The allium leaf miner was first detected in Britain in 2002, since when it has spread in the Midlands and has also been found in Surrey. The larvae bore into the stems and bulbs of leeks, onions, chives and garlic with devastating consequences. Affected plants often develop secondary infections and rot.
What is allium leaf miner?
Allium leaf miner is a pest of many common crops: leeks, onion, chives, shallot and garlic. The initial damage is done by the maggots, but secondary fungal and bacterial infections often cause the most noticeable rotting.
Infestations are initiated by the adult fly:
- The greyish brown flies are 3mm long
- Before laying eggs, the female flies feed by making punctures in the leaves and sucking up the exuding sap
- This causes distinctive lines of white dots on the foliage
Next seen is damage from the maggots:
- The larvae are white, headless maggots without legs
- These make tunnels in the foliage, stems and bulbs of their host plants
- Note: Similar damage is caused by caterpillars of the leek moth but that pest has creamy white larvae with brown heads and small legs
But perhaps the most obvious signs of a problem appear when rotting sets in:
- Plants affected by both allium leaf miner and leek moth tend to rot due to secondary infections from fungi and bacteria that develop in the damaged tissues
- On closer inspection, cylindrical brown pupae may also be found embedded in the stems and bulbs
Plants can be protected by covering them with horticultural fleece, or an insect-proof mesh such as Ultra-Fine Enviromesh, at times when the adult flies are active and laying eggs (March to April and October to November). Crop rotation must be used, as adult flies might emerge from pupae underneath the covering if susceptible plants are grown in the same piece of ground in successive years.
None of the pesticides currently available to amateur gardeners for use on leeks, onions and allied plants is likely to give good control of allium leaf miner.
Allium leaf miner has two generations a year:
- First generation female flies lay eggs on the stems or base of leaves during March to April
- The second generation repeats the process in October to November
The maggots bore into the foliage, stems or bulbs of their host plants and, after a couple of weeks, are fully fed and ready to turn into brown pupae. Pupation takes place mainly within the stems and bulbs during summer and winter but some pupae may end up in the soil, especially where plants have rotted off.
Common name Allium leaf miner
Latin name Phytomyza gymnostoma
Plants affected Leeks, onion, chives, shallot and garlic
Main symptoms Lines of white spots on leaves, maggots or brown pupae in the stems and bulbs
Caused by Maggots of a leaf-mining fly
Timing March-June and September-November