Oak mites are tiny parasites that are closer related to ticks and are an invasive species that deliver extremely itchy bites. As their name suggests, you can find them on oak trees, where they prey on flying midge larvae. They will hide in oak tree deformities called galls that form after a non-stinging wasp lays eggs on the tree tissues.
Mites use this gall for protection, so it’s nearly impossible to kill them just by spraying down the trees. However, there are solutions on how to get rid of oak mites and prevent these pests from biting you outside or in your home.
Read on for the top 6 tips to stay itch-free.
How to get rid of oak mites – 6 tips
1. Learn how to identify trees with oak mites
Oak mites are so small that you can’t see them with the naked eye. Instead, you have to rely on identifying trees that can be infested and knowing the seasons they emerge. These parasites will mate and procreate most abundantly during the summer and fall, especially from August to October. So it’s best to avoid sitting under oak trees or any nearby lawns during these months.
To identify a tree infested with oak mites, you want to look for the galls where they hide. Galls are crusty, brown deformities at the edges of leaves, on flowers, or branches. Sometimes they hang from the tree or grow into branches. Sometimes, you can try to spot browned leaves from afar instead of getting too close to find galls.
Another thing to look out for is the activities of wasps and flying midges around the oak trees. If you see small insects swarming near the oak trees, this could signify the tree is or will soon be infested with oak mites.
2. Cover up exposed skin
Whenever you are outside and near oak trees during the summer or early fall, make sure to wear clothes that cover your skin. If the oak mites can’t land on your skin they won’t be able to bite you. For example, they tend to get you where clothing is loose, so wearing tight-fitting outfits is best. To protect the back of your neck, consider wearing a hooded jacket. You can also purchase neck gaiter face masks or neck drapes that attach to your hat.
3. Close your windows and doors
Since oak mites are so small, they can fall from oak trees and travel in the wind, including getting into your home through open windows. In fact, between 250,000 to 300,000 oak mites can fall from a tree each day when they are trying to travel to new feeding grounds.
Make sure to close your doors and windows during late August to October, when these “mite showers” of traveling oak mites occur most frequently. Having only a screen on your door or window also won’t do the trick since these parasites are so small they can easily slip through screen gaps.
4. Wash your body and clothes
Oak mites will stay on your clothes and body until you wash them off. It’s important to take long, hot showers and scrub your body with soap if you spend time around oak trees in the summer or early fall. Also, wash your used towel and clothes in hot water.
Since you can’t see them, you might not realize you got bitten until their venom causes itching, welts, and extreme discomfort. Although oak mite bites are a nuisance and extremely uncomfortable, luckily, these parasites aren’t dangerous to us or oak trees. Just make sure not to scratch the bites since this can lead to infection.
5. Repel flying midges from your oak trees
While you can’t spray your trees with pesticides after an oak mite infestation, since the gall protects them, you can prevent wasps and flying midges from nesting on the trees in the first place. Without the wasps and midge larvae, oak mites don’t have a food source and habitat to survive in.
Natural pest control products such as Wondercide is safe for pets and humans. You can spray it directly on trees to prevent midges from laying eggs in empty galls left by wasps. Another way to repel midges is to use an essential oil spray by mixing one of the following scents with water:
6. Remove oak tree galls
Although this method is tedious, it effectively reduces oak mite populations on your oak trees. The mites rely on the galls and midge larvae to survive, so if you remove these “nests” by hand you are directly getting rid of them. Make sure to wear proper clothing and shower and wash your clothes immediately after.
Suppose you don’t want to do this task yourself – we understand why! In that case, you can also contact arborists or landscaping companies offering arbor management and oak mite removal services.
FAQs about oak mites
Will oak mites infest my house?
Fortunately no. While they can get into your home and end up on your skin to bite you, they won’t survive long enough to cause an infestation. Oak mites can’t survive without the midge larvae as food and don’t intentionally try to get into homes. When they travel through the wind, they are trying to find a new tree host to feed on.
Why do oak mites bite humans?
Oak mites will typically bite you or your pets in an attempt to feed themselves. They don’t like blood and are not intentionally seeking out humans to bite. Most of the time, they will be hanging out on your body or clothes for up to 4 hours before they attempt a bite.
Why do oak mite bites itch so much?
Oak mites have venom similar to mosquitos. They release small amounts of this venom into your skin when they bite you, causing bumps, redness, swelling, welt, and itchiness.
Sometimes oak mite bites will start as a small bump and later become a painful rash or itchy blister.
How long do oak mite bites last?
While it depends on your sensitivity and the severity of the bite, oak mite bites are known to last up to 2 weeks. You can use over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams for mild bites. Apply some cream to each bite and let it sit. Repeat daily until the bites are gone. If your bites are extremely red with blistering in the center, you may need to see your doctor for a stronger prescription.
While there isn’t a simple way like spraying your trees to get rid of these microscopic oak mites, you can exercise caution to prevent yourself from getting bitten. Be aware of the locations and seasons with the most oak mites, wash yourself, close your windows, and have some anti-itch cream handy. Luckily these parasites aren’t a health hazard or harmful to trees even though they can be a nuisance.