On a bright and sunny morning, you go to check on your plants, only to spot leaf miners. Instead of healthy growth, you find they are looking wilted or marked by slimy white wavy lines or trails .
Those are the signs that the eggs of leaf miner flies that have been nestling snugly inside your plants’ leaves have developed into larvae. At this point, figuring out how to get rid of them is vital.
The maggots are now busy feeding on the sap, forming tunnels along lines of the leaves of the plants. Therefore, it’s time to take action before an infestation begins.
Here’s how to get rid of leaf miners naturally. These are home remedies and organic solutions to keep away these plant pests.
1. Beneficial Insects
There are many helpful bugs and insects in the garden that enjoys having a feast out of destructive insects.
Ladybugs (lady beetles), lacewings, predatory bugs, parasitic wasps, and soldier beetles help in the biological control of harmful insects.
However, lacewing and parasitic wasps are the main natural enemies of leaf miners.
2. Hot Pepper Spray
This is a great home remedy for leaf miners on tomatoes, basil, pepper plants, and other vegetables. Various recipes for this are on the internet; however, here’s an easy one.
To make a simple pepper spray for leafminers, blend 3 hot peppers, 1 onion, and 1 bulb of garlic in a quart of water.
Blend them up and let the mixture sit for about an hour before straining. Afterward, add a tablespoon of organic liquid soap and shake well.
Use this DIY leaf miner control spray to coat your plants, including the underside of the leaves.
3. Neem Oil
Widely used in organic farming today, neem oil is effective in controlling many insect pests, including leafminers .
To use neem oil for leaf miners, make a spray by mixing 2 tablespoons of neem oil in a gallon of water. Shake well and spray the solution on affected plants.
You can also use this organic pesticide to control insect pests in general and to keep the garden clear of mildew and fungus.
4. Row Covers
A cover is usually placed over rows of developing plants or crops. Row covers protect young plants from harmful insects. They also give protection from birds, domestic pets, night frosts, or daytime sun damage.
You can buy variations or construct one homemade from fine mesh or other suitable lightweight fabrics. Remove the covers once the growing season is over.
5. Till the Soil
This is one simple measure to protect your plants from an infestation.
Tilling the soil after harvest can destroy any pupae in the soil. Also, it can prevent adult flies from emerging in the spring.
6. Sticky Traps
An old way of dealing effectively with annoying garden insects is to utilize sticky traps. These colored strips of sticky material attract pests that become stuck, unable to mate, lay eggs, or survive.
Sticky traps are particularly useful, hung in greenhouses or near indoor plants.
Different colors attract different pests, with yellow or bright blue both being high attractants to the leaf miner fly.
7. Remove the Eggs
Removing leaf miner eggs by hand at the outset of any sign of the pests may be tedious but also effective.
Another product you can use to get rid of leaf miners organically is Spinosad. Spray it on the leaves for direct contact with the critters.
The effect of this insecticidal soap spray paralyzes leafminers and kills them in a day or two. However, you may need more than one application in a growing season.
If you have concerns about the toxicity of Spinosad, manufacturers state that it rates as low toxicity for mammals. However, it may be harmful to bees.
Therefore, evening spraying or zero sprayings in the flowering period of plants may make this leafminer treatment more useful for severe infestations.
9. Beneficial Nematodes
This one is increasingly popular in organic pest control and it also works for the treatment of leaf miners. Beneficial nematodes are tiny organisms occurring naturally in the soil.
These microscopic roundworms are capable of destroying many garden pests at the developmental stage in the soil. They will also attack and kill adult leaf miner pests overwintering comfortably in the garden soil before they can mate and lay eggs on your plants.
Nematodes act by entering the gut of the insect and releasing bacteria that cause blood poisoning and death. They then feed off the dead matter until no further food is available, obliging them to seek new hosts to kill.
The constant food source causes the nematodes to grow and multiply, naturally breaking the cycle of infestation.
10. Parasitic Wasps
There are two main species of parasitic wasps, namely Diglyphus begini and Chrysocharis parksi that kill leaf miners .
After laying eggs, the pupae of the wasps feed on the dead pest and clear the plant of the problem.
Using insecticides could prevent this natural solution by killing off the predators as well as their prey and tainting future growth. Plant dill, yarrow, cosmos, and fennel to attract parasitic wasps.
11. Diatomaceous Earth
This product is composed of the fossilized crushed shells of minute aquatic creatures.
Diatomaceous earth is processed in a way that causes dehydration in most insects. As a result, it works great as a leafminer control remedy.
Make it into a homemade leaf miner spray or use it in powder form by dusting it on the leaves. However, one down point to consider is that when used as a powder sprinkled directly onto plants, a shower of rain will mean re-application.
12. Trap Crops
This is a plant that acts much like a decoy. Trap crops are grown to lure various pests away from the main plants/crops. Therefore, they are sometimes called ‘sacrificial’ plants.
Trap crops for the leaf miner insect include radish, chickweed, pigweed, velvetleaf, and plantain.
This DIY method works best for trees like citrus. Pruning will greatly assist in keeping your plants healthy and enable early viewing of any possible infestation.
You can then remove and dispose of infected leaves. You may also frequently find these leaf worms on boxwoods.
Damage mainly appears as tunnels and pale white curvy lines on plant leaves.
Plants that leaf miners attack include spinach, basil, beet, swiss chard, tomato plants, lettuce, and other vegetables. They also go after pigweed, lamb’s quarters, and other weeds.
It is so disheartening to spend time and effort producing fine plants only to suffer leaf miner damage.
Commercial leaf miner pesticides are available, but fortunately, as you can see, there are also many solutions to control the critters organically.