Vegetable leaf miner, Liriomyza sativae, a significant pest of both edible and ornamental plants has arrived in Australia, as it continues its unstoppable march through the world’s tropical and subtropical zones.
Originally from South America, vegetable leaf miner has spread into North and Central America, Africa, Asia and through many Pacific islands. It was recently detected in several Torres Strait islands but has now been found in Seisia on Cape York in northern Queensland, prompting an alert from Biosecurity Queensland. The pest was found in siratro in a backyard garden.
Vegetable leaf miner is serious pest and threatens edibles, exotics and also Australian native plants. The insects larvae feeds under the leaf surface, seriously disfiguring and debilitating mature plants but often killing seedlings and young plants. The larvae’s tunnels appear as pale grey or whitish lines or coils on the leaves, or pods.
The adult insects look like small greyish-black flies. On close inspection you can see that they have a yellow and black body, which is about 1.5mm – 2mm long. With a two week life cycle and the ability to lay over 300 eggs per female, the vegetable leaf miner spreads quickly, both on the air but also in infested plants, fruit and vegetables, soil, tools and equipment, and clothing. The vegetable leaf miner can reproduce rapidly in areas with temperatures higher than 10ºC.
The vegetable leaf miner attacks a very wide range of plants, including tomato and potato, onion, bean, pea, pumpkin, turnip, squash, okra, spinach, radish, watermelon and beets. There is also the potential for it to affect Australian plants in those families, such as Solanaceae and Fabaceae.
Liriomyza sativae is a notifiable pest in Australia, and the Cape York area is subject to strict quarantine to try and prevent its spread southwards. Contact the exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.