All it took was a few baby chicks and a carpeted floor, and soon Jane Ishka, a San Francisco Bay Area homesteader, literally felt her skin crawling. She–and her house, her car, and all of her belongings–had been infested by the red poultry mite, Dermanyssus gallinae. Driven from her home and bed by the biting and itching, Jane used her scientific background to figure out what was wrong, and most importantly, how to fix it.
Told as a scientific detective story, “Year of the Mite” begins with a handful of adorable chicks moved temporarily into the family room. Jane’s mother had always warned her not to touch bird’s nests, and soon her arms were blotchy with bites. Borax, mite traps, diatomaceous earth… none of the usual remedies did anything. More research convinced her that, contrary to what was taught in 4-H, bird mites could infest people, and that they were terribly hard to get rid of once established. It took her a year to figure out a combination of treatments that worked, and it is this long and itchy story that she shares with readers, including the stresses on her family life brought about by the ongoing infestation and the drastic steps necessary to cure it.
A great read for fans of science, for aspiring homesteaders, and especially for those who have had their own encounters with nearly invisible infestations.