- How to Identify and Treat Mite Bites
- WHAT IS AN OAK TREE ITCH MITE? ^
- WHERE DO OAK TREE ITCH MITES COME FROM?
- CAN OAK TREE ITCH MITES INFEST YOUR YARD OR HOME?
- CAN OAK TREE ITCH MITES GET IN YOUR HOME?
- CAN YOU SPRAY YOUR YARD OR HOME FOR OAK TREE ITCH MITES?
- HOW TO SPRAY INSIDE THE HOME FOR OAK ITCH MITES
- Those red bites on your arm might be Oak Mites
- How Can I Prevent Oak Mite Bites?
- Oak Tree Gall Mites: Learn How To Get Rid Of Oak Mites
- What are Oak Leaf Mites?
- Oak Mite Control
MYSTERY BITES: Insect and Non-Insect Causes
- STARTING THE INVESTIGATION
- THE INSPECTION
- SOURCES OF IRRITATION
- Obscure Biting Pests
- Fig. 4: Bed bugs should always be considered a possibility in mystery bite investigations.
- Fig. 5: Dish-shaped traps can be placed under beds and sofas to help monitor for bed bugs.
- Fig. 6: Fleas generally bite low on the leg, whereas bed bugs attack any exposed skin.
- Fig. 7: Lice cause itching and irritation but are easy to diagnose.
- Fig. 8: Mites infesting birds and other animals sometimes also bite people.
- Fig. 9: Mites infesting a bag of pet food.
- Fig. 10: Chigger bites produce hardened welts that itch intensely.
- Non-Pest Irritants
- Fig. 11: Cardboard, fabric and insulation fibers can cause irritation mistaken for insect bites.
- Fig. 12: Methamphetamine and other psychostimulant drugs can cause symptoms that mimic insect bites.
- Fig. 13a: Delusions of parasitosis patients often submit numerous samples for identification.
- Fig. 13b: Self-inflicted scratches and scarring may also be evident.
- MYSTERY BITE QUESTIONNAIRE
- How to Deal with Oak Mites
- What are Oak Mites?
- How to Avoid Oak Mites
- How to Treat Oak Mite Bites
- Why you may be itchy this autumn and how to beat oak mites
- Backyard Blogging.
- Oak Mites Around the Pool
- What are itch mites?
- Can people be bitten by itch mites?
- How will I know it bit me?
- What should I do if I’ve been bitten?
- What can I do to prevent being bitten?
- Does DEET help?
- Can itch mites live in my home?
- If the mites come from oak trees, should the trees be sprayed or removed?
- Related posts:
How to Identify and Treat Mite Bites
If you want to find out exactly what bit you, sticky traps or tape can sometimes help you trap the culprit. Specific characteristics or symptoms of your bite can also help you find out what type of mite you’re dealing with.
Chiggers live outside in cracks in the soil, generally in damp rural areas with tall grass and vegetation overgrowth.
Only chigger larvae bite humans. They feed by injecting saliva that dissolves your skin and sucking this product back up. If you don’t remove them from your skin, they may keep feeding for several days.
It’s common to get chigger bites on your:
The bites form red welts within a day, and these welts eventually harden and become inflamed. Chigger bites are often extremely itchy, but try not to scratch, as scratching may lead to infection and fever.
Scabies mites need a human or animal host in order to live. They burrow into your skin, where they lay eggs. They’re very contagious and can easily pass through close contact.
With scabies, you may not experience any symptoms for several weeks, but eventually, rash-like bumps and blisters will develop along the folds of your skin, including:
- between your fingers
- in the bend of your knees and elbows
- around your waist, breasts, or buttocks
- around male genitals
- on the bottom of your feet, especially in children
Itching associated with scabies is often severe and can become even worse during the night. Scabies require medical treatment, so it’s important to follow up with your healthcare provider if you think you have them.
Two main types of Demodex mites live on your body. Demodex folliculorum, or the hair follicle mite, generally lives in hair follicles on your face. Demodex brevis more often lives on your neck or chest.
You can’t see these mites without a microscope, and they often don’t cause symptoms. But for some, they may cause:
- itchy or scaly skin
- increased skin sensitivity
- burning sensation
- skin that feels rough like sandpaper
You may be more likely to notice skin issues and other signs of this mite if you have a weak immune system. Research also suggests higher numbers of Demodex may contribute to or worsen existing facial skin conditions, such as rosacea, androgenic alopecia, or facial dermatitis.
Bird and rodent mites
Rodent and bird mites typically live in nests and on animal hosts. If their host dies or leaves the nest, however, they may also bite humans.
You may feel a small sting when they bite and eventually notice:
- extreme itching
- a rash
- skin irritation
These mites usually feed on small flies that live on oak leaves, but they can drop from trees and bite humans. This happens most often in late summer. Oak tree leaves with crusted brown edges can indicate oak mites. If you see these leaves, avoid sitting or working under these trees.
Oak mite bites leave red welts, usually on your face, neck, or arms. These welts are often mistaken for chigger bites. In 12 hours or so, the bites turn into bumps that look like pimples and are extremely itchy. You may have multiple bumps that form a painful rash. These bites may last for as long as two weeks.
Straw itch mites
These mites live in stored grain, hay, or seeds, as well as trees and leaves. They usually prey on insects but will also bite humans. However, they don’t remain on your body after biting you.
