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Old 01-30-2010, 03:54 PM   #1
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Default What's Bugging Your Birds?

What's Bugging Your Birds?
An Introduction to the Ectoparasites of Purple Martins
Reprinted from: Purple Martin Update 5(1): 1-7
James R. Hill, III
Purple Martin Conservation Association

Ectoparasites
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A common sight in most Purple Martin nests: a blood-engorged maggot of the blowfly, Protocalliphora splendida, attached to a growing wing feather of a nestling martin. It's not unusual for 100 to 500 of these parasitic fly larvae to be present in each martin nest. Adult female flies, which resemble shiny-green houseflies (see photo on page 3), enter a martin's nest and lay their eggs. After a few days, larvae hatch from the fly eggs, begin taking repeated blood meals from their martin hosts, and grow rapidly. After the nestling martins fledge from the nest, the maggots metamorphose into purple, football-shaped pupae (see photos below) that hatch into adult flies within a few weeks.

This article is not meant to "gross out" anyone, nor scare potential landlords away from the immensely-rewarding hobby of martin attraction. Nor is it meant to give martins a bad image as "dirty" birds. Rather, it is an attempt to educate martin enthusiasts about the fascinating and complex web of life that intertwines with the martins nesting in their yards. People need to realize that nearly ALL life forms play host to a myriad of parasites. It's a natural and normal phenomenon...
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Old 02-24-2010, 03:16 AM   #2
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There's a Mite-Away II product I keep thinking about and thinking about, FAQs. It's routinely used in bee hives. Anyone ever tried using these for control of mites in martin houses?
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Old 02-24-2010, 03:29 PM   #3
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Equil

HAZARDOUS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS

DANGER - PELIGRO

Fatal if inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or swallowed. Do not breathe vapors. Corrosive. Causes skin burns and irreversible eye damage. Do not get on skin, eyes, or clothing. Wash skin thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum or using tobacco. Remove and wash contaminated clothing before reuse.

Source:
U.S. Label

Even if you manage to put this stuff in a bird house and actually get something to live in it you have that pesky law. "It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling." This is a great example of why they want to label stuff this way. Folks have been spraying and peppering purple martin nests with Sevin for decades. They claim that it saves young purple martins from bird mites (which can kill young martins). Coincidentally (or not) there is a decline in purple martin populations across the nation. I am not trying to make a correlation between Sevin use in martin nests and the decline of the species, but I have always been a vocal opponent of its use in wild bird nests when no studies have been done to prove that it is safe to use. There are no chemicals that can be legally applied to a wild bird nest, but there is a natural product that I'll try to remember to look up that could be helpful if sprayed in compartments before nesting begins. Tobacco stems have been shredded and used to control mites and seems to have some success.

Blow fly larvae can kill an entire brood of martins or bluebirds in a matter of days. They literally drain them of blood. Once the blow fly larvae reach a large size, in large numbers, they kill quickly. Blow fly larvae have a habit that we can exploit. They feed at night and during the day they burrow down to the bottom of the nest. The blow fly season in mid-Michigan is late June and through July (maybe longer, but I'm done doing nest checks by then). If I have young bluebirds and/or martins during June and July I try to check the nests twice per week. I lift the bluebird nests gently, with the young birds inside, and sweep the blow fly larvae onto the ground where they will die. You just have to do a good job of getting as many as you can before the young get old enough to spook and fledge early on one of your nest checks. About a week before fledge date is usually close enough for your last check and getting the last of the big blow fly larvae.

If it's a purple martin nest I do a nest change. This is also technically illegal, but I do it. Two nest changes can be necessary for late broods. It only takes a few minutes and you don't have to experiment with chemicals. Because the eastern purple martin species depends totally on man to provide nesting compartments for them, I challenge any law enforcement agency to hold me responsible for changing nesting material that is infested with parasites. It's kind of like the bird nest in a kindergarten class. According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, possession of a bird's nest is illegal. I don't think that they would prosecute the teacher, but it is "technically" illegal.
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Old 02-26-2010, 03:09 AM   #4
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Beat me... I thought it was an organic product from reading what a birder said about it online. So much for a silver bullet, Formic Acid (214900) Fact Sheet | Pesticides | US EPA
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birds, blowfly, bugging, conservation, ectoparasites, ectoparasites of purple martins, martin attraction, martins, parasites, peligro, protocalliphora splendida, purple martin, purple martin conservation association, purple martins, purple martinsbird, sevin, symbiotic, symbiotic relationship

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