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.

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 :

  • detect specific hen behaviours related to PRM infestations with cameras
  • scale up the device to work in commercial farms (implement this camera technique at night)
  • develop an early warning system including a user interface  to assist the farmer in their decision making regarding PRM management
  • discuss the possibilities of the technique on farm level and sector level.
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 :

  • Optimise treatments
  • Evaluate the effect of different treatment combinations (antagonistic and synergistic effects)
  • Select the best combinations of treatments to implement  in IPM programmes on pilot farms in WP3.
  • 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.

Project presentation sheet

Mitecontrol presentation general.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) : 


Monitoring development goes to semi commercial scale !

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Mite infestations will change behaviour of the hens during night time (restlessness, agitation) . This altered behaviour can be measured by sensors (cameras) at night which will indicate the state of mite infestation in the hen house depending on the state of agitation of the hens. Hen's behaviour recording is about to start at a semi commercial scale at the Experimental Poultry Centre in Geel! Read More

Ongoing surveys

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Surveys are being conducted at the moment in Belgium, France and UK on poultry red mite infestations. The goal is to reach 30 surveys amoungst the 3 countries. First, a questionnaire with the farmer is conducted and common red mite hiding places are observed inside the building. This will alllow us to have an insight on : - what is the level of red mite infestations of hen houses - what type of equipment (for example perches) are in the hen houses and how they can provide hiding places for red mites - impact of red mite infestations on animal wellfare and performance indicators - biosecurity measures applied - treatment applied (preventive or curative) Read More

Mite sampling and surveys

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A meeting took place at Geel to coodinate experimenters for mite sampling. DNA research will be conducted on the samples to examine where and how often Poultry Mites come into contact with predatory mites that naturally occur in hen houses. Furthermore, surveys will be conducted in Belgium France and UK in May and June to obtain more insight into the current situation concerning mite infestations and control mechanisms, and to map the wishes of the farmers in poultry mite control. Read More


General description of Mitecontrol Project :


Call for farmers to participate in Mitecontrol project :

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