Recently a customer brought a small jar into the Flyte so Fancy shop with a question as to what the small brown crawly insects were that they had found in their chicken coop during their weekly clean.
The small grey-ish crawly things were quickly identified as the pestilential poultry predator, the Red Mite. It was not red as it had not had a chance to feed, the blood drawn giving it it's distinctive red colour.
Sensing a rare opportunity, I quickly grabbed my Dictaphone, set up two chairs and the obligatory pitcher of water, tested the sound levels for my interview, and settled in to ask the hard questions, a la Jeremy Paxman guest-hosting Countryfile.
Good Day Mr Red Mite, thank you for joining us.
You are of course a red mite. Getting straight to it, perhaps you could start by telling us a little about your upbringing. Did your descent into crime against hens start at an early age or was it a conscious decision?
Can I just clear something up that has been bugging me (pardon the pun) for quite some time now, Red Mite and Red Spider Mite are completely different things. Those harmless garden bugs have nothing on us parasites!
Well to begin with I was an egg for around three days, which was certainly pleasant enough. When nesting conditions are just right though, we Red Mite can go from being laid as an egg to hatching in around three days. Interestingly we can go from egg to chicken biting adults in just seven days, meaning we can fill a hen house nice and quickly when we want too. Pretty impressive I think you'll agree.
Indeed, and I heard an interesting fact the other day that you can survive without eating blood for a considerable time.
100% true. About 8 months.
Incredible, a red mite can survive eight whole months without feeding and I can’t make it past breakfast! So, your eggs are laid, and then you live in the cracks and crevices of hen houses? It is of course common knowledge that you Red Mite enjoy the warmer weather but how can I tell if you're staying the night in my coop?
Well we're not particularly morning people, and I'm murder before I've had a coffee. Hate the daylight. But we're usually pretty easy to see first thing as we make our way back to the crevices, especially when we're filled to the brim with nice red blood.
Also, if you see a build-up of grey dust in your coop, that's probably us. We love a party but we're not usually one for cleaning up our detritus after ourselves. Of course, if your hen is looking lethargic, it’s probably because I've been enjoying a gourmet dinner. Sometimes we have such fun the hens just stop coming back into the coop at night and after a while anaemia can set in for some birds but we just keep going.
And is there anywhere where I should look for you specifically?
Oh, well we like to be cosy, so under perches and in perch sockets. Some of us prefer to hide in the dust of the floor of the coop and in the joints, but we're never far away. Never have been one for a long commute.
Interesting, you clearly take a great deal of pride in your work. But I wonder, if I may, to enquire about fame? How has it changed you? You are not of course the most popular of insects?
Well it’s hard to compete with ladybirds that's for sure.
Understandably, they are adorable. Maybe you could tell us a little more about any abuse, verbal or physical, that you might have suffered?
Well, firstly, are the Red Mite Liquids. Horrid stuff. Your Flyte Mites and your Total Mite Kills. Tsunami waves that not only destroy the organic matter we live in but when it comes into contact with our hard outer shells causes dehydration and death. Very unfair!
So, you think this is unfair treatment?
Well, I guess it’s nowhere near as bad as what follows. Darned Diatomaceous Earth. After our homes have been washed away, this terrible powder is sprinkled all over the coop. It might just look like powder to you but to us it is giant very sharp crystals to us that scratch and scrape away our protective shells.
I have recently heard of successful tests and uses of hen house fumers recently.
Those are completely against Red Mite Rights, and I have heard of populations up and down the country completely decimated by these pesky red mite killers. No escaping the fumes you see.
Just a few final questions to wrap things up. Do Red Mite live on humans?
No, but I might have a bite if you're passing.
I've heard plastic hen houses prevent red mite. Your thoughts?
Oh I'm happy to hang my hat anywhere if there is somewhere to hide. Plastic hen houses can get quite hot and humid which we all love living in.
Well a fascinating guest, thank you for your time. Perhaps you can just give us a hint at your next big project?
I'm sorry no. Sworn to secrecy. Ask me back next year!
A fascinating interview there with a Mr Red Mite. We're currently trying to book a parasitic worm for next week. His agent is holding us up on price though. Typical!
Thanks for Reading