You’ll usually encounter these mites if you sit or walk under the trees they live in or lie down in leaf piles. They commonly bite the shoulders and neck and leave red marks that itch and may appear to be a rash.
WHAT IS AN OAK TREE ITCH MITE? ^
Oak tree itch mites are small microscopic mites which feed on midge larvae. Most common on oak and red oak trees, these microscopic mites cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be a real problem to people.
Itch mites use a range of insects for food and in general don’t conflict with man. But the oak leaf gall mite (aka: itch mite) is one that has come to light in recent years as a significant pest.
This mite was first identified in 1936 and since then has been the cause of several outbreaks of skin dermatitis around the country. In most cases the outbreak is in direct relation to the local midge population but has been linked to other insects like periodic cicada’s. Although the mite typically targets midges, it will take advantage of what’s abundant and plentiful.
Outbreaks typically happen in the fall but can occur anytime from spring to winter. Outbreaks are the direct result of galls breaking open which in turn releases the mites.
“Galls” can be seen above (to the right) and can look different from tree to tree. Basically a gall is tree leaf growth that encompasses the eggs being laid on it. So the gall is actually a plant growth but inside the gall is where the host insect and oak mites reside.
Inside the gall, developing insects will cause leaves to “brown” and wither. This damage can be subtle and in general, it won’t hurt the tree. At some point in late summer or the fall, galls will open to release the developing insect. When this happens, the mites are released too.
WHERE DO OAK TREE ITCH MITES COME FROM?
As explained above, when midges lay eggs on an oak tree, the tree will naturally grow a “gall” over the eggs. Galls are typically small; for the midge they’re barely noticeable except when you find clusters like the picture above, to the right. For this reason its hard to notice you have an active infestation but there is one big clue.
Trees harboring the host midge will have small “gnat” like flies hovering around and under the tree canopy. These “gnats” are actually midges and you’ll really start to see them in September through the end of the year. Most noticeable after a rainfall, in warm climates you’ll find them hovering around acorns as they drop to the ground. But on any sunny day, especially around sunset, its common to see swarms above ground. These swarms are typically seen a few feet off the ground to 20-30 feet up in the air. This is sure sign of an active midge population and though the midges don’t bite, the parasitic itch mite which feeds on the midge is not so harmless.
Also referred to as the “oak leaf itch mite”, they become airborne when galls break open and this seems to happen the most in the fall and winter. When galls open, the mite becomes airborne and can end up on people which in turn can lead to pruritic dermatitis, bites, welts and discomfort.
CAN OAK TREE ITCH MITES INFEST YOUR YARD OR HOME?
No. Itch mites need a specific host and that host is typically a small insect. They also need a strong tree or shrub on which to reside inside a gall. And though they can cause a big problem when they release into the air, they usually don’t do this all year so for the most part, the problem with oak mites will begin in the fall and end as winter arrives. But in warm climates, the problem can last several through the winter and only seems to go away when the oak tree leaves finally fall off and new foliage begins to grow.
CAN OAK TREE ITCH MITES GET IN YOUR HOME?
Yes. Since they can float in air, the most common way into the home is on your clothing but they can also enter through a door or open windows.
Typical oak tree itch mite problems will start in the spring and then by fall, galls will start to pop which in turn release the mites. Its for this reason the fall seems to be the “worse” time of year and when they’re most active.
CAN YOU SPRAY YOUR YARD OR HOME FOR OAK TREE ITCH MITES?
Yes and no. Unfortunately, there is no direct way to stop the mite from coming around since they travel by air. So once they start to hatch from galls, the problem will usually linger as long as its warm and there are leaves on the trees. But there are two ways to stop the problem from happening.
First, understand the main reason for the problem. Its due to midges laying eggs on your oaks and other trees. So if you don’t want oak mites living on your oaks, spray them with CYONARA RTS in the spring and summer. One treatment every 30-60 days will keep midges from nesting which in turn will stop oak tree itch mites. Its a pretty simple approach: take away the oak tree itch mite’s source of food and they won’t have a reason to be on your property.
One quart of Cyonara can treat up to 1/2 acre of trees and should be applied in April, June and the end of August. Just hook it to your hose and spray up as high as you can reach. Most midges will attempt to lay their eggs in the 10-20 foot range and even if your tree is too tall to reach it all, the treatment will still actively repel them from the area above.
For large lots or if you expect to be using more than 1-2 quarts of Cyonara per season, CYONARA CONCENTRATE is more efficient. Add 1 oz in our 20 GALLON HOSE END SPRAYER and fill the sprayer with water. Next, hook it to your garden hose and spray away. It will take 20 gallons of water to spray out the contents which is enough for up to 1/4 acre of trees.
Any good hose end sprayer can be used to make the treatments; our sprayer below will require 1 oz of Cyonara and then 31 oz of water (the holding tank for the sprayer is 32 oz). This will create a tank full with enough material to spray up to 1/4 acre of trees.
HOW TO SPRAY INSIDE THE HOME FOR OAK ITCH MITES
Inside the home, you’ll need a good space spray to kill off mites that come in through windows and your clothes. Even though these mites will naturally die in a day or two, they can bite. But if you’re actively spraying any room with open windows and where you mostly enter the home, you can kill off itch mites before they have a chance to bite. Itch mites don’t move quickly so even if they land on your clothing, it will take 2-3 hours before they can find an open patch of skin to feed. But once you enter a room treated with AQUACIDE, they’ll succumb to the spray and die before they get a chance to bite.
