LEXINGTON, Ky. — Dealing with chiggers is never pleasant but is an expected risk taken when venturing into tall grass during mid- to late summer. Unfortunately, there are other ways to have chigger-like experiences. The oak leaf itch mite can give the same sensation after walking under infested pin oaks or, more likely, by handling fallen leaves when raking. The mites are predators. Exploratory bites by mites that find themselves on humans produce itchy red bumps as the mite’s saliva elicits an immune response (Figure 1). There is not a good way to determine if these mites are present on red oaks.
Protection involves immediately removing and laundering clothing and showering following potential exposure, especially after raking leaves. Itch creams can provide some relief.
Oak leaf itch mites have been associated with pin oak leaves (and possibly other red oaks) that have been attacked by the marginal leaf fold gall, which is produced by a small, non-biting gnat.
Oak Leaf Itch Mite (Pennsylvania State University)
— Lee Townsend, University of Kentucky Extension Extension Entomologist
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