To assess their potential to control poultry red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae), we tested selected predaceous mites (Androlaelaps casalis and Stratiolaelaps scimitus) that occur naturally in wild bird nests or sometimes spontaneously invade poultry houses. This was done under laboratory conditions in cages, each with 2–3 laying hens, initially 300 poultry red mites and later the release of 1,000 predators. These small-scale tests were designed to prevent mite escape from the cages and they were carried out in three replicates at each of three temperature regimes: 26, 30 (constant day and night) and 33–25 °C (day-night cycle). After 6 weeks total population sizes of poultry red mites and predatory mites were assessed. For the temperature regimes of 26 and 33/25 °C S. scimitus reduced the poultry red mite population relative to the control experiments by a factor 3 and 30, respectively, and A. casalis by a factor of 18 and 55, respectively. At 30 °C the predators had less effect on red mites, with a reduction of 1.3-fold for S. scimitus and 5.6-fold for A. casalis. This possibly reflected hen manure condition or an effect of other invertebrates in the hen feed. Poultry red mite control was not negatively affected by temperatures as high as 33 °C and was always better in trials with A. casalis than in those with S. scimitus. In none of the experiments predators managed to eradicate the population of poultry red mites. This may be due to a prey refuge effect since most predatory mites were found in and around the manure tray at the bottom of the cage, whereas most poultry red mites were found higher up in the cage (i.e. on the walls, the cover, the perch, the nest box and the food box). The efficacy of applying predatory mites in the poultry industry may be promoted by reducing this refuge effect, boosting predatory mite populations using alternative prey and prolonged predator release devices. Biocontrol success, however, will strongly depend on how the poultry is housed in practice (free range, cage or aviary systems) and on which chemicals are applied to disinfect poultry houses and to control other pests
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