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Holy Hay Mites, Batman!

Cheryl <> said:

> I have some ? about the "hay Mites". Have never heard of anything like

Until three days ago, I had never heard of them either.  (And I've been
horses for 34+ years!)

> Have you actually seen these mites?

Yes.   "Mites" are in the same large family as spiders and ticks.  They are
basically bloodsucking parasitic little creatures who live in a wide
of habitats and come in a wide variety of sizes.  From what I have been
able to find out so far, the hay mite lives in hay.  They are smaller than
the head of a pin, I'd guess around .5 mm, and dark brown or black.  When
you see them they look like a speck of dirt until they start crawling.  I
seem them on me, but I have seen them on a grain bag that was under
a bale of hay protecting it from the dirt.  Like ticks, they go through
complete metamorphasis life stages.

The cute thing I found out about hay mites by doing a web search
is that they have been implicated by some Icelandic researchers as the
carriers of the neurological sheep disease scrapies, and the possible
transfer vector of sheep scrapies to cattle that resulted in the infamous
"mad cow disease."  Oh lovely.

> Has anything been diagnosed a vet or ag. specialist?

No.  The diagnosis came when my barn manager talked to the hay
supplier and was told, "Oh yeah, we're getting calls from everybody.
Everybody is complaining about that.  They are hay mites."   The
fancy dressage barn around the corner had them in the spring and
most of what I know comes from talking with their barn manager.
A check at the local harness track (Plainridge in Plainville, Mass)
proves that they have broken out there as well.

> Could this be from bedding?

This isn't clear to me.  The fancy dressage barn manager I talked to
said that, once hay mites have infested an area, they can be
transferred on almost any surface, including bales of shavings.

> Are both horses and people affected?

The horses don't seem to be bothered at all.  The people are suffering.
The bites are much worse than, say, a mosquito bite.  They itch just
as much, but they last much longer--as long as 14 days or more.
(Evidently the adult mite may actually be depositing eggs in the bite.
Yuck.  Like "Alien"!)  Moreover, when you scratch them they seem to
create a large circular red splotch (2"+ diameter) and then begin to
become a zonal irritation that resembles nothing so much as
poison oak.  Half the barn is on prednisone.

Our barn manager was nearly over hers.  Then, she helped unload
two bales off the truck from the dealer on Tuesday and Tuesday
night her abdomen was covered with at least 15 new bites.  That's
when the phone lines really started humming.

> Did this start with a new shipment from the same grower, or a different
> What does your supplier have to say?

We don't know.  Nobody I have talked to has talked to the hay dealer
in that great a detail.  Come Saturday, I am going over there to have a
long talk with the dealer myself to see what they have to say.  The
dealer is Ferestien's in Foxboro, Massachusetts, who is one of the
largest hay suppliers in southeastern Massachusetts and who generally
have an excellent reputation for providing high quality hay, usually
imported from Canada.  As always, the picture is just slightly clouded:
almost all the hay comes from this one dealer, but there is hay from
other suppliers as well.  And just taking the hay back may not be
enough.  The horrid little blighters may have already laid eggs and
could easily become a chronic problem.

Linda B. Merims
Massachusetts, USA

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