KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Johnson County, Kansas, horticulturist says the number of people dealing with bites from the oak leaf itch mite has picked up this year.

Kansas State University horticulturist Dennis Patton tells The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/2d3Kgge ) that the mites have been back in full force and that the number of calls from people who’ve been bitten has picked up in the last several weeks.

“My gut is telling me that the last few weeks, it’s probably been our No. 1 call into the office,” Patton said. “I would say it is probably rivaling last year’s numbers.”

Itch mites are associated with a wasp-like insect that forms galls on oak trees. When the insect stings the leaves, a gall forms around the insect’s larvae. Hundreds of thousands of mites then feed on the larvae and exit the gall in the fall. Patton says the mites get on humans after being windblown, and most people won’t know they are bitten since the mites are microscopic. Instead, Patton said people find out much later when welts appear on the body.

“On the trees, there is absolutely no practical way to control either the gall, that’s the host, or control the mites,” Patton said. “You just cannot keep enough insecticide sprays on the trees to get any type of control.”

Patton recommends that people try to prevent bites by covering up as much of their skin as possible when going outside, and showering immediately after they have been exposed to the mites.

Kansas State University researchers said 2015 was considered one of the worst years for mite-related bites in the Kansas City area for the past 10 years.

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com