Spring is well under way. The greens and cole crops are coming in and with them come pests. Swiss chard, spinach and beets can see some of the worst problems from the dreaded leafminers. What were once beautiful dark green leaves are now brown and decaying. I remember the first time I saw this I had no idea what was causing it. As soon as I found out it was on. These leaf miners were not going to destroy my hard work.
Leafminers are maggots. The adults are little flies that law their eggs on the undersides of leaves. The eggs look like itty bitty grains of white rice in small organized clumps of about a half dozen. The maggots burrow into the leaf and feed in between the leaf layers while making tunnels. The mature maggots then fall to the ground to pupate.
Because they live in the actual leaf organic controls are really your only option with controlling them because spraying the leaves will never reach the maggots. Fortunately there are several ways to control them, though prevention is the name of the game.
If you have leaf miners pull off the infested leaves and throw them out, no not compost them. Better yet, if you have chickens give them the leaves. They are more than happy to eat it. If the leaves aren’t infested yet, regularly check the undersides for eggs and simply remove them.
We plant our chard, beets and spinach in the fall rather than the spring. Leafminers are active in the spring so I just bypass the whole leafminer season. Since we’re in a mild winter climate this means we get healthy leaves throughout winter.
Another control that we’ve tried with good success is using row covers. These are a good option for those that can’t overwinter your chard, spinach and beets. Of course this only works if you rotate your crops every year. There’s no use in using row covers if you plant your chard where last year’s flies are going to emerge. A light agribon material over hoops is sufficient for keeping the flies away from your plants. Just remember to weigh down the edges so nothing can go under.
There are several parasites and predators of leafminers but I don’t find these to be consistent enough to save much. You can try using beneficial nematodes to disrupt the pupating stage along with providing habitat for parasitic wasps. But I wouldn’t rely on them as your primary control.
10 thoughts on “Mining Leaves – Battling the Nasty Leafminer”
I’m actually having problems with these suckers in my tomatoes and eggplants. Go figure. Luckily, I’m not in the habit of eating my tomato leaves, so as long as I still get my fruit, they can have those.
As we grow beets and various green year around, we use the lightweight Agribon-15 during the warm weather months to prevent these, and various other leaf chewing beasties like cabbage loopers (Ag-19 for overwintering crops). Works great!
I never knew that’s what they were. Ours was a fall crop as well so I didn’t notice these until a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t pulled them out yet because I’m still trying to figure out what to rotate in. Do you have any recommendations of veggies to plant where leafminers wouldn’t be a problem? I was thinking zucchini, squash……
Also, what are these Agrobon? It sounds like some sort of tape. Are they easy to find?
Agribon is a material that you use for row covers. You can purchase it through http://www.groworganic.com and other farm supply stores.
OMG! Thank you for explaining this! I’ve had such problems with these things in my chard. I was assuming those tiny rice-grain-like eggs were from a cabbage butterfly, but I the type of leaf damage on the chard didn’t make sense. Now I know what to do. I hate those eggs, though; they don’t scrape away very easily. I’m going outside right now to clip leaves and give the chickens a snack!
I hate leafminers! In south Florida our “seasons” are a bit different but I’ve learned to contain them.
These guys have decimated my chard. I guess I will try again in winter but in a different location. Any suggestions for winter veggies that I can plant in the spot where the leafminers are currently?
Brenda, the only things you don’t want to follow chard would be beets and spinach (and chard of course). Leafminers generally leave alone other veggies.
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