Aquacide is easy to apply and only takes 5-10 seconds of spraying the air to release enough material for the average room. And Aquacide can be used as needed so applying some 2-3 a day is normal if needed.
For a more permanent solution in the home, install AEROSOL MACHINES fitted with CLEAR ZONE refills. Aerosol machines are small, about 1/2 the size of the average cigar box, and can be mounted on the wall or set on a shelf at least 5 feet off the ground. They require two “D” cell batteries and a can of Clear Zone insecticide.
Each machine is configured to go off every 15 minutes and can cover up to 400 sq/ft. When turned on, it will release a small amount of space spray strong enough to control air borne pests like noseeums, gnats, mosquitoes and floating itch mites. This ensures any mites coming in on your clothing or entering through windows will die before they have a chance to bite residents living inside.
Each machine will need a can of Clear Zone. Cans will last at least 30 days and can be used safely in any part of the home including kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. Keep the machines running as long as itch mites are active in your region. This will normally be 30-90 days on average but can be longer or shorter depending on the outbreak.
Those red bites on your arm might be Oak Mites
If you have ever woken up with an itchy, red bite mark, the culprit might be the Oak Mite.
Many fear it could be a disease carrying mosquito or sleep-invading bed bugs. But from time-to-time, the oak mites become an accidental predator.
This summer the small welt-causing, itch-inducing, predator is proliferating across Ohio.
The oak mites, which come from the Pyemotes genus, prefer to feed on insects but occasionally fall on humans, according to the Los Angeles Times. The outbreaks became documented in Europe in 1936, but have occasionally made an impact primarily on towns and cities in the Midwest, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Though rare, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Nebraska are some of the states that have been hit by outbreaks. This summer, an outbreak is hitting Northern Ohio.
The Oak Mite is a nearly microscopic bug that lives in Oak trees. (BELOW)
These small biters drop down out of Oak trees when you are walking under them by the hundreds or even thousands. And since you can’t see them, you don’t even know you’ve got them on you. Until, that red bite mark appears!
Oak Mites have always been around. They are found in most states as well. They just generally don’t bite people. But this year there are lots more of them in Northern Ohio.
For that you can blame the 17-year Cicada that hatched in June. You see, Oak Mites feed on insect larvae that inhabit Oak trees. Cicadas prefer oak trees in which to lay their thousands of eggs. And this year, that meant millions of the periodic cicadas and their newly hatched young served up on a dinner plate for the hungry mites.
Lots more food for Oak Mites translates into lots more oak mites.
So, should you worry? Oak Mites don’t spread disease like other insects. But the welts they leave behind are red, can be painful and itchy and sometimes pussy. They are easily treated with topical creams and itch relievers. The only time to seek medical care is if a bite becomes infected.
Oak Mites usually fall from the trees in waves. You can keep windows closed to prevent them from floating in thru your screens from August through October. If you have oak trees in your yard or spend time in an oak forest, keep you skin covered or wash up with soapy water as soon as you come indoors. DEET, or other repellent sprays are often not effective.
Throw those clothes you wore outside into the laundry right away. And the good news, you don’t have to fumigate the house or throw your mattress away. Oak mites can’t survive without those other delicious bug larvae that they feed on. So they won’t live in your home for very long.
How Can I Prevent Oak Mite Bites?
Oak mites are tiny, microscopic insects that live and hatch in oak trees and feed on small midget fly larvae. The bite from an oak mite can create large, red welts on humans, and are sometimes misdiagnosed as chigger bites. The oak mites aren’t intentionally biting us, but as they drop from trees, or are carried to your yard by the wind, humans inadvertently become hosts.
Here are some quick tips to help prevent bites from oak mites:
Wear long sleeves and a hat while working outside. Because the mites fall from trees or are carried by wind, the most susceptible place to be bitten is your head, neck, and upper body.
Because the oak mites will stay on your body for several hours, immediately take a shower and wash your clothes after working in the yard.
No products exist that will completely get rid of oak mites from your trees and yard. Bayer Advanced Complete Insect Killer can be used with your garden hose to spray affected trees and yard areas, killing hatched mites that come in direct contact with the spray. Unhatched mites are not affected, so you may need to apply this treatment numerous times over the fall. Given the large number of mites in the air and trees, spraying will minimize mites but will not likely eliminate the threat. Because there isn’t a product that will kill the mites before they hatch, the mites won’t disappear until the second hard freeze of the year.
How do you stop oak mite bites from itching?
Bites from oak mites will often take a few hours to appear. Once a welt appears, DON’T SCRATCH IT. Scratching will only open the welt and increase chances of an infection. Treat the welt with antihistamine lotion or anti-itch cream and leave it alone. The welt may stay on your body for several weeks. As always, visit a doctor if the welts become painful or don’t get better.
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Oak Tree Gall Mites: Learn How To Get Rid Of Oak Mites
Oak leaf gall mites are more of a problem for humans than for oak trees. These insects live inside the galls on oak leaves. If they leave the galls in search of other food, they can be a true nuisance. Their bites are itchy and painful. So exactly what are oak leaf mites? What is effective in treating for oak mites? If you want more information on how to get rid of oak mites, also called oak leaf itch mites, read on.
