Nothing is more disheartening to a reptile keeper than finding that peculiar looking round dot moving around on his or her favorite pet snake. The immediate response is to say ugh and squash the tiny little bastard. Unfortunately this rarely solves the problem because where there is one tiny snake mite there are sure to be many more snake mites hiding in the nooks and crannies of almost any cage or enclosure. Here are some methods that have worked for me over the years.
Keeping snakes on paper
The first thing most people do when confronted with snake mites is to get rid of all bedding and wash the enclosure clean of all debris where a mite can find shelter. The best solution is to keep animals in a glass enclosure or on a PVC plastic rack and have the bare minimum in the cage. This prevents the snake mites from hiding in any of the rough surfaces that would be found in a wooden enclosure or wood based beddings. Common snake mites feed on snakes but need to lay their eggs somewhere and the less opportunity they have for this the better your chances of eradicating them.
Washing your snake with soapy water
The next step is to kill the mites that or on your snakes body. They can usually be seen hiding in the space between the snake’s eyes and scales as well as the deep folds under a snake’s mouth. Trying to dig mites out one by one is a long and pointless process and will result in irritating the snake and spreading the mites elsewhere. Bathing the snake in a lukewarm solution of water and dishwashing soap or olive oil is the easiest way to coat and suffocate these tiny parasites. Another good product is the baby shampoo used for treating head lice known as Rid or Nix.
Treating the snake cage and bedding for mites
After removing all porous surfaces from the snake cage or enclosure and washing everything in a bleach and water solution it is good to use paper as bedding for the duration of the battle against mites. You can also use a spray insecticide like Provent-a-mite to keep the snake mites from coming back as well as killing the ones you haven’t seen. The average life cycle of snake mites is around two weeks so in order to fully eradicate them you have to do the process in three stages spaced 5-7 days apart. By keeping this routine you will make sure that any hatchling snake mites will not make it to adult size and continue the mite to egg process.
Like fleas on a dog, getting mites on your snakes is inevitable. Just remember that it’s not the end of the world and if you take the right steps you can have the problem solved in two weeks’ time. At xyzReptiles we have a procedure in place that involves treating all snakes that come into our facility for mites followed by regular screening of the animals there. Finally we make sure that the bedding in the bags are sprayed to act as a final barrier against mites. It is important to note that some Asiatic Rat snakes are extremely susceptible to damage or death from pyrethrin exposure. This is the active ingredient in most mite sprays so please read the back carefully and if you are unsure contact someone who knows what to do.