The toxicity of a range of plant essential oils to the poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae (De Geer) (Acari: Dermanyssidae), a serious ectoparasitic pest of laying hens throughout Europe and elsewhere, was assessed in the laboratory. Dermanyssus gallinae may cause losses in egg production, anaemia and, in extreme cases, death of hens. With changes in legislation and consumer demand, alternatives to synthetic acaricides are needed to manage this pest. Fifty plant essential oils were selected for their toxicity to arthropods reported in the literature. Twenty-four of these essential oils were found to kill > 75% of adult D. gallinae in contact toxicity tests over a 24-h period at a rate of 0.21 mg/cm2. Subsequent testing at lower rates showed that the essential oils of cade, manuka and thyme were especially toxic to adult D. gallinae. The toxicity of the seven most acaricidal essential oils was found to be stable at different temperatures likely to be encountered in commercial poultry housing (15°C, 22°C and 29°C), although results suggest that humidity and dust might influence the toxicity of some of the oils tested. The toxicity of clove bud essential oil to D. gallinae, for example, was increased at high humidity and dust levels compared with ambient levels. The results suggest that certain essential oils may make effective botanical pesticides for use against D. gallinae, although it is likely that issues relating to the consistency of the toxic effect of some oils will determine which oils will be most effective in practice.