What are Oak Leaf Mites?
Oak tree gall mites are tiny parasites that attack gall larvae on oak leaves. When we say tiny, we mean tiny! You may not be able to spot one of these mites without a magnifying glass.
The female and male oak tree gall mites mate. Once the females are fertilized, they enter the gall and paralyze the larvae with their venom. The female mites then feed on the larvae until their offspring emerge. An entire generation of oak mites can emerge in a single week, which means that the mite population can swell rapidly. Once the oak tree gall mites have eaten the gall larvae, they leave in search of other food.
Even if they don’t run out of food, mites may leave the galls. They may fall from the tree or be blown off by a breeze. This usually happens late in the season when the mite population is very large. Some 300,000 mites can fall from each tree every day.
Oak Mite Control
Oak tree gall mites can enter a house through open windows or screens and bite people inside. More often, however, the mites bite people while working outdoors in the garden. The bites usually occur on the upper body or wherever clothing is loose. They are painful and itch a lot. People who are not aware of oak tree gall mites think they have been bitten by bed bugs.
You might think that spraying the oak tree would be an effective oak mite control, but this is not the case. The oak tree gall mites actually live inside the galls. Since tree sprays do not penetrate the galls, the mites are safe from sprays.
If you are wondering how to get rid of oak mites, there is no perfect solution. You can try to exercise oak mite control by using DEET, a commercially available mosquito and tick repellent. But in the end, you can only protect yourself best by being vigilant. Stay away from oak trees with galls toward the end of summer. And when you do go into the garden or near the trees, shower and wash your clothes in hot water when you come in from gardening.
MYSTERY BITES: Insect and Non-Insect Causes
ENTFACT-649 – MYSTERY BITES: Insect and Non-Insect Causes | Download PDF
by Michael F. Potter, Extension Entomologist
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
Nearly everyone experiences what seem like bug bites from time to time. The irritation might be accompanied by welts, rash, itching, or perhaps the feeling that something is crawling over the skin. Even when no bugs are apparent, the annoyance can be enough to trigger a call to an exterminator. Unfortunately, pesticides might not be the answer. Unless the underlying cause is discovered, the discomfort will likely continue.
It is important to realize that there are many causes of bite-like reactions — some of which are related to pests, and others that are not. Pest management professionals can usually provide relief if insects or mites are the culprit. If no pests are found, the customer may need to see a dermatologist or other allied professional. The following information is intended to help those who believe they have a biting pest problem where the source of irritation has not been identified.
STARTING THE INVESTIGATION
The cause of perceived ‘bug-bites’ is often far from obvious. Investigations should be thoughtful and systematic, ruling out likely possibilities through the process of elimination. A good rule of thumb in such cases is that no pesticide should be applied unless biting pests or clear evidence of them are discovered or strongly suspected. A thorough investigation is more likely to yield a solution.
Treating without a known target pest can mislead the client into thinking that spraying will fix the problem, which it seldom does. Additional (unnecessary) treatments may be requested thereafter whenever someone complains of an itch.
To conduct a careful investigation, it is useful to interview the client before inspecting the premises. In commercial settings such as an office building, this may involve talking with management as well as affected employees. A questionnaire (see the bottom of this page for the questionnaire, or view this downloadable PDF version) can be helpful for gathering facts that may solve the mystery. One of the most important questions to ask is if anyone has actually seen or captured any bugs as the irritation is occurring. With a few notable exceptions (e.g., bed bugs, certain types of mites), most pests that bite humans are likely to be seen as the irritation is felt. It’s also important to consider the pattern of bites within the building – e.g. are several people affected or just a few? Where are incidents being reported? Is there an association between the onset of symptoms and certain maintenance activities, such as the installation of new carpet, or work on the heating and cooling system? Have there been birds, bats, rodents, or other animals that could possibly be harboring parasites? Such questions can yield important clues worthy of further investigation.
Mystery bite investigations differ from most other pest inspections because the ‘culprit’ is unknown. The list of potential irritants is long and many fall outside the realm of pest control. Inspections should initially seek to determine if biting pests are involved. If they are not, customers may still want to know about other factors that may be causing the discomfort.
During the investigation, various specimens could require identification. Those that are small will require magnification to see clearly. Ideally, specimens should be placed in non-crushable containers instead of in envelopes or under tape. Another method of capture is to install several glue traps at locations where bites have been reported. Although such traps are not always reliable, they are another potential tool that could help determine if biting pests are present.
Fig. 2: Glue traps can help to reveal pests capable of causing irritation.
Persons complaining of invisible mites or insects crawling over their skin are sometimes advised to place strips of clear cellophane tape over the affected area while the sensations are occurring. Unfortunately, this seldom reveals the cause of a mystery bite problem. Neither does collecting samples from carpet and floors with a vacuum. Industrial hygienists may use suction devices for collecting fibers and air-borne contaminants, but vacuuming by householders seldom reveals biting pests and samples are tedious to sort through and process. The appearance of bites or welts on the body can also provide clues, although ‘bug bites’ are difficult to diagnose, even by physicians.
Fig. 3: ‘Bug bites’ are difficult to diagnose, even by physicians.
The most useful tactic for these cases is knowing where and what to look for. With mystery bites, the list of potential irritants is extensive.
