MiteControl - Ensuring food safety, animal health and welfare standards


Project Summary

The poultry red mite (PRM), Dermanyssus gallinae, is a major threat to the egg production industry worldwide and in the North-West European region in particular. The prevalence of PRM is extremely high and increasing; more than 90% of the farms in NWE are infected, causing economic losses of over 100 million annually. Red mite infestations pose serious animal health, welfare and public health concerns, and affect the productivity of the egg industry.


Treatment of PRM is very challenging for farmers as only a few products are licensed for use during egg production and first stages of infestation are difficult to detect and to treat. A sustainable IPM approach is needed to decrease chemical treatment, ban illegal treatment (and avoiding future fipronil-like crises), increase animal health and welfare and economic benefits and meet consumers’ demand for healthy food (eggs with less pesticide residues).


MiteControl builds on recent research activities and conclusions of the COREMI–network and aims to develop, test and demonstrate an innovative automated monitoring technique (smart digital farming), necessary for an early warning system to alert farmers that (extra) anti PRM treatments are needed. Through transnational cooperation, MiteControl will bring together multidisciplinary knowledge and skills needed to jointly develop, improve and test innovative promising treatments, included in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes that can be applied on farms directly. Three IPM programmes will be implemented and demonstrated on EPC and 10 commercial (pilot)farms across NWE resulting in low infestation levels and reduced negative effects on production, animal health and welfare.

MiteControl will develop a communication strategy for the entire egg producing sector to raise awareness and change behaviour of poultry farmers so that IPM programmes will become the standard sustainable approach to control PRM infestation in NWE and beyond.

Project Partners

Name Contact Name Email Country
Koppert BV Alejandro Vargas Navarro avargas@koppert.nl Netherlands
Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 Lise Roy lise.roy@univ-montp3.fr France
Institut Technique de l'Aviculture Geoffrey Chiron chiron@itavi.asso.fr France
KU Leuven Tomas Norton tomas.norton@kuleuven.be Belgium
RSK ADAS Ltd Jon Walton jon.walton@adas.co.uk United Kingdom
Belgabroed nv Erik Hoeven e.hoeven@vervaekebelavi.be Belgium

Mitecontrol is a European research project to develop effective and sustainable treatment approaches to control PRM infestation using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. The project is divided into three main work packages.

Engorged mite, credit photo : ©L. Roy - Université Pail Valéry Montpellier 3

Work package 1 : Developing an automated monitoring and decision support system

Routine monitoring of any pest species is key to guiding pest control decisions and monitoring the efficacy of these measures.  Visually monitoring red mite however is challenging as the mites hide in cracks and crevices. Often if the mites can be seen, their numbers are already too high and it may be too late to treat them effectively. As a result, it is necessary to use specific monitoing methods that can give more information than the human eye. Current monitoring methods commonly used are passive traps (not attractive) that are displayed in the hen house. After their blood meal, mites use the traps as a hiding spot. The number of traps has to be sufficient and controlled frequently (collecting, scoring and replacing) in order to have a proper idea of the mite population's dynamic. But this can be time consuming and challenging for farmers to fit around other husbandry tasks. The aim of this work package is to develop an animal based automated monitoring system to replace these traps. Mite infestations can make the hens become restless and agitated during the night. This altered behaviour can be measured by sensors (cameras) at night which will indicate the degree of mite infestation in the hen house depending on the state of agitation. In order to develop this monitoring tool, the workplan will be to : (1) detect specific hen behaviours related to PRM infestations with cameras (2) scale up the device to work in commercial farms (implement this camera technique at night) (3) develop an early warning system including a user interface  to assist the farmer in their decision making regarding PRM management (4) discuss the possibilities of the technique on farm level and sector level.

PRM effect on hen's behaviour

The goal is to develop an algorithm that puts in relation level of PRM infestation with hen's nightime activity. For that purpose, the following actions are undertaken : 

  • Video recording of small group of hens with different types of sensors
  • (2D and 3D cameras)  to detect certain behaviors based on infrared and depth data. 
  • Mite monitoring in the environnment of the small groups of hens to compare hen's activity during night and PRM populations
  • Literature review of different behaviors in layer hens. After data analysis, behaviours that can be detected by an algorithm will be made. 
Work package 2 : Improvement of non-chemical treatment uses

One of the major challenges of IPM is to manage pests by minimizing the use of synthetic insecticides/acaricides. Traditionally farmers have relied on chemical methods to control red mites. The use of preventive measures and non-chemical treatment approaches offer an alternative which is more environmentally friendly. The objective of this WP is to gather scientific information in order to optimize the use of ‘non-chemical’ treatments, individually or in combination, and in such a way as to maintain efficiency over the long term. Emphasis is placed on commercially available ‘non-chemical’ treatments: predatory mites, vaccine, plant-based feed additives (including repellent substances), electrified perches (there is a small electrical current running through the barriers with which the hens cannot come into contact, but is lethal for red mite on their journey towards the hens).

