Can’t See The Wood For The Trees? … What About The Leaves?

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Stigmella aurella found on Bramble

It was a fellow blogger Sconzani who runs a wonderful blog with the lovely tiltle Earthstar ~ a celebration of nature who got me looking much more closely at the leaves on not only the trees, but most anything else which has leaves.

Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner Cameraria ohridella larvae leaf-mines
Cameraria ohridella on Horse Chestnut

Leafminers can be from different insect groups. Many species of Lepidoptera (moths), Diptera (trues flies), Coleoptera (beetles) and Symphyta (sawflies), have larvae which mine plants. It is the larvae of these insects which produce these mines within the leaves of plants, feeding on the plants’ tissues as part of their development cycle.

Stigmella microtheriella on Hazel

Mines tend to be restricted to a certain range of host plants and so the identification of a miner is facilitated by correctly identifying these plants. The shape of the mines (gallery or blotch) and the patterns of the droppings (frass), besides characteristics of the larvae and pupae, can be diagnostic. Even the location of where the egg is layed on a leaf can be diagnostic and can help to separate similar species.

Phytomyza ilicis

The Holly Leaf Miner (above image) forms quite a wide gallery on Holly (Ilex), and is only one of two holly leaf miners to be found in the wholes of Europe, and the only one to be found in the UK. The adult female Agromyzid fly Phytomyza ilicis lays its eggs in May or June at the base of the petiole of a young leaf (on the underside). The oviposition scars can be seen on the midrib on the underside of the leaf. The larva initially feeds in the mid-rib, later producing the characteristic irregular upper surface linear-blotch.

Phytoliriomyza melampyga

The fly Phytoliriomyza melampyga mines the leaves of Impatiens species (Balsams). Here it was found on Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), an invasive plant species here.

Lyonetia clerkella on Wild Cherry

The larva of the micro-moth the Apple Leaf-miner (Lyonetia clerkella) feeds on a variety of Rosaceae (rose family) and Betula (birch) trees in small, long and winding leafmines.

Profenusa pygmaea on English Oak

The larva of the sawfly Profenusa pygmaea mine the leaves of various species of oak (Quercus) creating a large blister or blotch mine on the upper surface.

Stigmella microtheriella on Hazel

So next time you are out in the woods … or even in the park or garden … take a closer look at those leaves and see what squiggly patterns or blotches have been created within them.

32 thoughts on “Can’t See The Wood For The Trees? … What About The Leaves?

  1. The variety is interesting, as are the details you offered, but when it comes to purely aesthetic appeal, that yellow leaf with the burgundy trim wins the prize!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the plug, Peter. Really pleased that my blogs have encouraged you to look closer at leaf mines, and that you’re now encouraging others. And what a great selection of mines you’ve found so far. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are welcome, Annie … and thank you! 🙂 I use iRecord, and it’s always good to have them come back as confirmed. I have always been one to look for plants galls, and although I have seen leafmines before your blog certainly opened up my eyes more 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Informative and fascinating, Pete! I wasn’t aware of the term ‘leaf mining’ – but now that you mention it, patterns from the feeding do look like mines.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Leaf miners are very cool and you found a bunch of nice ones, Pete. I’ve only found one that I could ID. I photographed one on a raspberry leaf here in the yard, it may be a blackberry leaf miner, but I have not Id’d it for sure. These are all great finds!
    A local acquaintance makes a specialty of these and is about to publish a field guide to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually he has published it, I’ll order one up soon, and here is a link to his blog post about it and how to order the eBook should you be interested. Of course it is based on U.S. species but we do have some overlap.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you, Steve. Some ids can be quite a challenge, and to be sure of id in these they have to be bred out to maturity … something I have never done. I record all my findings via a national data base here called iRecord and thankfully all these came back confirmed by experts in their field. Yet there are some, like your good self, I have been unable to get a definitive id on despite some really good online resources. Book wise there appears to be very little available as a field guide, so it is good that at least you should be getting your hands on one soon! 🙂


      1. Thank you Steve. This looks very interesting and to be good read. I actually own 3 books you may be familar with by Stephen A. Marshall. One on Insects, one on Flies and another on Beetles. Quite expensive but behemoth tomes worthy of the cost!


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