized ticks picked off of a 4-year old.

These tiny, 6 or 8-legged creatures, also called "seed ticks, sometimes turkey mites", are most active between July and October. During this time, the larvae climb low vegetation and wait with outstretched front legs to latch on to passing animals or humans. Once "on board", they crawl around to find a suitable place to attach and feed. The painful feeding site can be irritating for days after the tick has detached or been removed.

Hikers, hunters, and persons working outdoors should be aware that seed ticks apparently are much more abundant than normal this year. Use repellents and check regularly for ticks. See ENT- 35 for more information.

Clothing repellents that contain permethrin (eg Permanone) can greatly reduce, but not necessarily eliminate encounters with ticks. These products are for clothing not application to the skin. See http:www.uky.edu/Agriculture/Entomology/entfacts/struct/ef618.htm - Ticks and Disease for more information.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

No, no, I'm not saying they don't exist as an actual creature per se, but that I suspect what is actually a growth stage of tick is being tagged as something entirely different, with a sole vector being wild turkeys.

And if this is indeed the case, which I assume it is, my next question is why outdoor enthusiasts, hunters especially-- who you'd think would be pretty well versed in what things want to dine on your hide in the woods-- would not have experienced these parasites long before the turkeys rearrived and therefore not be blaming the birds for their existence. I myself recall the frustration of picking off "seed ticks" after picking blackberries when I was about 12 years old. They were almost invisible against the skin and you watched for the tiniest of freckles that suddenly got up and walked. And then you lay awake in bed at night imagining tiny scuttlings all over your body.
Now when I come across a super small tick, I wonder if it's a deer tick or a larval dog tick/lonestar. Counting the number of legs helps if your eyes are that good. And to make matters worse, I am sure deer ticks have a larval stage too. Now that has to be small.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO FIND THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION SINCE 2002 WHEN I GOT MY FIRST EXPOSURE TO THE MITE. IT WAS JUST LIKE A CHIGGER BITE ONLY SMALLER BUMPS AND A LOT MORE OF THEM. IT WAS A RED RASH (ANKLES, LEGS , ARMPITS , PRIVATES, AND SO ON). AT AGE 43 IT WAS NOT MY FIRST TRIP IN THE WOODS. I TALKED TO A LOT OF HUNTERS AND FARMERS ,WHO ALSO HAVE HAD RECENT INTRODUCTIONS TO THIS MISERABLE LITTLE MITE. WE ALL AGREE ITS THE WORST ITCHING WE EVER HAD. WE KNOW ABOUT THE BABY LONESTAR TICKS. WHEN THEY BITE THEY BECOME IMBEDDED. I AM SURE THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE RASH. I HAVE HAD GOOD LUCK FOR 5 YEARS BY SPRAYING MYSELF WITH OFF ( INSECT REPELLANT) . THAT WAS UNTIL THE 1ST OF SEP 07 ME AND A BUDDY WENT TO MY FARM TO PUT OUT CORN AND CHECK TRAIL CAMS. WE BOTH SPRAYED WITH OFF AND WE BOTH WERE EATEN ALIVE WITH THE MITE .I DONT KNOW WHAT IT IS. BUT I KNOW WE DID NOT HAVE THIS UNTIL WE WE GOT THE TURKEY POPULATION BACK.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

It's testimonies just like yours, rsbake, that have me "scratching " my head. There IS something going on, but understanding it is not an easy thing.

Just wondering...were you mainly on trails, or were you in brush and taller vegetation?
We have a flock of wild turkeys numbering around 15 birds just off the back porch daily-they roost about 40 yards from the house- but I have yet to ever experience anything like what you describe here. I usually saturate my hiking/work boots once in a while with deep woods off, and maybe occasionally spray my pant legs, but I can even go around in shorts and not have a problem. Only when I'm picking berries or messing around fescue do I get a rash or a series of bumps and I assume then that this is just old-fashioned chiggers, which bite and fall off. When you start to feel the itch they are already long gone, so I have read.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

