Bugs are biting in Omaha, but what are they?

Fall weather means more bugs will be nipping around the Omaha metro.
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 5:03 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Fall-type nights are setting in in Omaha.

From decks that back to woods, to walking at places like Lake Zorinsky or Elmwood Park, people are enjoying the outdoors.

But the relaxation can quickly turn to misery because late summer or early fall bugs are biting.

Mary Collier of West Omaha says her 7-year-old recently got bitten.

”She is outside quite a bit and just in the last week or so she had quite a few welts on her neck and her shoulders. They were itchy, maybe slightly painful,” said Collier.

Other people told 6 News they too have been bitten repeatedly just sitting outside taking in a cool breeze.

So, what is the culprit? It could be something called the oak leaf itch mite.

Entomologist Dr. Jody Green with the University of Nebraska Extension showed us research and an article she has written on oak mites. She says they are arachnids, not insects, closely related to ticks. There are well-documented outbreaks in the Midwest dating back to 2004.

Oak trees are known to host the small pests. Green says they are prevalent in Kansas. Also, oak trees are everywhere in Nebraska.

“What they are experiencing does sound like they could be oak itch mites. It’s really hard to confirm. They normally will blow or fall out of trees, " said Green.

There are several signs to watch for to determine if an oak mite has bitten you. One -- they feed on skin tissue. Two -- they cause red welts with a blister. Three -- it can take between 10 and 16 hours for your skin to react to the bite.

“Unfortunately there is not a lot you can do to prevent them,” Green said. “If you are enjoying the weather, walking under trees or at a park or in the backyard or a pumpkin patch, you may fall victim to one of these bites.”

There is another nuisance to look out for here in Nebraska this fall. Pirate bugs are tiny black bugs that emerge during harvest season and pack a painful bite.

Green says insect repellents often do not work against these pests. Your best bet is to keep your skin covered.

Experts note the first hard freeze will generally kill a lot of them and bring an end to the biting season.