The Yard List(s), Part 21

Uh-oh, eleven days since my last update on leafminers and sawflies in my yard… Let’s see what’s happened since then.

I’ve collected Phytomyza origani mines from the oregano patch by the front door on several different occasions, to ensure that I have sufficient reared adults to properly document the presence of this species in North America. In all of the mines I’ve found, the puparia have been formed inside the leaf, with one exception. A puparium appeared at the bottom the rearing vial with leaves I’d collected on June 26, and on July 11 this fly emerged from it:


This is a Calycomyza rather than a Phytomyza. As I mentioned when I first found the mines, no North American leafminer is known to feed on oregano. My guess is that this is C. menthae, which I have mining beebalm (Monarda) in my yard and has also been reared from other mint genera (Lycopus, Mentha), but unfortunately identification of females like this one is hopeless, so this will have to remain an educated guess for the time being.

On July 13 an adult Parornix emerged from a paper birch leaf I’d collected on June 26 (a second attempt after the first mine I collected produced a braconid wasp instead of a moth). In theory this should mean I now know which of the five birch-feeding Parornix species I’ve got, but they all look pretty similar. It might be P. vicinella, but I’m not entirely convinced.


On June 17 I had collected a number of Caloptilia leaf rolls on pin cherry, and some braconid wasps emerged, and then a couple of non-leafmining caterpillars appeared, which I moved to other containers. Then on June 14, this adult Parornix appeared—apparently having emerged either from a mine that I mistakenly associated with the Caloptilia rolls, or from a mine that wasn’t there yet when I collected the leaves, which are too deteriorated now to determine its source.


Although this is mighty similar to the birch Parornix above, Dietz’s (1907) key takes it somewhere entirely different because the cilia at the apex of the wing are not black-tipped. If it’s a species that has been reported from cherry before, it would seem to be P. crataegifoliella, but I’m not confident about this one either.

Also on July 14, I discovered that two adults (a male and a female) had emerged from the soil into which five aspen-feeding “slug” sawflies (Caliroa) had burrowed on or before June 27. Caliroa species are supposed two have just one generation per year, with adults emerging in spring, but no Caliroa species are known to feed on aspen so I guess we shouldn’t expect this species to conform to what is known…


On the same day I discovered that a couple of Acordulecera larvae I’d collected from butternut leaves on June 17 (burrowed by June 22) had emerged as adults. Another genus that isn’t supposed to do that… but it seems like this wasn’t a fluke, because I think I’ve now seen three successive groups of Acordulecera larvae feeding on that same butternut sapling this season.


On a walk around the yard I found two giant silkmoth caterpillars (Saturniidae) on one of our two little tuliptree saplings.


At first I thought they might be larvae of the tuliptree silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera), a tuliptree specialist that I’ve never encountered, but after a little investigation I determined that they’re promethea moths (C. promethea), which include tuliptree in their diverse assortment of host plants. Tuliptree silkmoth caterpillars (and adults) typically hang out well above ground level and are unlikely to be found on a little sapling like this one.

Three days later they had both molted (one not yet totally free of its previous skin and head capsule) and were resting together on the underside of a leaf.


Back on the evening of the 14th I found a couple of Agromyza mines on some sunflowers (Asteraceae: Helianthus annuus) in our vegetable garden.


The only Agromyza known to feed on Helianthus is A. ambrosivora, but this is based on a single rearing from mines Julia and I found in Colorado five years ago, so it’s certainly possible that it isn’t the only species using this host. I collected this mine just in time; right after I picked the leaf, I noticed that one of the larvae was already poking out of it:


Here’s its puparium the next morning:


Leafminer #129: Agromyza ambrosivora (Agromyzidae).  It will be a while before I confirm the identity of the sunflower miner in the garden, but in the meantime I’ve found definite A. ambrosivora mines on ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) around the yard.


The sawfly larvae I found on the shadbush by the garage on July 11 (which are probably an Arge species) have voracious appetites, and I’ve had to collect new leaves for them every day or two. On July 15 I found one of them molting:


Leafminer #130: Stigmella intermedia (Nepticulidae).  I’d been watching for mines of this tiny moth on the sumac around the yard for a while without seeing anything, and then suddenly on the 17th there were several old, brown ones on a branch overhanging the driveway, which I walk past every day. Not paying enough attention I guess!


On Monday (the 20th) I decided I’d better do a focused leafminer search around the yard to see what else I’d been missing.

Leaf (stem) miner #131: The first thing I found was this mine on a Canada goldenrod (Asteraceae: Solidago canadensis) stem right by the chicken run.


