the plague

I moved to the midwest in 2014, and in 2015 a plague followed me.

We bought a weird old house on a quiet street near the university, with a big beautiful oak tree in the front yard. It’s a classic midwest neighborhood: front yards, sprinklers, picnics in the summer. We loved it. We put a cheap picnic table in the front yard, and we sit outside in the shade and chat with the neighbors. We pet everybody’s dogs. We eat dinner underneath that oak almost every night.

Then the plague hit.

There’s a tiny, microscopic mite that feeds on oak leaves, Pyemotes herfsi.They’ve been spreading across the midwest (Arkansas! Kansas! Missouri! Ohio! Pennsylvania!) over the last few years, and arrived in our city in 2015. The mites don’t target humans or animals - we’re not part of their lifecycle. I’d never heard of it, and trust me: ignorance is bliss.

Because they DO bite humans. They float down from the trees, microscopic and undetectable, and will bite any exposed flesh they land on. They’re small bites - they might nip you hours later, and you’ll never feel it… until the itch begins.  

The itching.

That’s why they’re called Oak Gall Itch Mites, really - after you’re bitten, you develop an intense, persistent itch at the location of the bite. They’re worse than mosquito bites, and last longer too. Regular itch relief oil just didn’t seem to do anything; we walked around all summer scratching ourselves. Scratching, and cursing.

No place outdoors was safe: you’re most at risk from these un-fightable attacks near oak trees, but they float through the air everywhere.  We were attacked every time we stepped outside - hours later we’d discover red, itchy bites on our arms, necks and legs.  Now it seemed like we only saw our neighbors to complain about the oak mites.

After a summer of this attack, we began to fear the outdoors - to fear our own beautiful oak tree.  We were afraid to sit outside and greet our neighbors out walking their dogs, afraid to let the kids play outside.


And then, after a summer of this, my wife discovered a solution. She spent hours in her essential oil lab, and came up with a blend that somehow - miraculously - stopped the itching. The mites still bite, but now we just roll on a drop of the oil, and feel better.

I’ve always been skeptical of the essential oil industry - and I still don’t know much about it. But my wife put together a mix of natural, organic oils - which even smell good - and those itchy bites stop itching right away. That was enough to convince me! Then she started mixing up bottles for friends, family and neighbors. After a summer of this, we were convinced.

It needed to be shared.

The maddening oak mites robbed us of the pleasure of our summer, and we found the solution. It needed to be shared with others! So this spring, we put together a little brand for the oil: Mighty Oak essential oil. It’s the same blend of super-high-quality essential oils, just with a pretty label we designed together. We’re launching a site where you can buy it directly from her:

It’s such a satisfying endeavor, to channel our frustration into a positive solution that we can share with our neighbors. Our own personal crusade against these mites isn’t going to wipe them out, but it can finally bring some itchy relief.

The Sea Hates a Coward