In the News

By Daniel Barnett, Jessica Reyes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KCTV) -Just thinking about oak mites is enough to make many people itch.

“They’ll get on your face and around your neck, like last year it was around the neck and they lasted a couple of weeks,” said Gary Bowier who was bitten by oak mites in 2016.

Experts say the pesky bugs are making an earlier appearance this year thanks to a mild winter.

And while many are annoyed by the tiny insects, one Kansas senator is leading the way to stop the scratching.

Oak trees are beautiful, but they can bring pain to those in the Kansas City area who are being bitten by oak mites. A problem that has now been taken to Washington D.C.

Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran is using his position as the chair of the Agricultural Appropriations Sub-Committee to fight the oak mite infestation. He added a provision to the most recent budget bill to study the annoying creatures with a focus on how to control and reduce their population.

“There's just not much information, much research, about the cause and effect, the gestation period, where this might comes from," Moran said. "I assume what comes from this, is we learn about the life cycle of this organism and how to control it, how to get rid of it, how to eradicate it."

“Hopefully, the research will help show ways we can maybe prevent this insect from reproducing and then find way to prevent it from being what I call a human health problem,” Kansas State University Horticulture Agent Dennis Patton said.

Experts say due to a mild winter; the insects never went fully dormant and now say the area is at risk of an outbreak. They say the only wing they can count on to control oak mites is the weather.

Without the research, experts say it's hard to exterminate the mites. They say cutting down a tree won't get rid of the problem as oak mites easily travel with the wind and people could easily end up with their neighbor's mites.

“We’re not its main target to feed on, we’re just kind of innocent bystanders and get in its way,” Kansas State University Horticulture Agent Dennis Patton said.

“I’ve got one long sleeve t-shirt and other long sleeve shirts and I’m going to wear them this summer,” Bowier said.

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