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Oak mites, also called itch mites are an ectoparasitic mite that lives on an insect host and can bite people. They are so small that they are hard to see, and they reproduce rapidly, which makes them hard to control.
They live on the gall of an oak tree, which is home to the midge fly. The midge fly lays its eggs on these galls, which is food for the mites. Wasps also nest and lay eggs in oaks, and they leave galls behind.
What Are Galls?
A gall is a round brown deformity that grows on an oak tree after wasps lay their eggs on the leaves, twigs, branches, or flowers. They hang like fruit or grow into the branches.
Wasps, midge flies, and other insects inject a hormone into the tree after they lay the eggs that cause the gall to form and provide a safe place for the larvae to develop. While galls don’t always create permanent damage to the tree, large infestations can kill it.
Oak mites live inside these galls on the oak trees. The gall protects the larvae of insects, but it also provides a safe place for oak mites to live and feed.
When the larvae hatch from the eggs of the insect, the oak mites feed on it. Once the larvae are fully developed and leave later in the year, the mites drop down in search of a new food source.
Male and female oak mites also breed on the galls of oak trees. The fertilized female enters the gall and paralyzes larvae from other insects, and then she feeds on it until her offspring emerges.
Oak mites can have entire generations hatch in one week, so they can multiply quickly. They will stay around the galls until they eat all of the larvae present.
How Do Oak Mites Travel?
Oak mites fall from the tree once they are out of food, or they can be blown off the tree with the wind. They can also fall with leaves when the leaves start to fall.
Late in the year, there can be a huge population of oak mites; there can be as many as 300,000 mites that fall from the tree every day.
Once the oak mites leave the tree, they can get to people and bite them. If you are raking leaves or working out in the yard, you may find that you have painful spots that itch on your upper body or wherever you have skin exposed.
They can also get inside of loose clothing.
How to Get Rid of Oak Mites
It can be difficult to get rid of oak mites, especially if you didn’t know that you had them. There can be so many of them by the end of the season that it is nearly impossible. You cannot spray the tree with pesticides because these mites live inside of the galls, and there is no way to spray inside.
There aren’t any products that will kill the oak mites or remove them from the trees, so you need to take measures to protect yourself from their bites. The problem occurs late summer into the fall when they have eaten all of the larvae in the galls, so you need to be vigilant at this time of year.
You should look at your oak trees to see if they have galls. If they do, you can be sure that you have oak mites. You will see a brown seed-like growth on the leaves, branches, or twigs of the tree.
The leaves of the tree can darken and have curled ends, and they might fall early. If you see galls, you can prune out the twigs and branches that have them with pruning shears or a small saw.
When you remove galls from your tree, make sure that you wrap them in a tightly sealed trash bag so that the mites cannot escape.
In addition, you need to rake the leaves and debris from trees with galls as soon as possible. The longer you leave them on the ground, the more likely the oak mites will travel.
Another tip is to hang bird feeders to attract birds to your yard. Birds are natural predators for the insects that produce the larvae that oak mites feed on.
You should also be sure to keep your windows closed later in the season as the oak mites are falling from the trees. Although they can’t survive inside your home on their own, they can bite you if they are carried through the window by a breeze.
When you do yard work during these times, you should wear clothing that is tight and covers you. Once you come inside, remove your clothes and wash them, and you should take a hot shower.
This will ensure that you kill any mites that may have fallen on you while you were out working.
How to Treat Oak Mite Bites
Oak mite bites are small and itchy, and the most important thing is not to scratch them. If you scratch them, you can get an infection.
You should use a topical anti-itch cream and oral antihistamines to stop the itching. If you develop an infection, you need to go to your doctor.
Oak mites are a nuisance, and they can be itchy and painful when they bite you. You need to keep an eye on your oak trees and try to prevent an infestation by taking certain steps.
If you see galls, you can prune away some of the branches. You need to make sure that you seal them in a garbage bag so that they can’t escape and travel into your yard.
By cleaning up leaves and twigs quickly, you can control how many are in your yard. You should also make sure that you wear protective clothing so that they cannot get to your skin.
Once you go inside, wash your clothes and take a hot shower to remove any oak mites that may have landed on you.
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