Leaf miner damage is troublesome for gardeners. They create a myriad of destructive squiggling lines through the insides of leaves that may look like artwork but can cause significant harm to plants. In doing so, they feed on leaf sap and leaf tissue, depleting the plant of its sugar supply and reducing its potential for growing healthy fruits.
Check out our informative guide on how to get rid of leaf miners organically to keep them from wreaking havoc on your crops.
What are Leaf Miners?
The leaf miner is the larva or caterpillar of a tiny moth that hovers around gardens. The adult form of this pest lays its eggs on plant leaves. The larvae burrow into the leaf and eat the leaf tissue from the inside. The leaf miner’s entire life cycle occurs between the soil and its host plant’s leaves, repeating the process over and over.
Some signs that you have leaf miners in your garden include:
- Squiggly, white lines on the leaves of your plants
- Leaf curling on new growth
Leaf Miner Treatment
Leaf miners can be challenging to eliminate because their larvae creep within the layers of plant leaves, so you cannot simply pick them off or wipe them away. However, there are several organic strategies that you can use to combat leaf miner damage.
Pruning Away Leaf Minor Damage
The first approach to take is to prune your plants when you see signs of leaf miner activity. Examine your plants regularly, keeping a close eye out for the signature, white, squiggly paths on leaves. Pay particular attention to young leaves, as leaf miners are more likely to seek out new growth.
Hang Yellow Sticky Traps
Pick up some yellow sticky traps from your local nursery or garden center and hang some around your garden. The adult flying insect will often get trapped on the sticky surface, which can help disrupt the life cycle of this garden pest. More often, though, the pheromone-loaded sticky traps will alert you to whether or not this pest is present, allowing you to take additional measures to prevent leaf miner damage.
Implement Companion Planting to Deter Leaf Miner Bugs
Looking for how to get rid of leaf miners? Implement companion planting into your garden routines. Leaf miners seem to flock to some plants more than others. Planting trap crops can entice leaf miners to seek out certain plants as sacrificial plants, thereby protecting your treasured crops.
Try planting some of these plants in your garden to attract leaf miners, so they leave your crops alone:
*Note: In some regions, these leaf miner “trap” plants are considered invasive.
You can also lure beneficial insect predators into your garden. These insects feed on leaf miners and can be a natural method of stopping leaf miner damage. Many beneficial insects are already in your environment; the trick is to keep them there and encourage more of them to seek out your garden space. The predatory wasp is one of the best pests to seek out and devour leaf miners.
Plant some of these plants in your garden as a tactic for how to get rid of leaf miners:
Squeeze Affected Leaves to Get Rid of Leaf Miners
Once you identify the white squiggly path in your leaves, follow the tunnels to the end, and you are likely to find the hungry artist in the form of a small caterpillar. This larva is thriving right beneath the thin top layer of the leaf. Take the leaf between your thumb and forefinger and squish it.
Protect Your Plants From Leaf Miners Using Row Covers
Deter the adult moth of the leaf miner pest from accessing your plants and laying their eggs by placing row covers over your most vulnerable crops. To best disrupt the life cycle of this pest, first, prune off the affected leaves and discard them entirely far away from the garden. Then, install the row cover.
Leaf Miner Control
Leaf miner control is essential for the health of plants. While leaf miners will not likely kill your plants, they will significantly impact their ability to produce. When looking for how to get rid of leaf miners, identifying the affected plants and implementing organic pest management strategies can go a long way to ensuring that your plants thrive and that the ecosystem is protected.