Expected results:

  • scientific bases to help optimize the integrated use of recently developed PRM control methods (links with WPT3)
  • scientific bases for anticipating and managing resistance, in order to guarantee sustainable control by new methods (links with WP Long term effects)

Three groups of tasks

  • Looking for the most voracious predatory mites from farms
    • Organizing fights between mites in miniature arenas to compare between predator populations the average number of PRMs they can kill. We confront predators taken from farms to have the maximum chance that they are well adapted to the farming conditions.
    • Genotyping mite predators to distinguish the different predator species and state identify the most promising ones (mites are very difficult to distinguish even under the microscope; some species require biotechnological tools to be distinguished).
  • Testing compatibility between ‘non-chemical’ control means. PRM does not live on the hen and is an integral part of the poultry house ecosystem. Many ecological factors can affect the effectiveness of control, including positive or negative interactions between predatory mites and other treatments.
    • Estimating the toxicity of plant-derived products on predatory mites by in vitro tests
    • Assessing the synergistic or antagonistic effect of treatment combinations using an experimental system mimicking a portion of a henhouse
  • Assessing the risk of emergence of resistance to plant-derived products. While resistance to pesticides has been widely studied in insects and mites, the study of resistance to repellents* is still in its infancy. We are embarking on the adventure to optimize the use of plant repellents against PRM in the long term.
    • Measuring sensitivity to plant-derived compounds using olfactometric tests to see how it varies between populations
    • Determining whether less sensitive populations can be obtained by growing them in the presence of plant-derived compounds to see if less sensitive phenotypes are inherited.

*Any anti-pest product can more or less quickly encounter resistance phenomena. The populations of pests are composed of individuals more or less sensitive to treatment. Under the effect of treatment, less sensitive pests reproduce more than others. As a result, treatment becomes less effective as is well known with bacteria and antibiotics.

Work Package 3 : Developing and trialing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies

The aim of WP3 is to develop efficient Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies against the poultry red mite and to encourage their application on layer farms. Integrated Pest Management is a way of controlling pest species in agriculture to reduce economic losses, and this in a sustainable way. It is a holistic approach where different steps are combined to prevent and control pest infestation and to reduce the use of chemical pesticides. These steps include: prevention of pest introduction (e.g. by hygiene and biosecurity measures) monitoring of the pest population start treatment after a certain threshold of the pest population (based on the monitoring) focussing on non-chemical treatments (e.g. plant-derived products or natural enemies) only using chemical treatments as a last resort, when the non-chemical treatments appear to be insufficient to control the pest avoiding resistance emergence against certain treatments a good evaluation of the IPM strategy.  With this approach, the total amount of chemical pesticides used is highly reduced and therefore the impact on the environment as well. In WP3, IPM strategies will be composed based on a literature study of what is currently available for different IPM steps, surveys executed on farms to map the current and desired future according to the farmers, and the results of WP1 (monitoring) and WP2 (non-chemical treatment combinations). Three IPM strategies will be selected that are applicable for farmers, 2 for conventional farms and 1 for organic farms. These approaches will be tested in commercial conditions on 12 pilot farms: 4 in Belgium, 4 in France and 4 in the UK, with a focus on different housing systems. In the end, an economic evaluation of the IPM approaches will be done based on the efficacy, costs, work load, and pesticide reduction.

 

IPM approaches

 

Monitoring

Two monitoring tools will be used during IPM trials : 

  • Ricksticks (PVC tube + woodstick ) : a fast method, not very precise (scoring from 1 to 4) that will be used frequently in order to act quickly if necessary
  • Kartonnetjes (PVC tube + corrugated cardboard ) : labour intensive and precise method (count of actual number of mites) which will be used less frequently but will give more information on mite infestation

 

Pre IPM flock

It is advised to start the empty period with as low as possible PRM infestation. Therefore in case of moderate to high infestation levels, it is advised to clean parts of the house where there are clusters of PRM with water and brown soap. 

