Leafminers on the Road

For the next couple of months, I will be exploring the western US in search of leaf mines to photograph and collect.  I’m not sure how often I’ll get a chance to post something here, but I figured I’d take this opportunity (internet access while staying with new friends in Casper, Wyoming) to at least mention what I’m up to and report that my setup for raising and photographing adult leafminers on the road seems to be working.  Which is a good thing, because pretty much everywhere I look I come across something that seems to be new to science.

While finishing up my contract work along the Maine coast in August, I collected some leaf mines in orache (Atriplex) similar to the one in lambsquarters (Chenopodium) shown here. A few days ago, while camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I went through all my vials and found that this moth had emerged:

It might be that this, too, is Chrysoesthia sexguttella, but I know there are several Chrysoesthia species that mine in various goosefoots (members of the family Chenopodiaceae, now considered part of the amaranth family, Amaranthaceae), and I don’t know what they look like, so I’ll have to figure that out later.

In another vial, I found this moth:

This is Astrotischeria astericola (Tischeriidae), a species I’m not sure has been photographed alive before.  It emerged from a mine in an aster leaf that I had collected just a few days earlier in Ohio, the home state of Annette Braun, who first described the species in 1972.  There is some information about Astrotischeria species at microleps.org.

And that’s it for now… it’s late and tomorrow I’m continuing on to Yellowstone, or thereabouts.

About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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6 Responses to Leafminers on the Road

  1. Troy Mullens says:

    Always something new to see and learn. Thanks for the excellent post. Nice photos.

  2. Carrie says:

    glad to hear the system is working! Take a few traveling picture too!

  3. Pete says:

    Do you have some advice for rearing adults from mines?

    • It depends on what you’re rearing, but in general I’ve been rearing leafminers in collecting vials (sold on BioQuip etc. as “plastic tubes,” I think), which I monitor for humidity. To keep a green leaf green, I often add a crumpled up piece of toilet paper with a few drops of water, switching vials or otherwise trying to reduce humidity if mold starts to grow. Species that pupate in leaves don’t require much else, beyond waiting. For most species that exit to pupate, I provide a well moistened crumpled up piece of toilet paper for the larva to pupate in (though sometimes they will pupate / make the cocoon on the side of the vial or on the leaf; if so you still want to keep the paper nice and moist). Remove the leaf after the larva exits, to prevent mold. Some larvae (eriocraniids, anthomyiid flies, and sawflies) need soil to burrow into. For overwintering leafminers, it’s good to chill them over the winter — in a garage or some other protected, unheated place away from direct sunlight. If you have room for them in a refrigerator, keeping them there until spring might be a good way to go.

      • Pete says:

        Thanks for a solid reply to an imprecisely phrased question on my part. What I should have said is that I’m interested in trying my hand at rearing miners, but don’t know where to start. I have quite a bit of experience with macros, but I’m clueless on the micros. Do you have a reference or link that you can suggest that might help get me started?

        • Well, if you’re clueless, and you’re interested in rearing moths specifically, then I suppose the first step is to get a search image for moth mines, vs. fly/sawfly/beetle mines. There are a lot of good photos of moth mines at microleps.org, and there is a chapter in my Tracks & Sign book that gives an overview of the characteristics of mines made by the various groups of moths and non-moths. Both of these resources will tell you which groups pupate in the mine vs. outside. Apart from that and my suggestions above, I don’t know of any references that say much about how to go about rearing miners.

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