As far as I know no one has ever reported finding a stem mine on goldenrod before. The agromyzid fly Phytoliriomyza arctica is known to mine stems of other Asteraceae genera in Europe, and adults have been caught on goldenrod in Canada. Possibly this is that species, but it could also be some unknown Ophiomyia (I did rear Ophiomyia adults from stems of silverrod, Solidago bicolor, last year). The larva is still feeding away toward the tip of the stem, so maybe I’ll get to find out what it is.


Sawfly #37.  I spotted this striking larva resting on the underside of a smooth goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) leaf in the “lower nut orchard.”


It had a freshly-molted look, and I found its previous skin on the underside of another leaf a few inches above it.


Notice how, unlike the promethea moth, the sawfly larva’s head capsule stayed attached to the rest of its exuviae. This is a consistent difference between lepidopteran and sawfly larvae and applies to leafminers as well. This larva was totally unlike the ones I previously found feeding on goldenrod leaves around the yard, and I can’t be sure what its actual host plant was. The only tree it could have fallen from was a sugar maple; if it wandered onto the goldenrod from a neighboring plant, the most likely suspects would be blackberry and jewelweed. It looked prepupal to me and was acting restless, so I dropped it in a jar of soil and it immediately burrowed down. What emerges (in a few weeks? Next year?) may not be a sawfly, because it had a yellow egg of a tryphonine ichneumon wasp right behind its head. Spencer Monckton suggested this larva is probably a Tenthredo, and a Google image search for that genus did turn up some similarly patterned European species.


Leafminer #132: Phytomyza astotinensis (Agromyzidae), on Canada goldenrod.  This looks just like the mine of P. solidaginophaga, which was active back in May, but it was found on a leaf that didn’t exist yet when the last P. solidaginophaga larva dropped to the ground.


I found this mine of a Cerodontha species (Agromyzidae) on a bract of nodding sedge (Cyperaceae: Carex gynandra). I suspect it was made by C. (Dizygomyza) morosa, but I couldn’t swear it’s not C. (Butomomyza) angulata, which I’ve already listed for the yard (found on deertongue grass), so I won’t count it as a separate species for now. There is a puparium in the mine, so I may end up with an adult fly. There are no records of any leafminer from this particular sedge species.


The promethea caterpillars were still on the tuliptree sapling—one munching away on a leaf with a Phyllocnistis liriodendronella mine.


Leafminer #133: Bucculatrix sp. (Bucculatricidae), on red oak (Fagaceae: Quercus rubra). A few weeks ago I found mines of an undetermined Bucculatrix on this same young red oak, but was unable to find larvae to collect and rear. Now there are cocoons of two different species on the leaves. This stocky one, from which the adult moth has already emerged, reminds me of B. trifasciella but I wouldn’t swear it’s that species…


…and then there’s this pure white, more finely ribbed, and more elongate one, from which an adult might still emerge:


Leafminer #134: Neurobathra strigifinitella (Gracillariidae), on Chinese chestnut.  The larva of this moth mines largely in the midrib, sometimes (as in this example) expanding the mine into a blotch toward the tip of the leaf blade.


Now in the “upper nut orchard,” I saw this rosy maple moth (Saturniidae: Dryocampa rubicunda) caterpillar on the underside of a red maple leaf.


Leafminer #135: Coptodisca splendoriferella (Heliozelidae), on black cherry (Rosaceae:  Prunus serotina).  The leaf in the photo below has mines of five different larvae, two of which survived to maturity, at which point they cut out little oval leaf pieces to form their pupal cases.


Leafminer #136: Stigmella slingerlandella (Nepticulidae), on choke cherry (Rosaceae:  Prunus virginiana).  The larva of this species is much paler than the green larva of S. prunifoliella, and its mine gets substantially wider, often forming a distinct blotch. Also, the mine of S. prunifoliella always begins at the midrib, whereas this mine started above the top of the photo and then crossed the midrib. I don’t think it caused that brown, necrotic area, but it clearly passed through it while the tissue was still green.


The larva popped out of the leaf the next day…


…and by yesterday it had spun its tiny cocoon in the moist wad of toilet paper at the bottom of the rearing vial.


Leafminer #137: Stigmella corylifoliella (Nepticulidae), on one of our cultivated hazelnuts (Betulaceae: Corylus ‘medium long’).


I’m happy to say that plant actually has made some nuts this year, though I assume rodents or blue jays will swipe them all right when we’re starting to think about harvesting them.


Leafminer #138: Calycomyza flavinotum (Agromyzidae). There was a lone larva mining in the spotted Joe-pye weed (Asteraceae: Eutrochium maculatum) we planted in the front yard last fall.


The burdock at the edge of the yard is currently much more popular with C. flavinotum.


The eminently furry Bombus perplexus was enjoying our blooming oregano. I don’t remember seeing this species in our yard before. Although I don’t pay nearly as much attention to flower visitors as to herbivores, this is the fourth species of bumble bee I’ve photographed in the yard.


