Best lizard to have as a pet
Mites, like ticks, are eight-legged bloodsucking organisms. They carry and transmit diseases from one reptile to another. The mite species found infesting reptile hosts are unlikely feed on non-reptilian hosts. However, it is due to their ability to use non-reptiles as a form a public transportation that cause reptile keepers to inadvertently infect their own collections with mites.
Ticks are commonly found on wild-caught reptiles or captive bred reptiles who have been thrown in with wild-caught reptiles or kept separate but not properly quarantined. Ticks are larger than mites and, once they are locked into the reptile's skin and are feeding on blood or digesting a meal, they don't move around much. Mites are tiny and metamorphose through several stages, some of which are non-feeding morphs. Mites are highly mobile and may be found roaming around from place to place on the reptile and in the reptile's environment. Depending on the species of mite, they may be black, bright red/orange, or the color of old, dried blood.
A wild reptile is infested with mites and ticks but, being in its native environment and subject only to the rigors and stresses of an environment into which its species has adapted over millions of years, the ticks and mites present no problem. When a snake or lizard sheds its skin, it also sheds its mites and ticks. While it may eventually become host to another couple of mites or ticks, it isn't forced, as is a captive reptile, into contact with its own shed nor with the hundreds or thousands of mites replicating all through its enclosure and neighboring enclosures...and the carpet, drapes and any other cozy spot found by roving mites.
A captive reptile is under stress from the moment it is captured or boxed up for transport. The stresses and generally unsanitary conditions found in the pet trade are, in and of themselves, unhealthful for the animals involved. Add external parasites to the mix and you have animals who are further weakened. The mites may be tiny, so small that they may be easily overlooked, but they can be dangerous. Watch for them when you are at pet stores buying your reptile or supplies for your reptiles (wood products are favorite hiding places for these pests). Watch for them when you are at the homes of other reptile keepers. Watch for them when you are at reptile expos and swapmeets (most are no better than, and often worse than, pet stores in the way the animals may have been maintained). And watch for them when you handle animals at herp society meetings or when students bring in their own reptiles to share with the class.
On lizards, reptile mites can usually be found roaming the body, tucked under the edges of scales and congregating around the eyes, ears, tympanic membrane and any place on the body where the scales are thinner. On snakes, the mites will generally be tucked under the overlapping or projecting edges of scales, around the eyes, and in the heat pits. If you can see them from about three feet away, or your hand comes away with several mites on it, then you have a severe infestation. Reptiles who are moderately to severely debilitated may require fluids and nutrient supplementation to help restore fluid balance and provide energy for rapid recovery.
Mites and Chiggars...oh my!
In the Prostigmatid mites are two families, the Ophioptidae, inhabiting the underside of snake scales, and Cloacaridae, commonly found in the cloacal mucosa of aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles. There are two species of Clacaridae found in North American reptiles: C. faini in the snapping turtle, and C. beeri in the painted.
Chiggars mites are actually the larvae of the Trombiculid mite, another very common ectoparasite of the squamata. We tend to think of larvae as being legless grubs, like mealworms and maggots, but chigger mite larvae have six legs which enable them to move around their meal (the snake or lizard) and the greater environment. The larvae are red and frequently seen in aggregations on the reptile, preferring the cozy folds of skin, especially in the folds around the hip and arm joints, but also in the recessed areas around dorsal crests and dewlap and eyelid folds.
Why Mites Are So Hard To Kill
Another reason it is so hard to kill them is that they spend a lot of their non-feeding and reproduction time in tiny moist crevices, both on the reptile and in its enclosure. At any one time, you will have mites in several different life stages in your reptile's enclosure and on its body. The stages, and the time it takes to morph to the next stage at certain temperatures, are:
The protonymph will morph into a deuteronymph in the time indicated only if it finds a blood meal soon after it molts. If it does not, it can survive without a meal for 15-19 days before dying of starvation.
Since reptile enclosure temperatures fluctuate from their daytime gradients to their nighttime gradients, the time between morphing may be prolonged.