Oak Mites bring the opposite of delight

Oak Mite Bites
Oak Mite Bites

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Red itchy dots on your arms and the upper body are an issue once again in Northeast Kansas.The problem of oak mites has returned for a second year in a row.

They are just barely visible insects to the human eye. The little oak mites live in the leaves of oak trees around Topeka and the rest of the Midwest. They were first found in Kansas back in 2004 but they have gotten worse in recent years.

Oak Mites have become worse in the northeast Kansas area in the last 4 years.

“It becomes a problem when the numbers erupt and there is larger numbers,” Dr. Rodrigo Mercader, Washburn University Asst. Prof. of Biology said.

“I noticed just a couple weeks ago that they were back after I had been working in my yard especially in tall grass and things like that trying to pull weeds. I had numerous bites,” Cindy Evans said

The large numbers reside primarily in pin oak trees. The oak mites feed on larvae inside of galls on leaves during the summer then we start to notice them.

Gall opened up with Oak Mites
Gall opened up with Oak Mites

 

“In the fall is when they start coming out and falling onto us,” Dr. Mercader said. “They are in the leaves but we just notice them in the fall.”

The oak mites fall from the leaves on to people, especially when doing outdoor chores. Then the oak mites leave bite marks which resemble a pimple.

“I just know that they are really annoying they are larger than a mosquito bite,” Evans said. “They are itchier than a mosquito bite and there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about them.”

Oak Mite Bites
Oak Mite Bites

The lack of things to do about the pesky insects have people like Cindy Evans changing the way she is doing simple tasks.

“If I have be out working in the yard I may be working after dark so i can wear a long shirt or a jacket or even something around my neck,” Evans said.

The increase of Mites hanging out on trees even leads to advice if you are bitten by one of the pests.

“The most important thing to do is number one do not scratch because scratching can lead to secondary infection,” Tiffany McManis, a Washburn University Nurse Practitioner said.

But sometimes that advice isn’t always easy.

“I just know it is going to be real annoying because they are a lot itchier than a regular bite,” Evans said.

Doctors say if you do get bitten by oak mites make sure to use cortisone cream to stop the itching. Health officials say to avoid staying under infested oak trees to prevent being bitten.

You can tell a tree is infested if you can see a gall on a leaf. They also recommend washing clothes after exposure to a bite.

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