They’re everywhere. Tiny, itchy red bumps have appeared on the majority of the student body—but no bugs are in sight. Originally presumed to be bed bugs or spiders, these microscopic oak mites have overtaken the region.
The mites are not easily visible at only 0.2 millimeters long, but are plentiful near oak trees or nearly anywhere else. Since they are carried by wind, the mites can easily travel from oak trees to grass, and even through window screens indoors. Oak trees can shed up to 370,000 mites each day.
Oak mite bites are small, red and itchy. In some circumstances, the bites may be painful or especially swollen, but they are not harmful. Oak mites are smaller relatives to chiggers, and the bites are similar.
Since the mites can get stuck in clothing and take up to 24 hours to actually bite, it is helpful to change clothes and take a shower after spending time outside, especially after intramurals or exercising. Avoiding direct contact with oak trees can also prevent bites, but due to the abundance of mites, some bites are simply unavoidable.
So what happens when the mite bites become utterly maddening?
While sprays and repellents are widely ineffective, oak mite bites are easily treated with anti-itch creams or lotions, as well as oral antihistamines like Benadryl or Zyrtec. As long as the bite is not scratched or irritated, it should clear up within a few days.
The Student Health Services office is currently offering Benadryl tablets and hydrocortisone cream for any student who needs it.
Here’s the good news: Oak mites cannot survive indoors, so the dorms are safe from insect infestations. The pests will also only last until the first frost of the season, which usually takes place around the last week of October.