SOURCES OF IRRITATION
Irritations of unknown origin may be from arthropods (insects or mites) or a multitude of other factors which have nothing to do with pests. Below are the more common sources worthy of consideration.
Obscure Biting Pests
In some mystery bite cases, insects or mites truly are the culprit. These are some that should be foremost in the minds of inspectors.
Bed bugs have become increasingly common and should always be considered a possibility in mystery bite investigations. People are usually bitten at night while they are sleeping. Initially the bite is painless and victims seldom know they are being bitten. The typical reaction is itchy red welts on exposed skin appearing within a day or so of the incident – although there can be a delayed reaction over a matter of days in some cases. Others have little or no reaction to the bites. Since bed bugs also remain well-hidden, victims often are bitten repeatedly yet never see an insect. Confirmation requires finding the bugs, shed skins or dark fecal spots of digested blood, which can be difficult especially in the early stages of infestation.
Fig. 4: Bed bugs should always be considered a possibility in mystery bite investigations.
Because bed bugs are cryptic and nocturnal, visual inspection alone sometimes fails to reveal their presence. Various devices are available to help detect their presence. Among the most popular detection methods are small plastic dishes (e.g. ClimbUp®), that wandering bed bugs crawl or fall into but cannot escape due to the slippery inner surface. Typically, the devices are placed under the legs of beds and seating, or close by.
Fig. 5: Dish-shaped traps can be placed under beds and sofas to help monitor for bed bugs.
When bed bug-like insects are found, it is important to consider whether bats, birds or other wild hosts are involved. Although similar in appearance to the kind of bed bug that prefers humans, bat bugs and bird bugs require different management procedures.
Fleas are another common source of insect bites within homes. Fleas are fast moving and jump when disturbed. However, because they are brownish and about 1/8″ long, they are usually noticed. Bites typically occur around the lower legs and ankles, producing a small, red, hardened, itchy welt. Fleas are most often associated with pets, although the presence of mice, rats, squirrels, skunks, possums or raccoons can also result in infestations. Animal hosts need to be present for extended periods for fleas to become established — a brief visit by a dog or cat, for example, is unlikely to cause problems. Infestations can be confirmed by examining pets, installing traps (e.g., myFleaTrap®), or walking the premises in white socks pulled high (which makes the presence of the pests more obvious).
Fig. 6: Fleas generally bite low on the leg, whereas bed bugs attack any exposed skin.
Lice are another possible source of itching and irritation. Infestations occur on the head and other hairy areas of the body. Lice are tiny, whitish-grey insects that are visible under close examination by the client or physician. Because they largely remain on the host, treatment of premises is not required nor is it recommended. The types of lice that bite humans are mainly acquired through close personal contact or sharing of hats or combs.
Fig. 7: Lice cause itching and irritation but are easy to diagnose.
Mites are tiny pests that occasionally bite and irritate people. Some feed on animals, others infest stored foods, and some dwell outdoors in vegetation. Contrary to popular belief, most mites that bite people in buildings are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. There also is no such thing as a ‘cable’, ‘computer’ or ‘paper’ mite — these terms are purely fictitious. Mite infestations in buildings can result from birds nesting in eaves, attics, etc., or from mice or rats. When a bird or rodent dies or leaves the nest, thousands of parasitic mites can migrate indoors and bite humans. Domestic fowl (chickens, parakeets, etc.), gerbils and hamsters also may harbor mites capable of biting people. Bird and rodent mites are tiny, but appear as dark slow-moving specks — they are about the size of a period. Mites cannot jump or fly.
Fig. 8: Mites infesting birds and other animals sometimes also bite people.
A few parasitic mites are too small to be seen with the naked eye. The human scabies mite burrows into the skin, causing intense itching accompanied by a rash. Skin between fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulder blades are areas most often affected. Transmission of scabies mites occurs only through close personal contact or sharing the same bed. Fortunately, scabies is a rather rare condition that is readily diagnosed by dermatologists and other competent physicians. No treatment of the premises is needed since these mites cannot survive off a human.
Various mites living indoors also infest stored food products such as grains, meats, cheese and dried fruit. Food and mold mites tend to infest items stored for long periods that have become moist or moldy. Tremendous numbers may develop in such places as pet food bags, non-refrigerated smoked meats, or caged animal litter. At times populations may disperse outward from breeding sites and annoy humans. Food and mold mites do not suck blood but can irritate the skin. They appear as tiny, pale-colored slow-moving specs on dark surfaces.
Fig. 9: Mites infesting a bag of pet food.
Other mites that can bite humans live outdoors in vegetation. Chiggers (the immature stage of the harvest mite) live in tall weeds and dense vegetation. They crawl onto people and often attach where clothing fits tightly, such as around ankles, waist or armpits. Chigger bites produce hard red welts that begin itching intensely within 24 hours. Consequently, people may not associate the irritation with being bitten outdoors the day before.
Fig. 10: Chigger bites produce hardened welts that itch intensely.
