Brand New Leafminer

This discolored patch discreetly tucked between the veins of a basswood (Tilia americana) leaf is the leaf mine of Phyllonorycter lucetiella (Gracillariidae), a moth.

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This is one of the first leafminers I ever raised to adulthood, from a leaf I collected in the fall of 2009, but the adult had already died when I discovered it the following April.  Since I much prefer pictures of live insects, I tried again the next year, but the moth that emerged that summer, although alive, had severely deformed wings and was even less photogenic than the dead one.  So when I spotted the above leaf mine last July, I flipped over the leaf to see if it was still occupied, offering me a third chance.  As luck would have it, the moth had just emerged and was still resting there, a few millimeters from where the pupa had been thrust through the lower leaf surface to let it out.

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If only all leafminers would time their emergences so well, it would save us all a lot of trouble.

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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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2 Responses to Brand New Leafminer

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a fascinating photo! As a gardener I should be horrified, but I cannot view something like this without also seeing all life as intrinically beautiful. Thank you for your efforts!0

  2. Anonymous says:

    So amazing, isn’t it? Life is everywhere, but we only choose to see the surface. Thank you.

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