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Oak leaf frost

Winter freeze brings oak leaf mite itch relief

Oak leaf mites have been plaguing residents for months, but the end might not be in sight, even with a hard freeze.

In some parts of the county the outbreak has been so severe that people have changed their daily routine in an attempt to cope. For weeks, those itching their way through the warm fall months have been hoping and praying for an end to the itch mite bites. 

With a hard freeze, many are hoping for relief. But according to a Kansas State University entomologist, a hard freeze is not always harmful to the mites because they have means of overwintering. What we really need is an extended period of cold weather to lower the soil temperature where the oak leaf itch mites may be located. But a hard freeze followed by two or three days of unusually warm weather? They’re going to come back up. Our only hope is that extended colder temperatures will put an end to our misery. 

According to the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension Office, it is difficult to predict at what temperature the mites will be killed due to a number of factors. These include how low the temperature falls, how long it stays cold, and how well protected or insulated the mite might be from the cold. But most entomologists suggest that a hard freeze, around 28 degrees or lower, should greatly reduce the oak itch mite population.  

Aside from hoping for the demise of pesky oak leaf itch mites, Johnson County residents should also complete other outdoor steps before a hard freeze, including:

  • Disconnect and drain sprinklers and garden hoses. Best to store them out of the sunlight for the winter so the plastic vinyl doesn’t degrade.
  • Drain and turn off in ground sprinkler systems.
  • Bring indoors and store non-frost proof ceramic or concrete containers and garden art. Remove dirt and store in a dry location.
  • Drain non-frost proof ceramic and concrete bird baths.
  • Disconnect rain barrels and drain. Reconnect downspouts to direct rain water away from foundation.
  • Place container growing plants indoors or in a protected place if you want to protect them from a freeze.