Yes, the oak mites are out in Kansas, and they are wreaking havoc in backyards all over the area.
We’ve gathered some tips from the Illinois Department of Public Health to help you get rid of them. But, first, we want to give you a few tips if they are bothersome around the pool.
Oak Mites Around the Pool
While the best remedy for oak mites is winter and a hard freeze, there are some things you can do to around your pool to make the situation liveable.
First, shock your swimming pool, and then use BioGuard Backup per the label instructions.
While there isn’t a chemical remedy per say, some pool owners say this works for them.
Now let’s look at what you need to know about oak mites.
What are itch mites?
Itch mites are microscopic insect-like creatures. You can’t see them with the naked eye.
There are several different kinds of itch mites in the United States. One type, the oak leaf gall mite, is believed to be responsible for outbreaks of human bites in 2004 in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas.
The mite feeds on the larvae of a small fly (midge) which forms a brown and crusty shell on the edge of an oak leaf (known as a gall).
Can people be bitten by itch mites?
While the oak leaf gall mite feeds on midge larvae, they may accidentally bite people when looking for food.
Mites usually stay on your body for about four hours before they bite you.
The mites drop from the trees onto your body once they lose their regular food source from the tree’s leaves.
Oak leaf gall mites are so small they can float on the wind and even pass through window or door screens and loosely-woven clothing.
How will I know it bit me?
You may notice red welts that look like chigger bites on your neck, face, arms and upper body.
These bites are not usually on your legs because they drop from the trees.
The itch mite welts form into a pimple-like lesion after about 12 hours. The bites are very itchy and can be present for up to two weeks.
What should I do if I’ve been bitten?
Don’t scratch, because scratching can lead to an infection.
Try over-the-counter topical anti-itch creams and oral anti-histamines to control itching. If all else fails, contact your doctor.
What can I do to prevent being bitten?
- If you see brown and crusty edges on oak tree leaves, be aware that mite activity is possible. Don’t sit under oak trees or on nearby lawns.
- If you are in an area where itch mite associated rashes are occurring or nearby oak trees have brown and crusty edges, do the following:
- Keep windows shut from August through October when “mite-showers” can occur.
- Remove clothing each day and launder. Take a warm, soapy shower after coming indoors, especially after gardening, raking leaves or performing other outdoor activities.
Does DEET help?
DEET and other insect repellents may not work since the mites only bite people when they accidentally fall on them.
Can itch mites live in my home?
No, in order to survive, itch mites need to feed on insect larvae, which are usually found on the inside of tree leaves.
If the mites come from oak trees, should the trees be sprayed or removed?
No. Chemical sprays aren’t effective because mites feed on insect larvae inside the edge of leaves.
Removal of trees is not necessary because these mites are not likely to be a problem every year.
Photo credit: SurFeRGiRL30 via VisualHunt / CC BY