RIVERSIDE, Calif. With the Easter holiday season coming up soon, egg consumption is expected to rise temporarily. But are hens in egg farms producing the maximum number of eggs they can?
"Parasites such as fowl mites that commonly infest hens can reduce egg production by five percent or more," says Bradley A. Mullens, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Riverside. "One way to boost egg production is to rid the hens of these parasites."
In a research paper published online March 18 in the journal Parasitology, Mullens and colleagues argue that the chicken body louse, also a poultry parasite, can be used to effectively eradicate the mites if egg-producing commercial farms follow a simple, green strategy involving an odd twist on biological control the science of managing agricultural pests with natural enemies rather than pesticides.
The researchers propose that the lice, which outcompete or feed on mites, first be introduced into a flock of mite-infested hens so that the lice can get rid of all the mites. Then, after the facility is mite-free, the initial flock of hens (with only lice on them) is cleared from the facility to make way for the next flock of uninfested hens. Thereafter, the hens remain free of mites.
"Mites are capable of wiping out all profits from the egg production system, and, currently, egg producers never really can get rid of mites that have infested their hens," Mullens says. "Mites spread very easily and persist for weeks in an empty poultry house between flocks. Further, the pesticides used today to reduce the mite infestation not only fail to eradicate the mites but introduce environmental and health concerns. But the green method we are proposing in our paper is capable of fully eliminating the mites. Once a flock is moved out of a
|Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala|
University of California - Riverside