If you notice a sudden red rash on your skin, you may have encountered a seasonal pest: the itch mite.

True to its name, this microscopic pest can cause an annoying, scratch-inducing reaction when it bites you. At this time of year, they're particularly prevalent in oak trees in our area, and local residents are really feeling the pain.

rash, skin
Courtesy of the University of Nebraska Etymology Department

Many kinds of itch mites exist, and the ones we are seeing on the East Coast this summer are oak leaf gall mites. They're feasting on the Brood X cicada larvae left behind from this year's infestation and inhabiting trees all over our area.

bugs, leaf
Courtesy of the University of Nebraska Etymology Department

You can avoid getting bitten by covering up when you head outside, particularly if you'll be working around oak trees. Doing yard work, hiking, or even just playing with your dogs, you never know when these little pests will drop out of the trees. Bug spray won't help because the bites only occur when the mites fall directly on you and reach your skin. The mites are much too small to be seen with the naked eye. 

Symptoms of itch mite bites include redness, raised bumps, itchiness, and general skin rash at the affected site. Home remedies and over-the-counter measures like applying cold packs and topical skin creams can help alleviate some of the irritation. Consult with your local healthcare provider if you experience harsher symptoms or would like additional options for medical interventions. Above all, don't scratch the bites!

For more information about itch mites, check out this website by the Illinois Department of Public Health. 

Have you had any run-ins with these pesky oak leaf gall mites? How long did it take you to get over the effects of the bites? Let us know what worked for you in the comments.