Poultry Red Mite (PRM), Dermanyssus gallinae, pose a substantial threat to the egg production industry worldwide. It is particularly prevalent in North-West Europe with more than 90% of farms likely affected by the parasite, accounting for an estimated loss of €360 million annually. The mites feed on the blood of hens which can have severe health and welfare implications including increased stress, anaemia and weight loss. The mites are also reservoirs and vectors for several bacterial and viral poultry diseases such as Salmonella spp. and E. coli spp.
Treatment of PRM presents a number a challenges, not least because many of the acaricides which the egg industry has traditionally relied upon to control PRM have been withdrawn from European markets or banned. The development of resistance to acaricides and the rising prevalence of PRM means there is an urgent need for alternative, non-chemical based control strategies.
The MiteControl project aims to develop effective and sustainable non-chemical treatment methods to control PRM infestation using an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. This will include the development of an innovative camera based automated PRM monitoring system (precision livestock farming) as an early warning system to alert farmers that treatment is needed, and the improvement of non-chemical treatment products specifically; biological control with natural predators, essential oils-based products and a vaccine.
Through developing and improving these methods the project aims to reduce the use of chemical treatments on laying hen farms, improve hen health and welfare, increase productivity and meet consumer demands for healthy foods.
The project will bring together multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills from across Europe to jointly develop, test and improve IPM programmes. As the leading UK partner, ADAS will be responsible for running pilot farm trials in the UK and collecting data across multiple farms to access the risk of resistance to the treatments. Research in laboratory and semi-commercial experiments will also be carried out by partner organisations in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
For more information about the project, please visit the project website or contact Jon Walton in ADAS’s Livestock team.
ADAS would also like to thank The British Free Range Egg Industry Association, The British Egg Marketing Board Research and Education Trust and Noble Foods for helping to fund this work.