Thursday, September 1, 2011

Beet leafminer

Beet or spinach leafminer is generally more of a cosmetic pest on beets grown for roots. For greens, it is another story.

The leafminer is the larva of a 1/4" gray fly with black hairs. Eggs are laid on leaves or several plants including beets, spinach, chard and weeds such as lambsquarters. Small maggots emerge and tunnel between leaf surfaces. The narrow tunnels merge into pale blotches (photo) and damaged leaves are distorted. Maggots drop to the ground to pupate and change into adult flies.

Leafminer emerges in April and May and several generations occur each year. They are active now on spinach and beets planted mid-summer for fall harvest and particularly common in gardens where one or the other crop is continuously grown.

Eggs are distinctive (photo) because they are white and laid in small masses. One of the simplest means of control is to check for egg masses and hand crush. Pinch leaves to kill karvae inside when mining is observed. Leaves with actively growing larvae also can be picked and destroyed or bagged for trash to be taken off site. Leaving picked leaves on the ground allows leafminer to complete its lifecycle.

The use of floating row cover fabric can help if put in place before flies emerge and the crop is in a different garden area than the previous year. You don't want flies emerging from the soil under rowcover with their favorite food handy and protected.

Control weeds around the garden and rotate crops for control.

Photo credit: Leafminer blotches on beet leaves (Carl Wilson), Leafminer eggs (CSU Extension)

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