Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Feeling Itchy? Try as You Mite, You Can't Escape These Critters

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Feeling Itchy? Try as You Mite, You Can't Escape These Critters

Article excerpt

There's an invisible invasion happening on the microscopic level that's leaving humans and animals in the region in an itchy, perplexed state.

The perpetrator is called the oak tree itch mite, a minuscule eight-legged pest that's falling more frequently out of oak trees this autumn and landing on people and animals, particularly in Missouri and Kansas.

They're so small, people can't see them or feel them on their skin. The only evidence they've taken up residence on the skin are the ensuing clusters of tiny, pimple-like bites.

"Man, they itch a lot," said Cardinal Glennon SSM Health Care pediatrician Neil Rebbe, himself a victim of the mites that float through the air like dust particles.

The invisible mites have been a hot, itchy topic in the St. Louis area with people mystified on social media as to how they got the bites and where.

Rebbe said they were unusual because he found them on places on his body covered by clothing. So he did a little research on his own to identify them, and then helped a group of 40 or so people on a University City message board understand that the itching they were experiencing probably wasn't coming from chiggers, but oak tree itch mites.

"We call them breakfast, lunch and dinner mites," Rebbe said. "It's like the bug is walking along your skin and taking snacks."

Dennis Patton, a horticulturist with Johnson County Kansas State University Extension, said oak tree itch mites have been taking a bite out of people in both eastern Kansas and Missouri in unprecedented numbers this year and last.

"When you see them blown up big, they almost look like this little alien type creature out of Star Trek, but you're not going to see them on your skin," he said.

Nobody is quite sure why there's been such a big outbreak of the mites and bites, Patton said. The last time such an influx of the mites occurred was more than a decade ago, and it was isolated to eastern Kansas and Nebraska, Patton said. And yet, the mites have clearly migrated east and become even more of a nuisance this year, he said. …

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