Leaf miner

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Leaf miner damage to a horse chestnut tree
Leaf with minor miner damage
Tomato with leaf miner damage
Leaf mines by the moth Phyllocnistis hyperpersea on a Persea borbonia leaf.
Leaf Miner trail on a fallen leaf in a Gondwana cool temperate rainforest. Note the initial thin width of the insect trail, becoming wider as the insect grows while it navigates around the leaf. Cryptocarya foveolata from Cobark Park, Barrington Tops, Australia

A leaf miner is the larva of an insect that lives in and eats the leaf tissue of plants. The vast majority of leaf-mining insects are moths (Lepidoptera), sawflies (Symphyta) and flies (Diptera), though beetles and wasps also exhibit this behavior.

Like Woodboring beetles, leaf miners are protected from many predators and plant defenses by feeding within the tissues of the leaves themselves, selectively eating only the layers that have the least amount of cellulose. When attacking Quercus robur (English oak), they also selectively feed on tissues containing lower levels of tannin, a deterrent chemical produced in great abundance by the tree.[1]

The precise pattern formed by the feeding tunnel is very often diagnostic for which kind of insect is responsible, sometimes even to genus level. The mine often contains frass, or droppings, and the pattern of frass deposition, mine shape and host plant identity are useful to determine the species of leaf miner. A few mining insects utilise other parts of a plant, such as the surface of a fruit.

Some patterns of leaf variegation are part of a defense strategy employed by plants to deceive adult leaf miners into thinking that the leaf has already been preyed upon.[2]

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