Empty period

During the empty period, the henhouse should be cleaned thoroughly. This means dry cleaning the facilities at first, followed by a thorough wet cleaning with hot water and soap and finally a disinfection. Studies illustrated that using soap eradicates a lot more mites than using water alone. Be caredul that the cleaning products don't interfere with preventive treatments (for example, do not use silica or insecticide if you plan to use predatotrs). For the cleaning of the house, the following steps should be followed : 

  • Remove manure
  • Remove all clustered manure residues (scraping) 
  • Dry clean house
  • Clean with compressor
  • Clean heat exchanger
  • Dry clean hen house second time 
  • Clean ventilation duct
  • Clean aeration tubes
  • Clean manure belts 
  • Clean central manure belts
  • Clean egg belts with high water pressure
  • Remove all dirt from the house 
  • Clean whole house with steam cleaner
  • Let everything dry 
  • Clean manure container/pit
  • Disinfect after drying

 

Pullet delivery

Mites can easily be introduced to the farm through the delivery of pullets.  At time of delivery of the pullets, crates need to be checked for presence of mites and pullet rearer should be contactec to check if he had issues with PRM.

Management actions during lay 

To help prevent the introduction and growth of the mite population, management actions should be carried during the laying period. These measures include :

  • Biosecurity : Implement appropriate hygiene measures for staff and external visitors, use disposable or clean egg trays and specific measures for multi-houses farms.
  • Flock management actions : remove frequently hard crusts of manure, dust, egg debris on egg belt and manure from manure belt and scapers. Temperature should also be kept below 19°C
  • Environment : Have an appropriate pest-control, pets kept away from the vicinity of the henhouses and vegetation cover kept low close to the hen house

 

Preventive treatments

In Mitecontrol project, 3 combinations of preventive treatments will be tested : 

  • Predatory mites + vaccine
  • Predatory mite + water tank additive
  • Silica + water tank additive

Each strategy has specific protocols to put in place.

 

IPM actions in response to rising mite populations 

 In response to PRM monitoring data from the traps, actions will be undertaken. The actions increase in intensity, as the numbers of the mites increase and the ‘thresholds’ are passed, in an effort to control mite population growth : 

  • 1st threshold – low mite infestation : When mites are first seen (visually or in either one of the traps), frequency of monitoring of carboard traps is increased and management actions are intensified
  • 2nd threshold – medium mite infestation : when 4 or more Rick sticks contain mites for 3 successive weeks OR 1 or more Rick sticks have a score of 3 or 4, frequency and/or dosage of preventive treatments is increased and visible agregates are removed with brown soap + water
  • 3rd threshold – high mite infestation : If the average number of mites in the cardboard traps reach 1000, another treatment will be applied (for example silica) and afterwards, preventive treatments will again be administered
  • 4th threshold – very high mite infestation : In the case that, despite all former actions, either: 

    • remains high for too long  
    • the mite infestation has become too high 
    • the 3rd threshold has been reached too often (too many applications of silica necessary) 
    • the 3rd threshold has been reached again soon after treatments have been undertaken 
    • any other cases that compromise hen welfare and/or production parameters 

      Emergency actions  need to be taken (e.g. the use of chemicals). 

 

Work Package Capitalisation

The initial project focuses on the control of PRM in BE, FR and UK on layer farms, with extra communication in NL. The capitalisation initiative aims to reach new sectors: breeding reproductive hens (which supply 1day old chicks for broilers and pullets) in BE (2,1 million birds at 122 farms) and NL (5,8 million at 230 farms) and rearing (future laying hens that are reared from 1 day to 4 months of age) in FR (19 million at 450 farms) and BE (3,8 million). PRM infestations are equally present in these farms. Controlling PRM infestations in rearing will reduce the transfer of PRM to layers. Housing types and legislations are different in the subsectors so optimisation/adaptation is possibly needed. The work on PRM genetics will be expanded to the new target groups which will improve the durability of the tested IPM programmes. By expanding our demonstration area, more farmers will be reached and will become aware of the advantages of using IPM, including cameras, to control PRM. Using the current partnership, the findings of the initial project can be disseminated over the new areas and the new insights gained by the capitalisation will be applied in the initial sectors. German and Irish AP will support knowledge exchange for these regions. The newly formed working group of poultry applied research institutes will enable the uptake of results during the project and after the project end. Expansion of the network with research centres from other NWE or EU regions will be encouraged. Also, a knowledge exchange platform will be started between the different sectors: rearing, layers and broiler breeders. This will increase the spillover effect from one subsector to another. UPVM3 participates in French research groups on biocontrol and its unintended effects, including resistance to repellents. This will ensure that information gathered will be added to the knowledge base on the subject. The project will use the results to improve the image of the poultry sector

Developing IPM strategies in a new sector: rearing farms 

IPM strategies will be applied in 4 rearing farms in France and 2 in Belgium to reduce the risk of transmission of PRM to hen houses. Relevant housing types for this region will be selected.

