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 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. In the end though, you can only protect yourself best by being vigilant. Stay away from oak trees with galls toward the end of summer. 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.
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Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.
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