Another nearly microscopic biter, the straw itch mite, infests straw, grain or hay. Severe rash and itching results from handling infested materials in barns, stables, etc. Yet another type of itch mite inhabits the leaf galls of oak trees. In late summer or autumn, tremendous numbers of the mites can become airborne, landing on people. The bites are red, itchy, and painful, appearing on the face, neck, chest and arms. Fortunately, outbreaks of this mite are sporadic and have been reported mainly in the Midwest. Itch mites may be the culprit if the victim was outdoors near oak trees. Like chigger bites, the irritation may not be felt until the following day. Delayed reaction to bites is also common with ticks and mosquitoes, and from exposure to poison ivy/oak. Asking clients if they have spent time outdoors can help determine if such pests might be involved.
One additional mite worth mentioning is the house dust mite. Dust mites are common indoors where they feed on dander (bits of shed skin) from people and pets. Large numbers may persist in beds, couches and carpet, but are generally too small to be seen with the naked eye. People sometimes think dust mites are capable of causing itching and bite-like reactions but this is untrue. Their annoyance is limited to an ability to cause allergies, with symptoms such as stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, cough, watery eyes and asthma. Diagnostic kits for detecting house dust mites can be bought from pharmacies and allergy testing can be performed by a physician.
Thrips are tiny (1/16″) straw-colored insects that feed on plants. They have piercing mouthparts for sucking plant juices but can also bite humans. The bite feels like a pinprick. In late summer, huge numbers of these insects may become airborne, landing on people’s clothing and skin. Some also may be transported on air currents into factories, warehouses, etc. Although houseplants are seldom the source for these or other biting pests, they are still worth checking during inspections.
Sand flies, also called biting gnats, punkies or no-see-ums, breed in swamps, marshes and other moist areas outdoors. They are vicious biters yet so small (1/32″- 1/8″) that their presence often goes unnoticed. Fortunately, biting flies seldom breed indoors. Several other tiny flies which are harmless (e.g., fungus gnats) do occur indoors, however, and will need to be identified to alleviate client concerns.
Spiders are often thought to be responsible for bites of unknown origin. In truth, most spiders are harmless, timid creatures and bites are a rare event. When spider bites do occur, it usually is in response to being crushed or threatened; they do not ‘pounce’ on a person as they would a fly. As with other potential biters, it is extremely difficult to diagnose a spider bite from the lesion alone. Lacking an actual spider doing the biting, such diagnoses even by physicians should be regarded as little more than a guess.
If the investigation reveals biting insects or mites, appropriate pest control measures can be taken. If no such pests are discovered, the person should be referred to a dermatologist, industrial hygienist, or other allied professional. Following are some of the more common (non-pest) irritants that these entities may consider.
Household Products. Everyday items found in homes and buildings can cause skin reactions similar to ‘bug’ bites’. Products most often implicated include soaps, detergents and cleansers, cosmetics, hair products, medications, paper/cardboard, printing inks (as from multiform carbonless paper), and certain types of clothing, especially those containing fire retardants. Sometimes the location of the rash or irritation suggests the cause. For instance, a rash on hands and arms of factory workers might be due to cleaning compounds or materials they are handling such as cardboard. If a connection can be made to one of these possible irritants, avoiding further exposure may solve the problem. A dermatologist can confirm that a particular product, rather than a pest, is responsible.
Environmental Factors. When multiple people experience itching and irritation in the absence of pests, the cause is often some irritant in the environment. Among the most common are tiny fragments of paper, fabric, or insulation. When these adhere to skin, they can produce symptoms ranging from a mild prickling or crawling sensation to intense itching accompanied by rash, welts or sores. If fibers or fragments are involved, the irritation usually occurs on exposed areas of the body — arms, legs, face, neck, etc. Such problems are rather common where large amounts of paper or cardboard are processed, like offices, filing rooms, and distribution centers. New or badly worn carpets, drapes, and upholstery also shed fibers that can irritate skin. Laundering clothes or blankets in a washer/dryer previously used to clean curtains can likewise cause irritation due to the shedding of fiberglass and other materials. Other possibilities include sound-deadening fibers from ceiling tiles, or insulation fibers emitted from heating and cooling systems. These are especially likely if there has been recent repair work on the ceiling or air-handling system.
Fig. 11: Cardboard, fabric and insulation fibers can cause irritation mistaken for insect bites.
Irritation can be worsened by static electricity, which increases the attraction of particulates to exposed skin. Low humidity, electronic equipment, and nylon in carpeting, upholstery, or women’s stockings all increase levels of static electricity and the potential for particle-induced irritation. Static electricity also causes body hair to move, giving the impression something is crawling over the skin.
If fibers or fragments are suspected, floors, furniture and work surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned. In offices, static-reducing measures can be implemented, such as raising the humidity level of the air and installing static-resistant mats under chairs. Anti-static sprays can be used to treat seating areas. Dryness alone can also cause irritation, producing a condition known as ‘winter itch.’ As skin loses moisture, itching results — a particular problem during winter and in older people. Similar reactions may occur from changes in temperature that can make skin more sensitive. A skin moisturizer can be helpful in such situations, or consult with a dermatologist.
Volatile indoor pollutants can also cause irritation. Although such compounds most often cause headaches or eye, nose, and throat discomfort, some may cause welts and rashes. Materials most often implicated include ammonia-based cleansers, formaldehyde emitted from materials such as plywood, carpet, and cardboard, tobacco smoke, and solvents and resins in paints and adhesives. Reactions often occur in industrial settings or buildings receiving new paint, wall or floor coverings. If indoor air pollutants are suspected, the client may want to contact an industrial hygienist to monitor for allergy-producing contaminants. Companies specializing in environmental health monitoring have online listings in most cities.