WE WERE ON TRAILS IN THE WOODS. IN THE PASTURE FIELDS WHERE WE WALKED THEY HAD BEEN CUT THIS YEAR AND MAY HAVE BEEN 14" TO 18" BUT VERY THIN BECAUSE ITS A TERRIBLE DROUGHT. THE FARM IS IN GRAYSON CO. KY.WE DIDNT DO ANYTHING WE HAVE NOT DONE FOR YEARS BUT THIS TIME THE DEEP WOODS OFF DID NOT WORK.WE SEE LOTS OF TURKEY (during DEER season) LIKE GROUPS OF 30 OR MORE


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

We are north of you here in southern Illinois and I know what you mean about drought. We don't have stock but our neighbors have been feeding baled hay since around the last of July and are having to buy from Minnesota. A few of our milo fields are poor enough that we have considered baling THAT as well.

If I had a chance to actually experience this mite thing personally, (I feel things crawling already just thinking about it) I think I would start by walking around the area where you got the rashes in a pair of shorts and white knee socks and then immediately go over them with a magnifying glass or a jeweler's loupe to see what's there. Or else maybe take a white bit of sheet and swish the brush and ground cover with it and then get to looking it over.
I have heard a lot about lonestar ticks, but I know deer ticks, even when they are adults, are SO much smaller than a lonestar. I'd then assume that the larval deertick is a mighty small speck, almost too small to see with the naked eye.
I cannot say that I ever encountered many deer ticks before the last ten years, or even very many lone star ticks. We only had the standard dog tick to contend with. I don't know exactly why there are now so many deer ticks, but I think it is a combination of warmer winter temps, more deer and rodents (they don't just go after the deer, contrary to their name) and general population fluctuations. Just a guess, but I know they were relatively unheard of when I was a kid.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

I am here to tell you Turkey Mites are REAL. Maybe mis-named but it is a mite. I have had a recent infestation of them through no fault of my own. I was not in the woods nor was I in high grass. I assumed, at first it was chiggers when bites started appearing around my ankles and lower legs. A week into this, frustrated and determined, I consulted an exterminator. Appears I have a case of mites, not only on me but my animals also. The culprit was my barn. Seems Wild Turkeys which passed through my field also passed through my barn. I know this to be fact because I startled them one morning coming out of it. A week later I am itching myself to death. Everytime I walk in the barn, 1,000's of little spider like black bugs are all over my arms and legs. My home also got infested along with my indoor dogs. We are miserable. My home had to be fogged, everything washed, the barn sprayed and animals all washed and treated. And to insure they are gone this has to be repeated in 14 days. My bites are still annoying me and no creams seems to help at all. Anyone got any advice it would be appreciated. I would prefer chiggers to this anyday. By the way, I live in Western North Carolina.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

AFTER EXPERIENCING THE WRATH OF THE TURKEY MITE, IT IS ALMOST AN INSULT TO HAVE PEOPLE TELL YOU IT IS A TICK. IT IS A LOT LIKE A CHIGGER BITE ONLY SMALLER BUMPS AND A LOT MORE BITES. MORE LIKE A RASH. DID YOUR LITTLE SPIDERS LOOK LIKE A TICK? DID YOUR EXTERMINATOR IDENTIFY THE LITTLE DEVILS?


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

Something is biting us! I am not a usual member of the site but have been so disturbed by my most recent encounter with the so called "Turkey Mite" that I have ended up here trying to find answers or if nothing else, relief via home remedies etc., since store bought products are less than adequate to stop this terrible itching. I would hate to tear my flesh off but every time I itch one of these many nasty bites they itch even more. I even awoke at 4 in the morning due to the itching sensation. If itching can wake me up, something is wrong. I have experienced this same situation multiple times this year but none so bad as my most recent outbreak. Before, I figured it might be poison ivy or the like since I had been wearing shorts and the bumps were delayed in appearing and were like a chigger bite but with pustules. My latest problem stemmed after a round of golf at a course here in Southern Illinois. I was wearing jeans! By the next day the bumps started to appear slowly showing up near my ankles and lower legs going as far up as my right shoulder. Now, two days later I can only assume that whatever mite it was has fallen off and I am left to suffer. I do wonder if these mites will drop off and re-infest. I washed everything the day after to hopefully prevent re-infestation, but is this sufficient? There has to be an explanation for what is going on. I have not noticed this problem before and was enlightened to the presence of "Turkey Mites" by a friend who has recently been suffering. I hope someone "in the know" reads this and posts a solution to the problem. It sounds like a good research project for a biology major in the area. If things keep going like they are, no one will want to go into the woods anymore unless it is late winter or early spring.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

