I Will Not Panic Over Leafminers

Charley Eiseman, a naturalist who conducts biodiversity surveys for conservation groups, became interested in leaf mines because of patterns like this one. It’s the handiwork of the moth Phyllocnistis populiella in a quaking aspen leaf (Populus tremuloides).

As soon as the sun is up, most days, I am outside. Even after 22 years working on this property I find surprises constantly. When Margaret Roach writes, I read; when she offers visual cues to complement her clear writing, all the better:

Leaf mines on columbine (Aquilegia) can be serpentine squiggles or blotches. Larvae of flies in the genus Phytomyza make these familiar markings when they feed between a leaf’s epidermal layers. Margaret Roach

Don’t jump to the conclusion that those mysterious marks are evidence of disease. They may be leaf mines or galls — and that’s a good thing.

During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, some of us mastered bread-baking (if we could get our hands on flour) or devoted ourselves to nurturing some new mail-order houseplant.

Charley Eiseman set the bar a bit higher, as he always does. In 2020, he decided to keep count of certain creatures living within the confines of his Northfield, Mass., yard — and not the easy ones, like birds or mammals, either.

For Mr. Eiseman, a freelance naturalist who conducts biodiversity surveys for conservation groups and other clients, it’s the little things that matter most.

Before the year was out, he had recorded 212 leafminer species, among his various tallies.

You may not be familiar with leafminers, but even if you haven’t seen the miners themselves, which typically go unnoticed, you have most likely witnessed their handiwork: the squiggles or blotches within leaf tissue, known as mines…



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