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 Netherlands
Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 Lise Roy France
Institut Technique de l'Aviculture Geoffrey Chiron France
KU Leuven Tomas Norton Belgium
RSK ADAS Ltd Jon Walton United Kingdom

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

Traditionally farmers have relied on chemical methods to control red mite. The use of preventative measures and non-chemical treatment approaches offer an alternative which is more environmentally friendly and less prone to the development of resistance.  The aim of this work package is to improve existing treatments and test new treatments : Predatory mites Complementary/Mineral feed 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) Vaccine  The workplan is to : (1) Optimise treatments (2) Evaluate the effect of different treatment combinations (antagonistic and synergistic effects) (3) Select the best combinations of treatments to implement  in IPM programmes on pilot farms in WP3. (4) Assess the risk of resistance emergence to formulate recommendation for anti-resistance strategies

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



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). 


Check out the video on poultry red mite !

Look our video on monitoring the poultry red mite

More information on non chemical treatments in this video!

IPM strategies explained in this video!

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

 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


IPM farm trials : first step pre ipm flock treatment

Posted on

IPM strategies trials have begun in the pilot farms. 3 strategies are being tested : drink water additive + predatory mites, drink water additive + silica and vaccine and predatory mites ! Some actions have been undertaken on the previous flock (before the trial flock). It is advised to start the empty period with as low as possible PRM infestation. Therefore parts of the house where there are clusters of PRM have been cleaned with water and brown soap. Read More


Project partners and subpartners

Strategic associated partners

PLF associated partners

Long Term Effect associated partners

Poultry stakeholders associated partners

Veterinary associated partners

General description of Mitecontrol Project :


Call for farmers to participate in Mitecontrol project :


Scientific Congress :


Social media : 


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