The first time I saw Leaf Miners had caused damage to my plant leaves I had no idea what to think. It looked like someone had painted on them with a marker. It was weird it never dawned on em that it could be an insect doing that to my plants.
Then I found out there were many insects that exhibit the same behavior, there are even citrus leaf miners I found out when my neighbor’s citrus plants saw the same damage. Luckily they are treated the same way, so that makes it easy because you don’t have to identify the exact leaf miner you have to treat for it.
Do your leaves look like someone has drawn squiggly lines on them? If your answer is “yes” then you’re most like dealing with leaf miners. Today, we’ll be talking about how you can identify these pests and control them in the garden. Let’s get started!
Identifying Leaf Miners
The term leaf miner refers to the larva of several species of insects that feed on the leaves of plants. These larvae feed inside the leaf tissue of leaves and selectively eat the layers that have the least amount of cellulose.
Adult leaf miners lay their eggs inside leaves the leaves. Once these eggs hatch, they begin to tunnel inside the leaves creating the characteristic wavy lines you see on leaves affected by this pest.
Many insect species have leaf-mining larvae such as:
- moths (Lepidoptera)
- sawflies (Symphyta, the mother clade of wasps)
- flies (Diptera)
- Some beetles can also exhibit this behavior.
Leaf Miner Damage
Leaf miners can feed on a wide variety of crops including plants in the spinach family such as Swiss chard and beets. They can also feed on cucumber, celery, eggplant, lettuce, peas, potatoes, and tomatoes.
In some cases, they may also chew their way through shrubs and trees including citrus as I mentioned above.
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As leaf miners bore through the leaves of plants, they leave a “mine” that appears as yellow squiggly lines. Sometimes, they won’t zigzag their way through a plant, however. Instead, they will leave behind brown blotches.
Most of the time, the damage caused by leaf miners is purely cosmetic. The unsightly trails they leave behind make plants look unattractive. However, in severe or repeated infestations, the stress they cause to the plant can weaken them and cause them to die.
Controlling Leaf Miners
Leaf miners can be tricky to control and manage since they live inside the leaves of your plants. Most insecticides aren’t effective since the pests are protected by the outer layer of the leaves.
Meanwhile, systemic insecticides that can kill leaf miners tend to be absorbed by plants and are not ideal for edible crops.
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There are, however, certain things you can do if you see signs of leaf miners in your garden. This includes:
- Squeezing leaves to kill larvae. As soon as you see wavy lines on the leaves of your plants, give the leaves a squeeze to get rid of the larvae.
- Remove infected leaves and discard them. Doing this will prevent any further damage that can be inflicted on the rest of the plant.
- Use trap crops to keep leaf miners away from your valuable plants. Use plants like columbine, lambs quarter, and velvet leaf to attract leaf miners.
- Use beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps to help in controlling leaf miner populations in your gardens. Adult wasps can get into the tunnels created by leaf miners and kill them. Meanwhile, their pupae can feed on dead leaf miner larvae.
- Use yellow or blue sticky traps to attract leaf miners. These are a great tool since adult leaf miners can get stuck in the adhesive leaving them unable to mate or lay eggs.
What is the insect that is causing you the most aggravation in your garden?
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