Oak mites might be the culprit to your itchy bites

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- If you've been noticing many bug bites on your skin, causing itching or burning, they're most likely coming from oak mites.

13 NEWS first heard reports about these mites taking over college campuses all throughout Kansas, but after talking with a Shawnee Co. horticulture professional, it sounds like the problem is everywhere.

Linda Ochs is one of the many Shawnee Co. residents dealing with these bites.

"I thought it was a chigger! I didn't know what it was," said Ochs.

Also, like many in the Capital City, Ochs loves to be outside, riding her bike through the many parks, but that's where she noticed the spots turning up.

"I was riding my bike Tuesday evening home from work, and I ride down the Shunga. Then Wednesday, I started getting these itchy red bumps and I have them several places, but my arm is really itchy, " said Ochs.

"What we're facing right now is the oak itch mite, and unfortunately, it's not a fun thing," said Shawnee Co. Horticulture Agent Jamie Hancock.

Hancock says there is a reason why we are seeing so many more mites this year than in the past.

"These things are here extra this year because of the 17-year cicadas we had. They feed on the larva and the carcasses of those, so there's a lot more food, which means there's a lot more supply, which means these mites are in greater numbers," said Hancock.

There are also reports that the high number of the mites is due to a mild, wet summer.

The oak mites come from the oak trees that are all over Shawnee Co., in the parks and in residents' front lawns. If you notice an oak leaf that's edges are folded over, that is where the mite eggs live and eventually hatch, landing on those who walk or bike under that tree.

"If you're going to be under the trees, wear a hat, change your clothes, clean up afterwards, wash yourself. The best thing I can say right now is stay away from under the oak trees," said Hancock.

Hancock also said there is no repellent that will keep these pests away, but if they do leave bite marks, get Hydrocortisone Cream or Calamine Lotion to relieve some of the itching.

The oak mites will be around until the first frost, so be cautious during these next couple months.

Misty Kruger of the Shawnee Co. Health Agency also told 13 NEWS that mites don't really pose a health threat, though if you do itch so much you break the skin, you could develop an infection. You can tell it's infected if fluid starts coming out of it, or if it becomes hot to the touch. In that case, she suggests to see your primary care doctor.