How to Manage Pests
UC Pest Management Guidelines
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.
Organically Acceptable Methods
Monitoring and Treatment Decisions
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.
UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Tomato