Implementation of IPM in new sector: broiler breeder farms

Optimised IPM programmes will be implemented on 2 broiler breeder pilot farms in Belgium and the Netherlands given the different housing system compared to layers. 

Communcation

Communication will be expanded to the new sectors (rearing and breeding farms) and new regions. Activities will include digital channels in case of a degraded sanitary situation.

 

 


Check out the video on poultry red mite !

https://youtu.be/bOXUXb1Og5Y


Look our video on monitoring the poultry red mite

https://youtu.be/fDjQG1YZcuo


More information on non chemical treatments in this video!

https://youtu.be/XAdPiCyFV4w


IPM strategies explained in this video!

https://youtu.be/svyn5fwZTOE


Project presentation sheet in English

Mitecontrol presentation general.pdf


Project presentation sheet in French

VF_Mitecontrol présentation generale.pdf


Project presentation sheet in Dutch

Mitecontrol presentation general_NL.pdf


Mitecontrol flyer (Dutch)

MiteControl_Flyer.pdf


Download litterature study on IPM applied to the poultry red mite

review IPM Decru et al 2020.pdf

 For more information on red mites and IPM strategies :

Project COREMI : Improving current understanding and research for sustainable control of the poultry red mite dermanyssus gallinae (English, COST)

Wageningen University and Research webpages and related to the poultry red mite and IPM strategy (Dutch) : 

Pre IPM flock mite monitoring

In order to evaluate the success of IPM strategy, a PRM monitoring is done on the pre IPM flock using carboard traps (PVC tube with corrugated carboard inside). 48h after set up, the mites inside the trap are collected and brought to the lab. The mites are put in a petridish and an informatical photoanalysis in order to determine the number of mites in the trap.

Credit photo : Experimental Poultry Center

 Credit photo : ITAVI

Pre IPM flock : hot spot treatment

It is advised to start the empty period with as low as possible PRM infestation. Therefore, at the end of the previous flock, parts of the house where there are clusters of PRM should be cleaned with water and brown soap. Bellow, parts of perches and ventilators have been cleaned with a praying device containing brown soap + water.

 

 Credit photo : ITAVI

 

Empty period

During the empty period, several importants steps need to be undertaken for and effective IPM strategy. After a thorough wet cleaning of the building, some preventive treatments can already be applied : a first release of predators or an application of silica depending on the strategy applied (the two treatments are uncompatible). Also, we set up monitoring traps just before the hens arrive. Two traps are used, the cardboard trap presented above and a second monitoring tool : the Ricksticks. Although less precise, it is more adapted for farmers since it is easy and quick to use.

 

Wet Cleaning 

Credit Photo : Experimental Poultry Center

 

Predator release : according to the rearing system, the release can be either scatered by hand or bottles containing predators are hanged in the house.

 

Credit photo : ITAVI

Credit photo : Experimental Poultry Center

 

Silica application : mixed with water, it is sprayed in the houses and sticks to the equipment !

Credit photo : Experimental Poultry Center

 

The Rickstick : an easy to use and cheap trap

Credit photo : Experimental Poultry Center

Credit photo : Van Emous and Ten Napel

 

Pullet's arrival

 

At pullet's arrival, delivery crates are checked for mites with cotton swabs (that are to be checked at the lab). Furthermore, preventive treatments are given : feed additives or predators.

Credit photo : ITAVI

News


Capitalisation proposal approved

Posted on

Mitecontrol project partners submitted an application end of january for capitalisation call initiative which just got approved ! The objective of this program is to maximise the impact of Mitecontrol by adding on to the target group by applying the IPM programmes for rearing (1d old chick to pullet) and breeder farms (parent stock broilers and layers) and expand communication to new regions through Associated Partners in Germany and Ireland. This will allow more farmers in NWE and beyond to apply IPM (+ camera monitoring), to control PRM and optimise animal health and welfare, food safety, reduce productivity losses and waste throughout the entire poultry sector. Read More


Events


Camera4Poultry on Poultry

, UK, BE, FR

An innovative camera system is currently being developped that aims to follow-up poultry red mite infestation in barns automatically in relation with birds restleness at night. In order to identify other issues where the camera technology could be of help, a survey and workshops are currently being launched in UK, Belgium and France to identify which issues currently exist in the laying hen sector, and which of them could be solved with a smart camera monitoring system.
Read More


Scientific publications

General description of Mitecontrol Project :

 

Call for farmers to participate in Mitecontrol project :

 

Scientific Congress :

 

Social media : 

 

Look for us on Twitter and Linkedin with #MiteControl !!!

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