One of the most glorious aspects of life in SoFlo is the freedom to grow fresh fruit just about anywhere, and citrus fruits are high up on our list of favorites. If you own a citrus tree, you’ve probably enjoyed countless recipes and overflowing fruit baskets from their generous yields. However, you’re not the only one with a particular fondness for these tangy-fruited trees—citrus leafminer has your tree in its crosshairs. Whether you’ve found evidence of these pests yet or not, don’t skip this information—the best time to act is now!
What is Citrus Leafminer?
In the long-term, citrus leafminer infestations can cause stunted growth on young trees and reduce fruit production.
Citrus leafminer is an insect that preys primarily on, you guessed it, citrus trees. Like other leafminers, the pest has an unusual—but highly recognizable—way of attacking your plant. The adult citrus leafminer is actually a moth with silver wings and a distinctive spiky appearance on its abdomen. The females lay eggs on the underside of citrus leaves, which subsequently hatch into larvae. Larval leafminers dive inside the leaf and eat their way through, leaving a distinctive maze-like pattern on the leaves. They continue to Pac-Man their way through the leaves until they’ve matured enough to pupate and emerge from the leaves as adult moths.
Identifying Citrus Leafminer Damage
In the long-term, citrus leafminer infestations can cause stunted growth on young trees and reduce fruit production. You’ll know your citrus is infested if you spot those telltale maze patterns on the undersides of your citrus leaves. Since you need to be looking closely to spot the patterns, your first sign might be to spot some oddly malformed foliage on the tree.
Here’s the thing, though; ideally, you shouldn’t wait until you spot signs of citrus leafminer before you take action. If you’ve inspected your tree and you don’t see any sign of them, keep reading!
How Do You Treat Citrus Leafminer?
The most irritating thing about getting rid of citrus leafminers is that their most damaging life stage takes place inside your tree’s foliage. This naturally protects them from typical insecticides and gentler treatment methods like a good hose-down. The best way to get ahead of a citrus leafminer infestation is to prevent it before it happens.
Leafminers are attracted to young, tender growth, so performing your annual pruning in the late winter to early spring will allow new growth to mature before the leafminers are at their most active. It’s also key to clip off water shoots (stems that emerge from the base of the tree) as quickly as you can. These shoots are beacons of tender growth, and leafminers are drawn to them like magnets!
Weekly preventative applications of an eco-safe pesticide, such as neem oil, can also help repel adult leafminers from laying their eggs in the first place. If you haven’t yet developed an infestation, this is a great way to keep those pesky miners away.
If you see signs of leafminers, parasitic wasps are an effective predator of leafminer larvae. You can purchase dormant parasitic wasps and release them directly onto your citrus tree, where they’ll get to work preying on leafminer eggs. Don’t worry, these wasps aren’t aggressive to people like your garden-variety yellowjacket! Parasitic wasps are also fond of pollen from plants in the mint and aster families, so planting some mint, catmint, or asters in nearby containers can spruce up the area and keep your buzzing soldiers close at hand.
While a citrus leafminer infestation isn’t necessarily the end of the world for your citrus trees, they can threaten the quality of your harvest—and that’s reason enough to keep up a strong defense! For more tips and recommendations for your citrus and other fruit trees, pay us a visit at our garden center in Fort Lauderdale.