Mild winter may be to blame for Oak Leaf Itch Mites

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"Oh yes, I've been bitten by them," said Curtis Barton, who regularly disc golfs at Oak Park Disc Course in Wichita's Riverside neighborhood.  

Barton said, "They're a real bad nuisance, itch and they just seem to be everywhere especially if you've got the oak trees around."  

And, of course, there are plenty of oak trees in Oak Park.  

But most of the oaks are only now leafing out. That's got Kansas State University entomologists scratching their heads about the reports of people getting bitten by oak leaf itch mites. Those bites typically come later in the summer or early fall.

 "People are reporting that they're getting some bites out this spring working around in the gardens," said Sedgwick County KSU Extension Agent Matthew McKernan.  After consulting with experts in Manhattan, McKernan said, "some of those oak itch mites may have over-wintered in those leaf piles. And as people are picking up those leaves and could be coming in contact with potential oak itch mites from last year." 

It raises the question whether Kansans could be dealing with a third straight year of an oak leaf itch mite outbreak. McKernan said he will be watching for gall forming on oak leaves as a possible sign of more oak mites coming.  Gall, he said, is a principle food source for the mites.  "But until we have a little bit more time it's hard to tell, for sure."

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