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Poultry farming: Environmentally friendly method for controlling red mites

Abstract

Red mites are the most common ectoparasites of poultry and cause substantial economic damage worldwide. Scientists at the University of Hohenheim have developed a method to combat red mites which utilizes the fact that the mites are sensitive to heat and that the parasite only visits the host at night for feeding and then hides in dark spaces near the host. The method presents hollow, perforated perches as appropriate hiding places where mites in all states of development are killed through thermal treatment. Because of the purely mechanical nature of the process there is no health risk for personnel. Since temperature and speed of the heating device are regulated by a PLC (programmable logic controller), farm workers are free to carry out other tasks while the treatment takes place.

Background

Red mites are the most common ectoparasites of poultry and cause substantial economic damage worldwide. In the EU alone there is an estimated yearly damage of 130 million Euros.
With high infestation of red mites not only the birds but also the farm workers are affected. The mites induce skin irritations and itching and also contribute to the development of allergies in humans (Mul et al., 2009: World`s Poultry Science 65:589 -599).

Problem

Because the parasite rapidly develops resistances against insecticides the long-term effect of current chemical treatment methods is not sustainable. Using silica dust is effective but has to be repeated frequently and can be detrimental to the health of both birds and farm workers (potential development of silicosis).
In several countries, the chicken houses are heated to 60 °C for 2 hours or to 45 °C for a longer period following depopulation. However, the heating of the entire barn to these temperatures requires a lot of energy, and to be efficient, this treatment has to be combined with an acaricide treatment.

Solution

Scientists at the University of Hohenheim have developed a method to combat red mites on poultry which utilizes the fact that the mites are sensitive to heat and that the parasite only visits the host at night for feeding and then hides in dark spaces near the host.
Since laying hens in particular prefer staying on perches during the night, perches have traditionally been designed in such a manner as to offer no hiding places. The present method in contrast, presents perforated perches as hiding places where all states of development are killed through thermal treatment.
The perches consist of a hollow metal or plastic tube with a series of small drill holes through the tube wall. Within a short time, the red mites accumulate within the region of these small openings. When the heating device which is the subject of this invention is moved through the inside of the perch, the mites are killed by the heat.
Both temperature and speed of the heating device determine the effect of the treatment. According to first experience the mites and their eggs are destroyed with a temperature set at 150 °C and a speed of 10 cm/sec.
This exposes the mites to a temperature of around 100 °C over a period of 1 to 2 s. Under these conditions, a perch of 100 m length is treated within 17 minutes. The surface temperature of the perch does not noticeably increase so that birds are not affected even if they remain on the perch during the treatment.
The temperature and speed of the heating device are regulated by a PLC (programmable logic controller). Therefore farming personnel is free to carry out other tasks while the treatment takes place. An automated shut down stops the process in case of failure of the regulation system.
In smaller poultry houses, i.e. on mixed farms or fancy breeders, the equipment can be installed with a fixed temperature and the heating device can be moved through the perch manually.
All components necessary for the implementation of this invention are commercially available and can be produced using existing technologies. This contributes to the expectation that the final user should be able to amortize the equipment within about one year.

Figure 1: Mite path: The mites occupy the hollow perches starting from the holes
Figure 1: Mite path: The mites occupy the hollow perches starting from the holes
Figure 2: Dead mites after heat applicationFigure 3: Drive of the heating deviceFigure 4: Perch, quartz lamp (in operation at a tempera-ture of 150 °C) and clamping fixture

Advantages

  • No development of resistance
  • Treatment during the laying period without any risk of residues in the eggs
  • Amortisation of the installation within 12 months
  • No health risk for personnel
  • Time saving compared to traditional methods
  • Low installation and operational costs
  • Simple fitting to existing hollow metal or plastic perches
  • Application in commercial production, fancy and breeding stocks

Application

Controlling red mites on poultry.

Exposé
Contact
Dr. Frank Schlotter
TLB GmbH
Ettlinger Straße 25
76137 Karlsruhe | Germany
Phone +49 721-79004-0
schlotter(at)tlb.de | www.tlb.de
Development Status
Prototype
Patent Situation
EP 2642848 B1 granted,
DE validated
Reference ID
09/097TLB
Service
The Technologie-Lizenz-Büro GmbH is charged with the commercialisation of this technology and is now offering suitable enterprises licenses for the use of this technology.