Leaf Miners in the Understory

by Carl Strang

Yesterday I reported on one of my herbivory studies at Maple and Meacham Grove Forest Preserves. Today I have the data for the first part of the other study, a decades-long following of 4 leaf miner  genera in sugar and black maples in the understories of the two forests. While attempting to photograph confused ground crickets at Warrenville Grove, I had noticed a high incidence of tent mines, produced by the micro moth Phyllonorycter clemensella.

This photo from Warrenville Grove shows many leaves with one or more Phyllonorycter mines.

Consequently I was wondering if I would find a lot of mines at my study preserves this year. In fact, Phyllonorycter incidences were relatively high in both forests, in 15 percent of understory leaves at Maple Grove and 4 percent at Meacham. Statistically there were more at Maple than at Meacham, which has been true over the years, probably because of more intensive management at the latter site (controlled burning, and culling of maple saplings). Numbers were not different from last year at Maple Grove, but there was a statistically significant increase at Meacham for this species, possibly because there was no burn last year.

The other leaf miners were present in lower numbers that were indistinguishable from last year’s values. The two species of moths in genus Caloptilia, which leave their mines early and construct little cones or boxes in the leaf lobe tips for most of their development, were more abundant at Maple Grove (8 percent incidence) than at Meacham Grove (2 percent of leaves had them). While 3 percent of leaves at Maple Grove had blotch mines of Cameraria saccharella (another tiny moth), none of the 300 leaves in the Meacham Grove sample had any (only one had a mine last year). The fourth mine is distinctive in having a winding linear form.

The linear mine is visible in the lower part of this maple leaf at Warrenville Grove. I have not reared this one; it probably is produced by a caterpillar of the non-native moth Stigmella aceris.

This one was present in low numbers that statistically were indistinguishable between the preserves (8 leaves at Maple, 1 at Meacham). In November I’ll return to assess canopy incidence of these moths.


  1. November 10, 2011 at 7:12 am

    […] paper in the journal Ecology this year caught my eye because of its relevance to my study of leaf miners in maples (Barber, Nicholas A., and Robert J. Marquis. 2011. Leaf quality, predators, and stochastic processes […]

  2. November 17, 2011 at 7:15 am

    […] between preserves, between years, and between the understory and the canopy (I had collected understory data earlier in the season). This year all the leaves had fallen by the time I did the […]

  3. December 19, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Do you have reason to believe that Stigmella aceris occurs in North America? I’ve been assuming linear mines on maple leaves are all made by Trifurcula saccharella. I haven’t managed to rear one yet either.

    • natureinquiries said,

      December 21, 2014 at 7:07 am

      Hi, Charley,
      It has been a while since I have worked on that herbivory study. I ran into a reference describing that Stigmella species as introduced to North America. This is the first I have heard of Trifurcula saccharella.

  4. December 21, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Hi Carl,
    Charley pointed me to this discussion. The mine you show perfectly fits the mines of Trifurcula (Glaucolepis) saccharella that is common on Acer saccharella and Acer rubrum, see eg http://bugguide.net/node/view/484450/bgpage
    I have never seen a reference to introduced S aceris in North America, although I think I have most literature on NA Nepticulidae. Since I am working on introduced nepticulids I would be grateful for the reference/link. A character to distinguish the species: S aceris has green larvae, T saccharella yellow.

    • natureinquiries said,

      December 22, 2014 at 7:05 am

      Thanks, Erik,
      This is helpful. I may have some time to return to this study in the coming year, so I will hang onto your information. I haven’t found where I got the idea about Stigmella, but there is no mention of it in my 2001 progress report, and it appears in the 2006 one. I need to dig out my paper files. My memory is that I got it from an Internet source that I stumbled upon rather than a published paper, so unless I find different, I am inclined to regard your statement as the more authoritative.

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