The pea leafminer Liriomyza huidobrensis is an agricultural pest endemic to South America.

Scientific description of the Pea Leafminer Fly (2020)

Based on J. Kroschel. et al. (2020) Insect Pests Affecting Potatoes in Tropical, Subtropical, and Temperate Regions. In: Campos H., Ortiz O. (eds) The Potato Crop. Springer, Cham

The authors of this content are Jürgen Kroschel, Norma Mujica, Joshua Okonya, Andrei Alyokhin
Liriomyza huidobrensis Blanchard (Diptera: Agromyzidae)


The pea leafminer Liriomyza huidobrensis is an agricultural pest endemic to South America (image below). Since the early 1980s, the pest has been also recorded in many other countries around the world, presumably associated with the global trade of ornamental plants (Mujica et al. 2016; CABI 2012).

Adult of Liriomyza huidobrensis (a) and symptoms of the larvae infestation on potato leaves (b). (Courtesy: CIP)

Host range

L. huidobrensis is highly polyphagous and has been recorded from plants of 14 families (Spencer 1973, 1990). The long list includes potato, bean, pea, alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), and vegetables such as tomato, celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce (Mill.) Pers.), lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), pepper (Capsicum annuum var. longum (DC.) Sendtn.), and spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). In addition, leafminer flies infest many weed species and ornamental plants.

Symptoms of infestation

Adults and larvae of L. huidobrensis damage the plant foliage. Adults cause damage by puncturing the leaf surface to feed on the leaf tissue, and to lay eggs. Newly hatched larvae mine into the leaf and feed on the chloroplast-rich mesophyll, making a serpentine mine whose diameter increases as the larva grows. A large proportion of grown larvae remain close to the midrib. Leaf tissue affected by larval mining becomes necrotic and brownish. Highly infested crop fields appear burned (Cisneros and Mujica 1999b).

Impacts on production losses

L. huidobrensis is a serious pest of arable crops, vegetables, and ornamental plants under field and glasshouse conditions in many parts of the world. Plant injuries caused by adult and larval activities reduce photosynthesis activity and cause leaf wilting. For potato, yield losses of up to 100% were reported in Argentina, Chile, and Indonesia (Cisneros and Mujica 1999b).

Pest intensity-crop loss relationships for the leafminer fly in different potato varieties indicated that the accumulated foliar injury up to the growth stages of flowering and berry formation produced the highest yield losses in the different potato varieties (Mujica and Kroschel 2013).

Economic injury levels in Peru varied according to control costs and commodity values, and potato varieties with longer vegetation period can tolerate higher levels of foliar injury by the leafminer fly before control measures are needed (Desiree: 21–28%, Revolucion: 34–47%, Canchan: 31–40%, Maria Tambeña: 40–53%, Tomasa: 55–74%, and Yungay: 40–54% of foliar injury).

Methods of prevention and control

Ecological and economical sound control of the leafminer fly is best realized when based on IPM, which promotes natural enemies in combination with cultural practices and low-toxic insecticides (Mujica 2016; Mujica et al. 2016; Kroschel et al. 2012; Weintraub et al. 2017).

  • Monitoring pest populations.
    Counting the number of flies captured in yellow sticky traps monitors adult leafminer fly activity. Counting the number of larvae or fresh tunnels per leaflet by sampling the bottom, middle, and top parts of the plant is used to monitor larval infestation. Both methods can be adapted for decision making and applying an action threshold (AT) to avoid unnecessary applications of insecticides.

    The AT can be defined as the level of pest population at which control measures should start to prevent the pest population from reaching an economic injury level (EIL, point where economic losses will begin).

    The AT is typically set below the EIL accounting for the lag time to implement effective control measures. Preemptive insecticidal control is economically not justified until foliar injury exceeds these values (Mujica and Kroschel 2013; Mujica and Kroschel 2018).

  • Crop management.
    Healthy, vigorous growing potato plants can better tolerate leafminer damage, particularly during the vegetative phase. Balanced N-fertilization is important as high N-content in leaves promotes leafminer fly development. Continuous food availability by replanting host crops will favor the abundance of the leafminer fly. Rotation with nonhosts is therefore recommended.

  • Conserving beneficial insects.
    Leafminer flies are controlled by many beneficial insects, which are either predators or parasitoids. Strategies to conserve beneficial insects can be manifold and include diversified cropping systems, high structural floristic diversity in agricultural landscapes, special weed management practices, and reduced use of broad spectrum insecticides (Mujica et al. 2016).

  • Classical biological control.
    It can be an effective strategy in all those regions in which the pea leafminer fly has been unintentionally introduced and where natural enemies of leafminer flies are absent to keep the pest population below economic threshold.

    The endoparasitoids Halticoptera arduine Walker (Pteromalidae), Chrysocharis flacilla Walker (Eulophidae) and Phaedrotoma scabriventris (Nixon) (Braconidae) were successfully introduced and established in three agro-ecological regions (low, middle, and high altitude) in Kenya (Muchemi et al. 2014; Mujica et al. 2016).

    Yet, biocontrol of leafminer flies needs to be accompanied by additional, biocontrol-compatible control measures which need to be ultimately integrated into one holistic IPM concept for vegetables that addresses all major pests of the system.

  • Use of entomopathogenic nematodes.
    The entomopathogenic nematode Heterorhabditis indica (Rhabditida: Heterorhabditidae) caused 58.7% of leafminer larval mortality in potato leaves under semi-field conditions. It could be considered as biocontrol-compatible control measure as part of an IPM program for potato and vegetables (Mujica et al. 2013).

  • Physical control.
    Yellow attracts leafminer fly adults. The use of mobile (1 × 4 m bands of stick traps which are moved across the fields fixed at tractors or hand-carried) and stationary (50 × 50 cm, 60–80 traps/ha) yellow sticky traps can effectively reduce the leafminer fly adult population.

    In the Cañete valley of Peru, a cumulative capture of up to seven million adults/ha by using fixed and mobile yellow sticky traps (US$66.7/ha) resulted in a reduction of the control costs by 55.5% compared with chemical control ($200.0/ha), and an average use of six adulticide applications per season (Mujica et al. 2000).

  • Chemical control.
    Decisions to use insecticides should be made according to the monitoring results and when the leafminer population is expected to cause economic damage (Mujica and Kroschel 2013). Systemic insecticides with translaminar properties are most effective in controlling leafminer fly larvae. Such insecticides include abamectin and spinosad or cyromazine (Weintraub 2001).

  • Integrated Pest Management.
    An IPM strategy based on the use of seed treatment, action threshold, trapping devices and selective application of insecticides showed a higher efficacy to control potato pests including L. huidobrensis than the conventional application of insecticides by farmers in the Cañete valley of Peru.

    IPM reduced the total quantity of pesticides used per season by 56% compared to the conventional management, representing a decrease of 69.2% in the environmental impact. Further, IPM achieved 35% of higher marketable potato yield than conventional management (Mujica and Kroschel 2018).

    Leafminer fly is a polyphagous pest and biocontrol-compatible control measures need to be integrated into an IPM concept which considers also other economic pests in potato.