I stumbled across these leaf mines by accident but I simply can’t resist including them … because the tiny striped larvae are so darn cute!
These are the larvae of the moth Phyllonorycter leucographella, the adult of which is also rather striking – you can see photos of it on the UK Moths website here. As the website reports, this moth is a recent arrival to Britain, first spotted in Essex just 40 years ago, but for such a small creature – its wingspan is only 7-9mm – it’s managed to fly and settle far and wide, from Yorkshire in the north of England to Pembrokeshire in the west of Wales, and all points in between. This may partly be due to the fact that its larvae feed on many garden plants: I found an abundance of leaf mines on an orange-berried variety of Firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea), which explains why the moth’s common name is Firethorn leaf miner.
As you can see from my pictures, the larval ‘mine’ is like a blister, centred over the midrib on the upper side of the leaf. The larva, which, with black blobs on a white body, is very distinctive, can often be seen through the membrane of the mine, especially when it’s feeding at the edge of the blister. You can read more about this leaf miner, its life cycle and preferred larval plants on the UK Fly Mines website here.