UC IPM Online UC ANR home page UC IPM home page


SKIP navigation


How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines

Adult vegetable leafminer.



Scientific names: Liriomyza sativae, L. trifolii, and L. huidobrensis

(Reviewed 1/07, updated 1/07, corrected 11/08)

In this Guideline:


Leafminer adults are small, black and yellow flies. Liriomyza sativae is shiny black on the upper surface except for a prominent yellow triangle between the bases of the wings; the underside and the face between the eyes are yellow. Liriomyza trifolii differs in having the thorax covered with overlapping bristles that give fresh specimens a silvery gray color; specimens that are carelessly handled or placed in alcohol lose the gray and appear black. Also, the portion of the head behind the eyes is mostly yellow in L. trifolii, with only a small black area touching the rear edge of the eye; in L. sativae, the area behind the eyes is predominantly black. Liriomyza huidobrensis adults are similar to L. trifolii, but slightly larger. With practice, field identification is possible. However, you may wish to contact your local farm advisor for verification. The yellowish maggots and the brown, seedlike pupae of the three species are too similar to distinguish in the field.

The leafminers Liriomyza sativae and L. trifolii are common throughout California. Both species can reach damaging levels quite rapidly if certain disruptive insecticides are used repeatedly. Liriomyza trifolii, which appeared in the state in the late 1970s to early 1980s, is resistant to a wide spectrum of pesticides and has been the most common leafminer pest of tomatoes since 1990. There has been a recent change in the pest status of a related species, L. huidobrensis, which has suddenly become dominant on other vegetable crops grown in coastal California, and it appears to be spreading southward in the state. Reports are incomplete at this time on its status as a pest on tomatoes in California, but other parts of the world report significant losses on fresh market tomatoes.

The three leafminer species are similar in life history. Eggs are inserted in leaves and larvae feed between leaf surfaces, creating a meandering track or "mine." At high population levels, entire leaves may be covered with mines. Mature larvae leave the mines, dropping to the ground to pupate. The life cycle takes only 2 weeks in warm weather; there are seven to ten generations a year. All three species feed on a wide variety of crops and weeds; development continues all year and the population moves from one host to another as new host plants become available.


Leafminer feeding results in serpentine mines (slender, white, winding trails); heavily mined leaflets have large whitish blotches. Leaves injured by leafminers drop prematurely; heavily infested plants may lose most of their leaves. If it occurs early in the fruiting period, defoliation can reduce yield and fruit size and expose fruit to sunburn. Pole tomatoes, which have a long fruiting period, are more vulnerable than other tomato crops. Leafminers are normally a pest of late summer tomatoes and can reach high numbers.


The most important aspect of leafminer management is conserving their natural enemies, which are often killed by broad-spectrum insecticides applied for other tomato pests. Reduce the risk of leafminer outbreaks by applying insecticides for fruit pests only when monitoring shows treatment is needed and by choosing insecticides that will not destroy the leafminer parasites.

Biological Control
Several species of parasitic wasps, particularly Chrysocharis parksi and Diglyphus begini, attack leafminer larvae; left undisturbed, parasites often keep leafminers under control.

Cultural Control
Check transplants before planting and destroy any that are infested; leafminers reach damaging levels earlier when infestations begin on seedlings. Tomato varieties with curled leaves, such as VF145s, are less susceptible to leafminer damage and may provide suitable alternatives where leafminer damage is expected, as in fields adjacent to other infested crops. Where a series of tomato crops is planted in the same area, you can reduce early infestations in a new crop by removing old plantings immediately after the last harvest.

Organically Acceptable Methods
Biological and cultural controls as well as sprays of the Entrust formulation of spinosad are acceptable for use on an organically certified crop.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions
A monitoring technique for leafminers in fresh market tomatoes is to place plastic trays about 12 by 15 inches in size beneath plants at several randomly chosen places in the field. Mature larvae that drop from foliage accumulate on the trays and pupate there, providing a measure of leafminer activity. A treatment threshold used experimentally for L. sativae and L. trifolii in southern coastal fresh market tomato fields is to treat when an average of 10 pupae per tray per day accumulates over a 3- or 4-day period. In all areas, do not treat unless pupae are present. Absence of pupae, even if new mines are present, indicates that natural controls are keeping leafminers controlled.

The dominant species of Liriomyza leafminers in California is in flux. All species, however, have high resistance to organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethroids. If these types of insecticides are used, leafminer populations will increase. Treatment recommendations currently involve the rotation of abamectin and cyromazine. Some species are also controlled to a certain degree by spinosad.

Common name
(trade name)

  Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to impact on natural enemies and honey bees and environmental impact Not all registered pesticides are listed. Always read label of product being used.
  (Agri-mek) 0.15 EC
8–16 fl oz
  MODE OF ACTION: An avermectin (Group 6)1 insecticide.
  COMMENTS: Apply in a minimum of 40 gal water/acre. This material is the least toxic to beneficials of the materials listed. Do not exceed 48 fl oz/acre/season. To delay the development of resistance, use in rotation with cyromazine (Trigard).
  (Trigard) WSP
0.166 lb
  MODE OF ACTION: A triazine (Group 17)1 insecticide.
  COMMENTS: Does not significantly affect beneficials. Apply as a foliar spray in a minimum of 50 gal water/acre by ground. See label for restrictions regarding rotation crops. To delay the development of resistance, use in rotation with abamectin (Agri-mek)
  (Entrust) #
2–2.5 oz
6–10 fl oz
  MODE OF ACTION: A microbial (Group 5)1 insecticide.
  COMMENTS: Does not significantly affect hymenopterous parasites of leafminers. Controls Liriomyza sativae and L. trifolli, but more research is being conducted to determine its effectiveness against L. huidobrensis. Ground applications provide better control than aerial ones. For resistance management, do not apply more than 3 times in any 21 day period. Do not apply more than 0.45 lb a.i./acre/season.
** See label for dilution rates.
+ Restricted entry interval (R.E.I.) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (P.H.I.) is the number of days from treatment until harvest can take place. In some cases the R.E.I. exceeds the P.H.I. The longer of these two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest may take place.
* Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
^ Do not apply when bees are present.
# Acceptable for use on organically grown produce.
1 Modes of action are important in preventing the development of resistance to pesticides. Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action Group number more than twice per season. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode of action is assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee). For additional information, see their Web site at http://www.irac-online.org/.



[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Tomato
UC ANR Publication 3470
Insects and Mites
F. G. Zalom, Entomology, UC Davis
J. T. Trumble, Entomology, UC Riverside
C. F. Fouche, UC Cooperative Extension, San Joaquin County
C. G. Summers, Entomology, UC Davis/Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier
Acknowledgments for contributions to the insects and mites section:
N. C. Toscano, Entomology, UC Riverside

Top of page

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
All contents copyright © 2014 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Accessibility   /PMG/r783300911.html revised: April 25, 2014. Contact webmaster.