Friday, October 17, 2008

The 17-year Itch

Katydid on Teasel

It seems I’m always nursing some pesky itch.
A patch of poison ivy gained from the pursuit of a blue butterfly or the rudely appearing red welts of chiggers, invisible irritants within the tall grass.
For most of the summer, I’m itchy.
I look forward to the cool days of fall for relief.

I spent a warm morning clearing brush from our trails—the winds from Ike’s passing, tearing branches from the oak woods and casting them carelessly along the path where they entangle walkers’ feet. A good chunk of time I invested, for, soon, icy days will shorten my visits and chilled fingers send me back home for warming.

A few hours’ trimming and tossing restored order. And, aside from a few scratches from some misplaced brambles, the morning was perfect—

The next day, however, a large red welt appeared, with an itch that commanded attention.
Could this be an Oak Leaf Gall Itch Mite’s bite?
The tiny mites, Pyemotes herfsi, that feed on the midge larvae of oak leaf galls?
Pin Oak leaves?
And fall in mite showers in autumn?

Very likely.
Because, in addition to midge larvae, the eggs of 17-year Cicadas are also suspected of hosting these mites. In years of Cicada emergences, mite populations also increase. And with them, complaints of bites.

So, this summer of the cicada has become the fall of the itch mite.

And the itch goes on...

Oak Leaf Gall Itch Mite bite

Itch Mite
photo from Associated Press as published in Cincinnati Enquirer

For more information on Itch Mites, read this.
For details of the Cincinnati outbreak, read this.

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Robert V. Sobczak said...

Knock on wood: I've never had a tick here in south Florida ... but got tons of them up in Cape Cod. I've not been able to escape the chiggers however, especially this summer. But that's the price of doing business in the swamp.

nina said...

Robert--Wherever you go, it seems there's always an itch, isn't there!

Pam Croom said...

How cool (the bug not your bite)! I never heard of them! You taught me something new!

Do your katydids say, "katy-did?"

Upon moving to Alabama I thought the katydids here were defective! Katydidn't! Katy just buzzes.

Susan Gets Native said...

Ew. That bite doesn't look fun. And the micro-photo makes my neck crawl.
Cicadas...the gift that keeps on giving.

bobbie said...

this is one I've never heart of, I'm happy to say. There's always something lurking out there, isn't there?

NCmountainwoman said...

I read the two articles. Seems there is no way to avoid the little rascals, and the itchy bite is worse than poison ivy? I'm so sorry you encountered them

scienceguy288 said...

Despite my consant hikes, I have never experienced a midge or tick bite. Well, at least there are antihistamines.

Cicero Sings said...

If there is an itch ... I'm bound to get it. D on the other hand is not bothered. But then, it is usually I that am scrambling around the bushes for "a shot"!

I've never heard of these mites ... but we have no oak up in our neck of the woods.

nina said...

I had not heard of itch mites either--and the fact that periodical cicada eggs are a host, has made their appearance this year dramatic, so much so, that many seek a doctor's advice on this odd bite, never seen before. Except, perhaps 17 years ago?

Kevin Heads said...

Love the photos Nina my son would find these exquisite, he is a entomologist. Sorry I have not been around for a while but life has been rather hectic.

KGMom said...

I too react with an ewww--what to do to avoid these. Nothing? No, must be something. Ewwww.

KatDoc said...

This is one itch I missed, luckily. Although I don't get poison ivy, most itch-producing bugs find me irresistible - mosquitoes, fleas, chiggers. I guess because I had so few cicadas here, I didn't get their mites. One small blessing.

~Kathi, handing Nina some virtual Calamine lotion

Foxglove Cottage said...

What beautiful photos you have! Sorry about the itch though, I know it can be irritating.

Texas Travelers said...

I need to look at this more closely and determine its range. We have oaks, we have galls, and sometimes have unknown bites. Hmmmm.

Thanks for sharing.

Come visit anytime,
Troy and Martha

PS: Alaska Sunday Hope, AK photos are up today.

kjpweb said...

Well no ticks here in FL. But we have nasty yellow flies. They don't care about deet or any preventative measure. And their bites are nasty.
Itchy as can be for hours. Fortunately Antihistamines work for the itch. Nothing against the swelling though. So I know pretty much, how you feel.
Cheers, Klaus

Kathiesbirds said...

YUCK! NO Fun and NO fair!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I didn't realize there were so many itch makers. I always blame chiggers, mosquitoes or poison ivy.

RuthieJ said...

Ouch! That bite looks pretty nasty. Is there something to put on it or does it run its course in a few days?

zhakee said...

I thought your tale would be about cicadas, and their 17 year cycle. I had no clue they hosted another creature that also had a 17 year cycle. Amazing, the way species co-evolve and find ways to adapt.

Mary said...

Oooo. Itch mites look pesky. We have chiggers - I hate them but luckily they show up only after a little rain during a dry spell. That's when I bring out my fragrant bug repellent and soak myself in it. They bite.

Take care of yourself.

The Tile Lady said...

So, what is the result of checking on how to handle these pesky once-every-17-year mite bites? Alcohol, fingernail polish, anti-itch cream?