Medical Conditions. Health-related conditions also may cause symptoms mistaken for bug bites. Itching and irritation are common during pregnancy, especially during the last trimester. Similar symptoms are associated with diabetes, liver, kidney, and thyroid disorders, and herpes zoster (shingles). Food allergies and prescription or recreational drugs are other common causes of such symptoms. One’s overall emotional state, including stress at work or home, can also trigger skin irritation. Moreover, the response can be induced in other people simply by the ‘power of suggestion.’ When one person in a group experiences itching and irritation and talks about it, others often feel the urge to scratch as well.
Fig. 12: Methamphetamine and other psychostimulant drugs can cause symptoms that mimic insect bites.
Delusions of parasitosis is a more serious emotional disorder characterized by the conviction that living organisms are infesting one’s body. Delusory parasitosis patients have similar symptoms and patterns of behavior which tend to sound unusual. Patients typically report bugs or mites invading various areas of their body — often vanishing then reappearing, or perhaps changing colors while being observed. Specimens submitted for identification (often in great quantity) usually consist of bits of dead skin, hair, lint, and other debris. The individual’s skin may have become irritated from persistent scratching, bathing, and application of ointments and chemicals. Clothing and household items often are repeatedly washed or discarded. Sufferers commonly have visited one or more doctors with no definitive diagnosis or relief.
Fig. 13a: Delusions of parasitosis patients often submit numerous samples for identification.
Fig. 13b: Self-inflicted scratches and scarring may also be evident.
While these cases may seem bizarre, they are tragically real to the patient. Sufferers often are convinced that spraying insecticides will fix the problem — but treatment of the disorder lies outside the realm of pest control. Such cases should be referred to a dermatologist or mental health professional. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to convince affected individuals to seek professional help, except perhaps by involving another family member.
SUMMARY. There is no simple way to diagnose ‘mystery bite’ complaints. Oftentimes, the itching or irritation has nothing to do with insects or mites and cannot be solved by pest control. Approaching each case in a thoughtful, methodical manner will increase the chances of finding a solution. Such sensations are real to the client, and should be addressed with care and concern.
CAUTION: Some pesticides mentioned in this publication may not be legal in your area of the country. If in doubt, please consult your local cooperative extension service or regulatory agency. Furthermore, ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS FOR THE PRODUCT YOU ARE USING.
Please note that content and photos in this publication are copyrighted material and may not be copied or downloaded without permission of the Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky.
MYSTERY BITE QUESTIONNAIRE
A couple weeks ago a story was circulating on social media about oak mites in the Cleveland area. Reports indicated that people were being bitten by the mites and that the bites could cause startling skin reactions. It sparked quite a bit of discussion and concern in social circles, giving me the inspiration to write about the tiny critters.
The oak leaf itch mite (pictured below), Pyemotes herfsi, is a mite that primarily feeds on midge flies. Midge flies create galls (also pictured below) on the margins of oak leaves, where their larvae feed and grow. The mites colonize the galls and feed on the larvae. This feeding pattern makes the oak mite preferential to oak trees, particularly pin oaks and red oaks. The mites are so tiny that they cannot be seen by the naked eye. The interaction between oak mites and humans occurs when a person comes near an infested oak tree. The mites may fall from the tree’s canopy or be blown from the tree by the wind, inadvertently landing on a passerby. Then mites may accidently bite the person. Humans are not a host for these mites. They will not colonize in homes or cars or on pets.
The oak mite’s bite can produce an itchy, swollen, and red rash that may be accompanied by small raised bumps. The bites themselves do not leave lasting damage, but itching the irritating rash could lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Therefore, calamine lotions and hydrocortisone creams are often recommended to reduce inflammation and itching.
The mites are most active in late summer and into the fall. Most people encounter them while raking leaves. Controlling the mite population is difficult and rarely accomplished, because the mites find protection within the leaf galls created by the midge flies. The best way to avoid the mites is to limit time near infested trees, launder clothes, and shower promptly after working near the tree.
There have been reports of the oak leaf itch mites in the Southeastern Ohio region, but there is no need to panic. They mite populations will begin to die off with the first frost. In addition, the midge flies and the mites rarely have a detrimental impact on the overall health of oak trees in the landscape.
How to Deal with Oak Mites
It’s that beautiful time of year when the leaves are turning and falling. Oaks, in particular, are a staple of fall beauty and can be found in many elegant landscapes. But, these lovely trees also house oak mites, which create itchy bites that don’t go away easily. Kansas City and the whole state have experienced oak mite outbreaks every year, and 2019 is slated to be an especially bad one. What are oak mites and how do you avoid them?
What are Oak Mites?
Even if you have an oak mite bite, you probably didn’t see it. These tiny creatures are just barely visible, at between 0.2 to 0.8 millimeters. They are drawn to oak trees where their prey, the midge fly, lays its eggs. Oak mites eat the fly larvae when they emerge from their egg. In late summer and fall all of the midges have grown, so the oak mites drop from the tree in search of their next meal.
As they fall, they may land on you. Or, they may end up in your leaf pile, on your picnic table, or somewhere where they will come into contact with you. When they do, they may bite. The bite is not noticeable at first but develops into an itchy welt in about 12 hours. The welt may last up to two weeks. It’s not deadly, but it can be very uncomfortable.
