If you’ve had red, itchy bumps that resemble mosquito bites recently, you could be a victim of Oak Leaf Itch Mites. These small, barely visible pests were first found in Kansas back in 1994 and have become increasingly worse in the northeast Kansas area within the last 4 years.
This pest gets it’s name from the trees it’s associated with. Red and Black Oaks can house these critters, but the most common host for these itch mites are Pin Oaks. A sign that you may have these insect pests are by spotting vein pocket galls on your oak trees’ leaves (pictured right). Almost-microscopic oak leaf itch mites burrow into these growths before falling from the leaves and biting whatever they land on.
Unfortunately, there is no effective control method known at this time. Insect repellents don’t keep the bugs from landing on you, and tree sprays have also been proven to be ineffective. The general consensus is that it takes about three hours for them to settle on you and take a bite. Therefore, if you have to go near a tree you suspect to be infested, showering and washing the worn clothes immediately after is recommended.
According to Tiffany McManis, a Washburn University Nurse Practitioner, “The most important thing to do is number one do not scratch because scratching can lead to secondary infection.” If you do happen to be bitten by these itch mites, over-the-counter creams such as calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream or anti-itch creams can help with the welts.
So before you jump into that huge pile of leaves this fall in your O’Fallon or Kansas City lawn, make sure you’re not going to be regretting it a few hours later.