What are those little white bugs crawling around on my ball python and its tank you ask? Could they in fact be…MITES!? Yep, you guessed it, they are mites but before you go off on the deep end pulling your hair out and running around frantically in circles, take a deep breath because it’s not actually as bad as it seems. Wait a minute Ron, I’ve read your previous blog entries where you talk about mites and how bad they are and now you’re telling me that I’m freaking out for nothing? What gives???
A mite is a mite is a mite, right? Well, that’s not entirely accurate, which is why I decided to expand a little bit more on the topic of mites. More specifically, the infamous “white” mite that many people will cross paths with at one point or another. Mites are actually a “group” that belongs to the class Arachnida under the subclass Acarina. Spiders actually belong to the class Arachnida as well. Do you recall the 1990 film, “Arachnophobia”? It was an American horror-comedy film about deadly spiders.
There are over a thousand species belonging to the Arachnida family or class having different functions or tasks they partake in. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not all bad. Mites can be detritivores, predators, parasites and herbivores. We don’t like reptile “parasite” mites when it comes to ball pythons because as their name implies, they parasite or feed on reptiles - snakes included of course. I won’t go into detail on reptile mites in this blog because I’ve talked about them and other parasites in greater detail in a previous blog. You can use the search feature on the right-hand side of this page to find it. I’m going to talk about those white bugs or better put, those white mites that you may have seen crawling on your ball python and in its tank.
Meet the “Wood Mite”
Those white colored mites you see on your ball python and crawling around in the tank are wood mites. Unlike reptile mites (black/brown/red mites), your ball python is completely safe from them because they feed on decomposing wood, not reptiles.
You’ll oftentimes bring wood mites home with you when you buy wood based substrate for your ball python (aspen, bark, etc). You can find them moving slowly over the wood in the cage, near the water bowl and on your ball pythons fecal matter as well. Although they pose no harm to your ball python, they should be placed under control or eradicated because they can expand their colonies very quickly. I’m sure you’d rather not see little white bugs crawling all over your ball python, regardless of whether they’re harmless or not.
Some members in our ball python forum have posted methods for sanitizing wood in the oven and microwave. I strongly suggest that you go to our forum and read the threads before attempting any of these methods because they can both be dangerous if done incorrectly. Provent-a-Mite and Black-Knight are two popular products used to eradicate mites, including wood mites and the evil parasite “reptile mite”. There are some non-chemical alternatives posted by members in our ball python forum that you can possibly try as well. And believe it or not, you can actually fight fire with fire! There is a "predator" mite named “Hypoaspis” (Pronounced: hype-o-asp-iss) that will seek and destroy other mites - including wood and reptile mites - and they too pose no harm to your ball python. Once all the mites are found, destroyed and consumed by Hypoaspis, they ultimately die off for lack of food.
Ignoring wood mites or eradicating them is completely up to you. We have many threads in our ball python forum from contributing members discussing this topic so if you’re not a member, go to our forum, sign up and get involved in the discussions.
Until next time…
Thanks for your help
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