If you don’t remember oak mites from when you were growing up, it may be because they weren’t here yet. Oak mites are familiar in Europe an Asia but didn’t find their way to America until the 90s. In 2004, the mites became a serious problem, biting an estimated 54% of the people in Crawford County. As with other invasive species, there’s not too much we can do to stop the spread of these mites. Instead, we need to avoid them.
How to Avoid Oak Mites
The best way to avoid oak mites is to avoid jumping into piles of oak leaves or sitting beneath oak trees where the mites may be hunting. All oak trees may carry the mites but pin oaks and red oaks are the most common habitats. Further, you can check to see if your oak has midge larvae. If so, the edges of some leaves will be brown and have a crusty shell, which is a midge egg. Trees that have midge larvae are much more likely to have oak midges.
However, no matter how much planning you do to avoid oak mites you may still be exposed to them. They are so light that they are easily carried in the wind. Closing your windows can prevent them from getting into your home. While wearing long sleeve shirts and pants while outside can also help, oak mites are small enough to fit in between the threads of many fabrics.
Further, the jury is out on whether oak mites are affected by insecticides and DEET. Currently, there is no recommended tree treatment or skin treatment that will reduce your exposure to them. Bug spray may work or it may not. However, seeing as you’re probably protecting yourself from other bugs, you may as well use bug spray and see if it helps you. Experts also recommend that you take a shower after you come in from doing your landscaping, so you can wash off oak mites before they bite.
How to Treat Oak Mite Bites
Oak mite bites are likely on your face, arms, or upper body. The most important thing is to avoid itching the bites so that you don’t break the skin and get an infection.
If you suspect you have a bite you can head out to your doctor to get their advice. Dr. Pavika Saripalli, a doctor with the University of Kansas Watkins Health Services told Central Standard that she recommends hydrocortisone to patients bitten by oak mites.
“Invest in hydrocortisone” Dr. Saripalli advised, “Even though they say you can only use it once or twice a day I always tell people, ‘When your hand goes up to itch, put the cream on instead,’ and you’ll be helping that bite go away instead of making it worse.”
Your doctor may also recommend taking antihistamines if you’re having an allergic reaction to the bite, or applying calamine lotion or aloe for comfort.
After the first frost, oak midges will take cover and stop biting. Until then, if you have landscape maintenance tasks to do, you can call High Prairie Landscape to do them for you.
After the 2016 outbreak of oak leaf itch mites in Kansas City, many people are worried if the pesky critters are returning this year. The fact is, the oak mite might have contributed to you having to retreat indoors until a hard freeze wiped them up.
With another growing season here, many people are worried about the oak mite’s return. Unfortunately, there have already been a few documented cases of these critters, much earlier than they appeared in the past. Some are worried that this early appearance is going to make the bug even worse when fall finally does arrive.
What’s Known about the Oak Mite?
According to current research, the oak mite feeds on insect larvae that is located on pin oak trees. The most likely host for these bugs is the margin gall. However, just because they are found on this tree, doesn’t mean they can’t live on other species, too. This is something that researchers are still trying to determine.
The Effect of Oak Mites on People
There are some people who aren’t bothered by the oak mites, at all and they can enjoy the outdoors in late summer without noticing a problem. However, there are others who are very sensitive to oak mite bites, which makes it extremely difficult for these individuals to go outdoors without getting irritated. These individuals usually have to apply some type of anti-itch cream to help relieve the irritation these bites cause.
Factors Leading to Oak Mites and Prevention
There are a number of summer factors, including rainfall, humidity, weather and temperatures that are going to affect how much the oak mite reproduces. With many people having already seen oak mites this year, there is the possibility that by fall, the problem is going to be much worse.
There are a few steps you can take to prevent an oak mite bite, which include:
- Wear long sleeves anytime you are outdoors
- Spray bug repellant on yourself before going outside
- Limit the amount of time that you stay outside
- Shower after you come in from being outside
Right now there is no way to spray for oak mites since they can easily hide in the ridges of an oak tree.
If a person does suffer a rash after they are bit, there is no known cure for it. While over the counter ointments may provide some relief, if you itch the bite, it is only going to get worse and spread.
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many effective ways to get rid of oak mites. Being informed and knowing what to do to prevent the bites is going to be your best line of defense.
Why you may be itchy this autumn and how to beat oak mites
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s amazing how something so small can pack such a big bite. Fall marks oak mite season in the Kansas City metro area.
The microscopic bug-like creature bites you and leaves a bothersome rash and bump.
41 Action News sat down with Dennis Patton, a Kansas State University Research and Extension Agent, to find tips to help you avoid the mites this autumn.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and a hat outside to keep mites off your skin.
- Once inside, change your clothes.
- Consider showering after extended periods outdoors.
No matter what you do, you could be scratching your skin a lot this fall.
Patton said last year’s mild winter and early spring helped oak mites reproduce.
“To really put this problem to rest in the fall, we are going to need what I would consider more consistently cold, winter-like conditions,” he explained. “Not where we have a drop for a day or two, then it warms back up into the seventies.”
Patton warned one fall activity that’s sure to expose you to oak mites is raking leaves off your yard. The little critters live on leaves. They can’t fly but use the wind and contact to get onto humans.
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