Leafminers are insects that develop and live within the leaves of plants.  The leaves are injured by the insect feeding on the interior of the leaf so that all that remains is a brown, thin layer of epidermal tissue. Even though leafminers destroy the leaf they inhabit, usually the percentage of leaves destroyed is small. However, large infestations, reoccurring over several years will begin to stress the plant.
In the case of Birch trees, leafminers can be serious insect pest because a weakened Birch is vulnerable to the Bronze Birch Borer. Boxwood leafminer doesn't put as much stress on the plant, but it does affect the appearance of the shrub.
Many different insects are leafminers, including certain flies, wasps, moths, and beetles. The immature (larval) stage of these insects produces the distinctive mines within the leaf tissue. Adults lay their eggs on the leaves or insert them under the leaf surface. For some leafminers the pupae stage also takes place within the leaf. More commonly, the insect larva, after it completes it's feeding, cuts a hole in the mined leaf and drops to the ground to pupate.
Leafminer Damage
Photo: Ferenc Lakatos, University of West-Hungary,


Leafminer insects on ornamental trees or shrubs are controlled best with products that are carried systemically throughout the plant. This method of treatment provides control even when the insect is protected within the plant leaves. Leafminer control can be obtained with soil injections in the fall or early spring or foliar treatments can be applied soon after the leaves start developing. Light colored kidney shaped mines are the signs that leafminer hatch has taken place.
Deep-root fertilization will help affected plants recover from the damage caused by leafminers.
Elm  leafminer insect
Photo:  Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,
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