What I have found is a very small tick like bug, but it doesen't act like a tick. A tick bites and latches on. These things bite and move and bite again. Turkeys seem to have something to do with it. I walked the same woods for years before they brought the turkeys in without a one. Now they are everywhere. It may be that with the turkeys there is more food to support bigger populations of them. Wish I knew what to introduce to thin them down. Turkey mites may not be the proper name for them but everyone around here knows what you're talking about. North Ohio County, KY.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

I might be bringing on some wrath here, but there simply is no known insect or bug called a "turkey mite". These are immature ticks, plain and simple.

A hatch will sit on a leaf or other surface and stay together until disturbed. Literally hundreds (thousands?) of these baby ticks will disburse on your body. You can't feel them crawling, they're simply too small. So small, in fact, that they can easily pass through your socks or almost any fabric.

They tend to burrow into your skin like chiggers. They have a powerful itch which does leave a welt and usually a tiny pus-filled spot on the top which itching busts open and a scab develops.

These are usually in woods-to-field areas, hanging on low brush or in tall grass.

One good thing to know is they do not like rainy days, so a rainy day is a good day to get out in the woods if you have to.

If you get an infestation, it's due to ticks laying eggs repeatedly in your environment. If you keep getting them, chances are you have not sprayed your shoes because this is a favorite trick of a hatch. You can get repeated bites from the hatch getting into shoes, cars, sleeping bags, couches, etc...

Yes, they are pure hell to deal with. Around here we simply stay out of the woods from July 1st until after the first frost. We have created large, mowed grass paths to get around the property. And when I say mowed, I mean about 1 inch tall grass. Southern Indiana is rife with these and it's not uncommon to see people here with several bites on their legs from these demons, usually around the ankles and knees.

As far as being related to turkey populations, I have had these for over 30 years on my place, since purchasing it. We used to have almost zero turkeys here and in the last decade the population of turkeys has increased dramatically, but the rate of tick larva has been about the same since the start.

I've asked two entomologists about "turkey mites" and they both said "No such thing exits" and said they were tick larvae. I realize the pain and suffering and insane itching (having experienced it firsthand) does make you think this is a completely separate species, but it's not.


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

It is amusing how long this conversation has been going on. The first post is from 2007. How does it keep resurfacing?!

Just for the record, I'll post my own experience with what was called turkey mites back in maybe the early 1970's. My parents raised dogs (Basset Hounds) in north central TX (Southlake). Ticks were common, but one year these poor dogs had so many of what looked like baby ticks (might have been?) stuck between their toes their feet looked very swollen. I don't remember what was done to alleviate the problem but I think it only happened one year.

Coincidentally, a domestic turkey farm had just opened up about 3/4 of a mile away. So...turkey mites or baby normal ticks? The debate will rage forever!


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

"I get many calls from people who say they have been attacked by turkey mites," says Doug Jones, integrated pest management specialist with University of Illinois Extension. "The callers would report that turkey mites were especially brutal, with hundreds of bites and severe itching that could last for weeks. This confused me because I had never heard of a turkey mite. So, I began to pour over the literature to find out the biology of this villain. I found no information about a mite that attacked both turkeys and people. So, I changed the focus of my investigation and asked anybody who got turkey mites to send in a sample. In every case, the case of turkey mites was actually the first life stage (larva) of a tick."

Here is a link that might be useful: Clearing Up the Confusion about Turkey Mites


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RE: 'Turkey mites'--myth or reality?

Excellent article, starlinka.

Thanks,
Claire


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