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Just What 2021 Was Missing - Invisible, Flesh-Eating Mites

(Originally Posted on August 14, 2021)

Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but I saw a New York Post headline the other day that explained them pretty much that way.

What in the world am I talking about? Let me back up a step.

Some of you may have seen me mention the brood X cicadas on social media a few months back – the large, kamikaze bugs that come out in swarms every 17 years in the DC area and make outside look like some sort of apocalyptic “bugs have taken over the planet” movie. They don’t bite or sting, but they have zero regard for personal space and will fly DIRECTLY into you, and either hit you – even squarely in the face! – or decide to land on you. They do it so much, you kind of feel like they’re enjoying it. Even better, they feel no desire to hop off without being forced. Also, they are LOUD. I had one land on my collarbone and I didn’t notice until it started “serenading” me from his perch. He did not receive positive feedback.

My neighbor told me stories of how much her kids loved watching them come out of the ground and then spread around the neighborhood the last time they emerged, 17 years ago. They are big fans of nature. My kids, on the other hand, are fans of Minecraft, Roblox, and manga.

From late May through late June, it became downright impossible to get any of my kids to go for a walk. I couldn’t really blame them – you can only dodge what feels like purposeful airborne assaults of giant bugs so many times before it gets really, really old. So we couldn’t go anywhere and be inside, because of COVID, and we couldn’t be outside either, without being dive bombed by giant bugs. Late spring was not our favorite this year.

So this brings me to our current problem. The cicadas were thankfully gone by early July and oh, how we loved being able to go back outside unbothered by insects. Everything was going great.

And then it was early August, and I got a few of the itchiest bug bites of my life, despite never having seen a single bug on me. The bites didn’t just itch, they HURT. But they didn’t look like the bites from mosquitos carrying Lyme disease, so I just toughed it out with some anti-itch cream. Except I kept getting more. And then someone posted on my neighborhood Facebook group about the possibility that oak mites were to blame for her super itchy bug bites, and a bunch of others chimed in that they had them, too.

The more I looked into them, the more sure I was that this was what had bit me. 9 times, at that point. If you’ve never heard of them, oak mites are MICROSCOPIC. I won’t post a picture of them, because they are UGLY. They bite, but you don’t feel it until 10 HOURS LATER, and their bites both itch and STING. Like the cicadas, whose company I so enjoyed, they have no regard for personal space, but these guys take it to a new level. Almost every single one of my oak mite bites was under my clothes – the little perverts! They’re here feeding on the eggs of the cicadas – as if I needed another reason to dislike the cicadas.

Oh, but it gets better! Bug spray doesn’t work on oak mites, because they don’t fly, they just float in the air. And wouldn’t you know that we have two HUGE oak trees in our front yard, and many, many others in our neighborhood. Basically, it’s not safe to go outside without long pants and long sleeves, ever. In the middle of the summer. Did I mention it went up to 100+ degrees Fahrenheit every day this past week? No, that was not awesome.

How long do these abhorrent invisible creatures live, you ask? From what I’ve read, it looks like they’re here to stay until it gets cold.

So school starts in a week (beyond stressful enough this year) and I want them to get the kids outside and out of the vicinity of the other kids as much as possible because of COVID… so they can be feasted on by microscopic mites?

I am officially over 2021, and we haven’t even had the back to 100% in-person school during a COVID pandemic part yet. Can we just skip forward to 2022?

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