With the summer cooling down and fall quickly approaching, alien looking creatures, microscopic in size, but numbering in the tens if not hundreds of thousands, are lurking for a variety of insect hosts to parasitize and humans to bite. Scientifically classified as Pyemotes herfsi, this microscopic and ectoparasitic mite is more commonly known as the oak leaf gall mite or oak mite for short.
As you can see from the photo above, oak mites look like microscopic aliens ready to attack, and their bites don’t feel good. Although their bites are not life-threatening, some individuals have been shortly hospitalized after suffering anywhere from 100 or more bites. First discovered in central Europe in 1936, they have since been recorded in some for off places such as Egypt, Australia, Czechoslovakia, India and the United State.
Unbeknown to most, oak mites are a serious problem. Not only are they microscopic in size, measuring in at about 0.2 millimeters, but they reproduce quickly and are dispersed rapidly by the wind. All of which makes oak mites practically impossible to control. Moreover, one wouldn’t even know when they’ve been bitten, until the resulting itchy rash ensues, some 10 to 16 hours after contraction.
I’ve been told the painful welts caused by their bite feels like a cross between a chigger bite and a bee sting. You’ve got the worst of both. Itchy, painful and swollen welts caused by a bite you couldn’t even feel. This time of year, you’ll see countless individuals sporting the hard, acne like welts/blisters on their face, neck, upper torso and arms, throughout USP Leavenworth. Which coincidentally neighbors Kansas City, Kansas. The location of the first reported oak mite outbreak in the United States back in 1994.
Worse yet, another outbreak in August of 2004 is Crawford County, Kansas, effected 54% of the population, according to the United States Center for Disease Control. That’s 19,000 people! All victims of these darn ectoparasitic mites. Additionally, the wind has allowed them to spread far and wide. Take it from Johnson County and K-State Research and Extension Agent Dennis Patton.
“This is a completely windblown insect and that is another key point to this. It’s just the luck of the draw. We just happen to be out into nature and they are just blowing through the wind and they land on us and their natural instinct is to feed and reproduce,” said Patton. To make thins even worse, Patton said you can’t spray to kill the oak mites, for they hide in the ridges of oak trees.
Also, once you get bit and a rash develops, there is no remedy to stop it. Just whatever you do, don’t scratch it! Or you’ll be totally screwed. Otherwise, it will continue to spread or might cause a bacterial infection. Since the early 2000s, humans have been affected in the neighboring states of Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska, and much farther states like Ohio, Texas and Illinois, All I know is that oak mites do not play around! These are some real nasty critters.