My quarantine rack got mites about 2-3 months ago. I happened to have both a BEL and an Ivory in the rack, so it was very easy to see the mite progression and impact of treatment.
Because I use pretty expensive The BioDude substrate seeded with isopods and pothos (which I strongly suspect has benefits for immune health, hence use even in a quarantine rack), I was averse to doing the cleaning regimens often recommended for mites - throwing out substrate, sterilizing tubs, spraying Provent-a-Mite, laying paper towel until the mites were gone, etc. I wanted to see if I could control the infestation without losing my bioactive investment, even though the substrate was conducive to mite growth.
Reptile Spray was worthless. I applied it thoroughly using paper towel on multiple occasions across the first few weeks without seeing a single scaled mite release or die. In addition, applying it to clusters of nymphs that were gathering on one snake’s neckline didn’t even seem to have an effect. The infestation continued to grow and spread across the rack.
To me this wasn’t much of a surprise, given the active ingredient and gymnastics associated with common instructions - it always seemed likely that the thing clearing the mites was more the obsessive cleaning than the surfactant/laxative. I’ve never seen good research on the claim that Docusate kills mites by disrupting the exoskeleton. In addition, research on other animals suggests very low toxicity except in high concentrations over long periods.
Enter Frontline spray. Fipronil is a well understood insecticide - it has high specificity to insects and low dermal absorption. Most toxicity observed in research outside of insects seems associated with ingestion. Because of this, snake collections seem to handle the chemical well.
The stuff proved pretty hard to find…I live in LA and the only pet store carrying it was charging 300% retail for a bottle - literally $150. My reptile store told me to just do the Reptile Spray gymnastics instead (leery eyes and big frown ). Amazon had long delivery estimates, so I ordered a bottle from a store in Louisiana.
Most videos and posts I saw recommend two treatments spread across 7 days - first a rub down, and then a lighter follow-up spray. After my first spray, I noticed mites leaving scale spots within a day. After about three days, there were no mites left on my white snakes.
I didn’t even bother with a second treatment - the chemical is a little sticky so I could tell that some residue still remained on the snakes after a few days, and I reasoned that even one week without source food was probably sufficient to collapse the infestation. More than a month later, 0 mites.
This difference in these products is night and day. In one case multiple direct applications had no effect on visible mites…and in the other, I was able to get rid of a growing infestation in a dense bioactive substrate with a single spray on the food source.
Given the absurd efficacy and apparent tolerance in snakes, I’m really surprised that Frontline isn’t the standard stocked product by now.