Snake mites are tiny black parasitic insects that live by sucking the blood of reptiles. The best way to prevent mites is to wash your hands before and after handling, as well as disinfecting any supplies you buy secondhand with bleach. But if you think your snake has them, roll up your sleeves — you’re in for a long haul. But with diligent effort, you can get rid of the little bloodsuckers for good.
- tiny black dots around eyes, ears & vent
- tiny black dots on shed skin
- tiny black dots on hands after handling
- ash-like “dust” (mite poo) on scales
- poor hygiene
- contamination from another reptile
First, give your snake a Betadine bath. Fill the tub or sink with 80-85°F (27-29°C) water. If your python has a tendency to drink in the tub, wait until s/he is done before adding Betadine (povidone-iodine) to the water, enough to turn it a light tea color. Using your hand or a small cup, pour the bath water over the snake, being sure to get in all the nooks and crannies the mites might be hiding in. Water flushes them off, while the Betadine disinfects the bite wounds. If your snake defecates at any time during this process, drain the tub, clean it, and then try again.
Once your snake has been rinsed off, remove him/her from the tub. Soak a soft cloth in diluted Betadine and gently wipe him/her all over. Think like a mite—where would you hide? For the eyes, nose, and ears, use a cotton swab soaked in the Betadine solution. Wait 10 minutes before rinsing.
Cleaning the Enclosure
1. Dispose of all substrate.
2. Vacuum out the tank in the corners and under the lip along the top edge. If the enclosure is made of wood or ungrouted melamine, scrape the corners and then vacuum again. This will get any hidden eggs, mites, or mite poo.
3. Wash it out with hot, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly.
4. Wipe down with a strong Nolvasan (generic: chlorhexidine) solution or 1:30 (1/2 cup per gallon of water) bleach solution. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then rinse until you can’t smell it anymore.
5. Disinfect cage decor. Wood and rocks can be baked in a 200-250 degree oven for 2-3 hours. Large decor must be soaked in a 1:30 bleach solution for 8 hours, rinsed, and then soaked in plain water for another 4-6 hours. Dry thoroughly (preferably in the sun). Plastics can be rinsed out with a hot bleach-water solution.
6. Wipe down light fixtures. Use a cloth dampened with disinfectant to thoroughly wipe away any mites that may have wandered in.
7. Fumigate. Place a pesticide strip or cat flea collar inside the enclosure, then close and seal it up with plastic wrap and painter’s tape. Close off all gaps! Let sit for about 3 hours — longer for large enclosures.
8. Vacuum and wipe down surrounding area around the tank. If there are curtains/blinds behind the tank, you may need to get those professionally cleaned. If you have other reptiles housed nearby, check them thoroughly and pray that the mites didn’t spread.
9. Air out tank. Dispose of the pesticide strip and expose the tank to open air. If possible, take it outside. If not, open a window and turn on a fan.
10. Set up tank with minimal furnishings. That way you’ll have less to clean later if the mites come back. Also use paper towel as substrate so you can see remaining mites more easily.
11. Return the ball python to its tank.
If the mites persist, consult your reptile’s veterinarian.