Also a lovely little orange mint moth (Crambidae: Pyrausta orphisalis), whose larvae also feed on mints, but apparently only on Mentha species and not oregano.


Leafminer #139: “Antispila oinophylla (Heliozelidae), on summer grape (Vitaceae: Vitis aestivalis). The genus of this moth will likely have changed by the next time you hear from me.


I’ve been troubled by these agromyzid mines on our apple mint (Lamiaceae: Mentha suaveolens) ever since I saw one floating in Julia’s water glass a few weeks ago. I’ve been checking the plants ever since and have been unable to find another until now. They don’t really match any of the known mint miners, but they may just be weird mines of Calycomyza menthae.


Leafminer #140: Stigmella villosella (Nepticulidae), on a blackberry growing under the solar panel. A good day for Stigmella mines!


Leafminer #141: Aristotelia isopelta (Gelechiidae), on evening primrose (Onagraceae:  Oenothera biennis). This one was just getting started and I doubt I would have noticed it if I hadn’t been specifically looking for it. I wrote about my initial discovery of this mine here, and this moth is featured in my “Native Plants as Insect Habitat” slideshow that you can now watch here.


The same evening primrose plant had a larva of Waldheimia carbonaria, another sawfly with multiple generations per year.


I saw a number of case-bearing leaf beetle larvae (Chrysomelidae: Neochlamisus eubati) wandering about on blackberry leaves and nibbling them from the cover of their portable poop thimbles.


Also on the 20th, this adult Parornix emerged from a hawthorn leaf I’d collected by the mailbox on July 7. This one I do feel comfortable calling P. crataegifoliella.


Leafminer #142: Agromyza rudbeckiana (Agromyzidae), on the Heliopsis along the driveway. I noticed a brown leaf tip on Monday but couldn’t convince myself it was actually a mine until I checked again on Tuesday evening, at which point it had grown considerably (and had a chalcid wasp investigating it, which I didn’t notice when I took this photo). This is the other likely suspect for the mines on Helianthus in the vegetable garden.


This dazzling caterpillar of the brown hooded owlet moth (Noctuidae: Cucullia convexipennis) was on a little clump of Canada goldenrod by the driveway yesterday morning.


No new leafminers yesterday, but Julia spotted this pair of “bad-wing” moths (Geometridae: Dyspteris abortivaria) resting on a striped maple leaf in the lower nut orchard. Caterpillars of this species eat grape (and Virginia creeper), which is abundant in the immediate vicinity.


We only saw one plump promethea caterpillar on the nearby tuliptree sapling, which, with its few remaining leaves, probably doesn’t mind if the other one was eaten or wandered off to try out another host plant.


This morning a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar was peeking out of one of the folded leaves on the spicebushes we planted next to the garage:


And one more leafminer from this morning, which I found when I went out to cut back the staghorn sumac by the mailbox at the mail lady’s request (it was preventing her from seeing whether our little red flag was up until she’s already zooming past):

Leafminer #143: Caloptilia rhoifoliella (Gracillariidae). The larvae start out making these epidermal linear-blotch mines on the lower leaf surface, and will later live in lopsided rolls at the tips of the leaflets.


And as usual, a few more edible plants to log:

88. Mulberry (Moraceae: Morus ‘Illinois everbearing’) – fruit
89. Dewberry (Rosaceae: Rubus flagellaris) – fruit
90. Self-heal (Lamiaceae: Prunella vulgaris) – leaves & flowers (tea)
91. Zucchini (Cucurbitaceae: Cucurbita pepo) – fruit
92. Potato (Solanaceae: Solanum tuberosum) – tubers
93. Blackberry (Rosaceae: Rubus allegheniensis) – fruit

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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7 Responses to The Yard List(s), Part 21

  1. Lynn says:

    If there are any plants in particular you’d like me to keep an eye on for leafminers, let me know. I’m close enough I could easily drop off a twig or twelve. Also,let me say again that all this is just SO COOL!

  2. Deborah Zinn says:

    You really capture the drama & excitement by your ‘incremental’ photography! I’m fascinated by every issue! Also want to say the video was wonderful & I recommended it to many friends. And your iNaturalist project, too. Worlds within worlds. I didn’t know that larvae molt! Here in Southeast Australia, we have a sawfly larvae (black & slimy) that eats plum tree leaves rather voraciously. I don’t think they start as leaf miners – I’m going to look them up. Thank you for your work & Blog.

    • Thanks, that’s great to hear! Black & slimy sawfly larvae sound like Caliroa or something related, which are close relatives of the main group of leaf-mining sawflies but feed externally (“window feeding”) throughout their development.

  3. Pingback: The Yard List(s), Part 22 | BugTracks

  4. Pingback: The Yard List(s), Part 23 | BugTracks

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