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Controlling Leaf Miners

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Controlling leaf miners is challenging.

Leaf miners are small maggot-like creatures that live in the mid-tissue layer of plant leaves. And, they “mine” out the nutrients inside plant leaves. Then they leave behind a rapidly-widening path of death. And this is referred to as”skeletonizing” plant leaves.

Chard with leaf miner damage

Leaf miner damage on chard

Not sure your plant has a leaf miner problem?

Here’s a way to check to see if you have leaf miners. Break open a portion of a leaf that you think has leaf miners. And make your break near the end of the path of death on the leaf. If you find a tiny maggot wiggling around, you’ve likely found a leaf miner. And, it may be surrounded by its own specks of black poop.

Or, you may find that the worm has turned into a pupae. And, in this case it wouldn’t be squirming anymore. Or, if it has already hatched, it may already be gone. But, the damage will remain.

So, what are some leaf miner control methods?

If you have active leaf miners, parasitic wasps may help control them. That’s because they can lay their eggs inside the pest larvae. So, encouraging beneficial insects is important.

But, if your leaves are being mined already, then it’s time to get rid of the affected leaves. Often these pests arrive in multiple hatches each year. So, if you notice leaf miner damage on a spring crop, removing and disposing of the infestation will reduce the opportunity for more leaf miners to hatch again later.

Moreover, don’t get rid of the infected leaves, the pests may pupate in your soil for repeat infestations year over year.

Oh, and when you cut off a leaf of infected chard or spinach, you can eat the part that hasn’t already been eaten by the miner. Just tear the good part away and toss it in your salad. But, don’t toss any infected leaves in your compost pile or you may perpetuate the problem more.

What about spraying leaf miner pests away?

Because leaf miners live inside the layers of the leaves, its unlikely that a spray application will even affect them. That’s because the leaf itself can protect the pests inside. And, if a product promises that it does kill leaf miner larvae, keep in mind that it must have the ability to penetrate the cell layers of the leaf as well.

Moreover, leaf miners love beets. spinach, and chard leaves. So, if you spray, you’ll be spraying leaves you plan to eat.

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8 comments on “Controlling Leaf Miners

  1. Allen olsen on

    I have a nursery in northwest Montana and just about every single aspen tree in Libby has been affected but the leaf miner. All the aspen are so bad they all look white. Do you have any answers for this? I do like to spray and they are in great big mature trees. Please e-mail me back with a possible answer. My e-mail (removed by editor) Thank You Allen

  2. Garden Mentors on

    Allen, I’m not sure how to manage leaf miner on Aspens. It sounds awful. Try contacting a certified arborist in your area via the ISA.org site for help. Best of luck!

  3. Sheelagh Oliveria on

    In regard to the leaf miners on the aspens, encourage moth eating birds. also plant aster family plants that bloom well into fall to feed predatory wasps. it’s amazing what a stand of flowers will do to protect gardens. it’s all invisible too. just healthy plants. can’t have health And poisons. gotta choose one.

  4. Andrea Cooper on

    Thank you for the healty tip and yummy recipe. I’m going to cut out the mined leaves and eat the good parts. I guess some protein would not hurt anyway.

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