Much like they did last year, oak leaf itch mites are back “in full force” and are once again spreading red pinpricks and itchiness to its unfortunate victims.
According to Johnson Country Kansas State University Research and Extension Office horticulturist Dennis Patton, these little buggers are back with a vengeance, and their office has been receiving a ton of calls from residents who had been bitten.
“Here, in the last several weeks or so, the numbers are picking up,” he said, adding that mite-related complaints can rival that of last year’s unlucky outbreak.
In September of 2015, the Kansas State Extension Office in Olathe had a milestone in mite grumbles in the past decade. Patton said that “weather patterns and environment conditions” were the causes that these mites to reproduce to “epidemic proportions”.
Fortunately for Kansas City, these unwelcomed guests were silent until last year. Today however, is something that Patton described to be “another severe year for the itch mite because they found a high number of gall formations on pin and red oak trees.
Victims on the other hand, won’t notice that they are already bitten. Since they are mere .2 millimeters in size, the marks that they leave behind are hardly visible to the naked eye. Instead, the effects will come in hours or overnight. Red, rashy welts will appear, Patton added.
Another downside is that there is no viable way to control these mites or even the gall itself. Insecticides won’t be of much help, too, said Patton. They travel through the atmosphere when the wind blows, so there’s no practical way to stop this process.
To jot down at least counter, residents can either wear enough clothing to cover their exposed skin. Hats and gloves are advisable, too, especially if they are working outdoors. Also, they can use insect repellants with DEET. Either that or stay indoors.
But in case they are bitten, Patton suggested that they take off their clothes, take a shower and lightly scrub their bodies with a washcloth. This is to somewhat decrease the instance of the mites biting them.
“If you can get them off the body as quickly as possible, that should help decrease the amounts of bites that you are going to get,” he added. As a remedy, use calamine lotion or Benadryl to reduce redness and itching.
The oak leaf itch mite, or pyemotes herfsi, was first identified sometime in 2005, according to Kansan State University entomologist Bob Bauernfeind. They usually hang around gall formations left behind by other insects found on tree leaves. Here, the mites will lay their eggs while they are protected by the formation.
As the temperature grow colder, these microscopic nuisance will now hatch and exit the formation. In a span of one day, a tree could release “more than 370,000” of these mites.