Red mites revealed beneath roofing felt
We made a disturbing discovery over the weekend. We moved our hens out of their house and set them up in their new home, then dismantled the old shed which had housed them for years. As we lifted the roof off the shed, the roofing felt peeled back to reveal some worrying grey deposits. As we peeled the felt back even further, we began to see little red spots amongst the grey -
It was clear that we had stumbled on an infestation of red mite.
Often, the best giveaway sign of a red mite infestation is the accumulation of grey ash under roofing felt, in wooden cracks and at the ends of perches. The ash is actually red mite droppings, and some pretty large quantities can build up over just a short time.
Wherever the roof felt had been pinched close to the wood by tacks, clusters of red mites were hanging out together. Despite being totally disgusted by the whole thing, we managed to have a close look and saw that amongst the bigger red adults, there were also plenty of smaller mites which were beige with dark markings. Presumably, these were the younger mites, or were mites which hadn't fed on blood recently.
The mites were very keen to get away, and they all vanished deeper into the roofing felt. They are extremely fast and agile, and it wasn't nice to find that a few of them had got onto our clothes in no time at all. We took the entire old hen house to pieces and burnt it outside the hen run.
The most important thing now is to make sure that the survivors (because there will inevitably be survivors) don't try and colonise the new hen house. Luckily, we have a few tricks up our sleeves...