Living With Oak Tree Mites

Mite Bite Reaction

Mite Bite Reaction
Photo: Fox23 Tulsa

Dozens of students at Claremont School in Oklahoma developed bite induced rashes after attending a September football game. The culprit is thought to be a mite, Pyemotes herfsi, that has been introduced to North America from Europe. The mite is a predator of multiple species of insects including midges in the Genus Contarinia. Contarinia forms “leaf roll galls” on the margins of oak leaves. An earlier outbreak of mites in Kansas was associated with these oak galls.

The mite is small and its bite is unremarkable. It’s saliva is more remarkable, containing a toxin capable of paralyzing an insect 4 orders of magnitude larger than the mite. The saliva can elicit a strong immune reaction in humans.

The mites can be carried in the air. A sticky trap under an infested tree can capture hundreds of mites.  Under favorable wind conditions a football field downwind from infested trees can become a mite bite site.

*ALBERTO B. BROCE, LUDEK ZUREK, JAMES A. KALISCH, ROBERT BROWN, DAVID L. KEITH, DAVID GORDON, JANIS GOEDEKE, CAL WELBOURN, JOHN MOSER, RONALD OCHOA, EDUARDO AZZIZ-BAUMGARTNER, FUYUEN YIP, and JACOB WEBER. Pyemotes herfsi (Acari: Pyemotidae), a Mite New to North America as the Cause of Bite Outbreaks. Journal of Medical Entomology 2006 43 (3), 610-613

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Health, Invasive Species, News. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Living With Oak Tree Mites

  1. Pingback: Living With Oak Tree Mites

  2. Gertrude says:

    We have an increasing problem with harvest mites here in Germany.
    I did not notice any of them until 2012 in my garden. Since then I get bites of them whenever I enter my garden from June to November. One can detect them with a sheet of paper, where some of them will gather. Under the microscope I found the nymph with 6 legs. The itching is awful and continues for about 10 days.
    This year even in December the temperature is 14 degrees Celsius. I do expect the mite season to expand with the global warming.

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