Last Updated on September 17, 2021 by Grow with Bovees
Oak trees are well known for their majesty. They lend their stark beauty to the stunning autumnal landscapes, with their leaves turning into multiple shades of yellow, orange and brown.
Despite their beauty, it might be quite annoying to have one close by as they are home to some pesky little parasites called oak leaf gall mites.
The Oak leaf itch mite is a greater nuisance to humans than to trees as they can get onto your skin or clothes and bite your skin, causing redness and rashes.
What Are Oak Leaf Gall Mites?
Oak leaf mites or oak leaf itch mites are tiny parasites that are almost invisible to the naked eye. They are about 0.2 mm in size and feed on the larvae of insects that live in oak trees.
They are usually seasonal and are a more common occurrence in the autumn when the leaves start falling, releasing these pesky parasites into the surrounding area.
Oak leaf itch mites were first discovered in Kansas, USA in the autumn of 2004. Since then, they have been found in several other parts of the country and in other locations like Australia, India and Europe.
How Do Oak Mites Travel?
Oak leaf mites feed on the larvae of the galls on oak tree leaves. These larvae are exhaustive, so once they get depleted, the mites have no more reason to stay on the tree. They may either fall off the tree, fall down along with the leaves in the autumn or even just get blown by the wind.
Once they are off the tree, they can get onto nearby shrubs or plants and even latch onto human clothing and travel with them. As they are very tiny, they can easily float about in the air and travel with the wind.
Oak Leaf Gall Mite Control
Spraying the oak trees with insect repellent sprays might keep the female oak mites from laying their eggs, but if the galls are already produced, these sprays aren’t effective.
There is no perfect solution to control the spread of oak mites. While commercially available insect and bug repellents might help you to a certain extent, it is better to stay away from oak trees in the autumn and winter.
If you do venture around oak trees, once you get home, you can immediately take a hot shower and wash your clothes to get rid of any parasites that latched onto you.
How To Protect Against These Pests
To gain protection from these tree pests, it is recommended that you can call your local pest control experts or arborists to come and check out the problem for you.
Another alternative could be to contact a local garden care company and inquire if they have experience in the matter.
Where Do Oak Tree Itch Mites Come From?
Midges, wasps and many other are gnat-like insects lay eggs on an oak tree. Along with the eggs, they spray a hormone on the leaf which causes the leaf to form abnormal growth inside which the larvae will hatch.
These are called “galls” and are made of leaf-like substances. These galls are very tiny and are only visible when they form larger clusters.
Oak leaf itch mites continue to feed and reproduce within the galls as long as they have food from the larvae of the eggs.
They reproduce in large numbers in very short periods and outnumber the insect eggs in the trees very quickly. Once they run out of sustenance from the larvae, the gall mites latch onto any nearby shrubs, bushes, or even humans, in their search for other sources of food.
Can Oak Mites Get in Your Home?
Oak tree mites are parasitic, so they can tag onto your body and clothes and be brought into your home. They are also light enough to float freely in the air. So if there is an infestation nearby, you can expect these to enter your home through the doors and windows.
The mites can also attach themselves to your clothes or body, thus traveling back home with you. This can easily happen while spending time outdoors in the yard or garden in the vicinity of oak trees.
Keep a lookout for gall clusters or midges flying around in the trees nearby. This can give you an early indication of the infestation so you can prepare for their active period in the autumn.
Can You Spray Your Yard or Home for Oak Tree Itch Mites?
If you have an oak tree in your yard and if the mites have already laid their eggs, there really isn’t much you can do about it. The galls will be formed around the eggs, which will nest the mites within.
But you can still take measures to prevent the oak mite from laying their eggs in the first place. There are certain bug sprays available that can keep oak mites from laying their insect larvae in your trees.
These sprays should be used every 30-60 days. The treatment should start after spring, when the new leaves have grown in and should continue until August-September, just before autumn.
How to Treat Oak Mite Bites
Though oak mites are known to feed on insects, when their food source gets scarce they search for alternate hosts to feed on. They can even bite humans who are in close proximity. The bites are itchy, painful and cause rashes that look similar to bed bug rashes. The rashes appear within a couple of hours of the bite.
To treat oak mite bites, you can apply calamine lotion or over-the-counter hydrocortisone on the affected area, much the same as treating chigger bites. You can even take oral antihistamines to reduce the itch and redness. If a larger area is affected, take an oatmeal bath by adding a cup of oatmeal to warm water. This soothes the skin and reduces rashes.
Bug repellents can keep insects away, hence reducing the chances of oak mites biting you when they drop from oak trees.
While this isn’t a surefire way to keep oak leaf itch mites away, you can still reduce the chances of them growing on a tree in your yard or garden. However, no measure can keep you safe from air-borne mites that might enter your area from nearby trees and gardens. A quick shower every time you spend time outside might help though!