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Defeating Citrus Leaf Miner: Effective Strategies for Protecting Your Citrus Trees

Updated: Jan 26

citrus leaf miner butterfly sitting on a flower bud on a citrus tree

As a citrus tree owner, it is essential to protect your trees from pests that can cause significant damage to their health and fruit production.

One of the most common pests that citrus trees face is the citrus leaf miner.

In this article, I will discuss the life cycle of citrus leaf miner, how to identify an infestation, the damage it can cause, and effective strategies for preventing and controlling an infestation.

Table of Contents

12. Myths

13. FAQ's

Introduction to Citrus Leaf Miner

Citrus leaf miner, also known as Phyllocnistis citrella, is a tiny moth that lays its eggs on the underside of citrus tree leaves.

The larvae hatch from the eggs and tunnel through the leaf, feeding on the tissue inside.

They leave behind trails or mines, which are visible on the leaf surface.

The larvae eventually mature into moths, and the cycle repeats.

Identifying the Citrus Leaf Miner Infestation

The first step in protecting your citrus trees from a leaf miner infestation is to identify the pests' presence.

The easiest way to do this is to examine the leaves for mines or trails left behind by the larvae.

These trails look like thin, winding lines that are usually lighter in color than the surrounding leaf tissue.

You may also notice distorted or curled leaves, which can be a sign of an infestation.

citrus tree leaves curled with citrus leaf miner trails

Another way to identify a citrus leaf miner infestation is to look for the adult moths.

They are tiny and often go unnoticed, but you may see them flying around the tree or resting on the leaves.

Life Cycle of Citrus Leaf Miner

Understanding the life cycle of the citrus leaf miner is crucial to controlling an infestation.

The adult moths lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves, and the larvae hatch and tunnel through the leaf tissue.

They feed on the tissue inside and leave behind mines or trails.

The larvae then pupate and mature into adult moths, and the cycle repeats.

citrus leaf miner life cycle

Here is a summary table about the different life cycles and their characteristics of citrus leaf miners:

Life Cycle Stage



The adult citrus leaf miner is a small moth that has a wingspan of about 5 mm. The moth is brownish-grey in colour, and the females lay eggs on the underside of young citrus leaves. The adult moths are active during the evening and at night.


The eggs are laid singly or in clusters on the underside of young citrus leaves. The eggs are oval-shaped, about 0.3 mm in length, and are pale yellow in color. The eggs hatch in about a week.


The larvae of the citrus leaf miner are tiny, yellow caterpillars that feed on the underside of young citrus leaves. The larvae tunnel into the leaves, creating serpentine mines or tunnels, which can be seen on the surface of the leaves. The larvae complete their development in about three weeks.


The pupae are brown, oblong-shaped, and about 2 mm in length. The pupae are found in cocoons on the undersides of the citrus leaves or in the soil at the base of the tree. The pupal stage lasts about two weeks.

Damage Caused by Citrus Leaf Miner

The damage caused by the citrus leaf miner can weaken the tree and reduce fruit production.

The tunnels left behind by the larvae can interfere with the tree's ability to photosynthesize, resulting in stunted growth and fewer fruits.

Infested leaves may also drop prematurely, further weakening the tree.

If left unchecked, a severe infestation can lead to defoliation, which can be fatal to the tree.

It is essential to take action as soon as you notice signs of an infestation.

Preventing Citrus Leaf Miner Infestation

Preventing a citrus leaf miner infestation is the best way to protect your trees from damage.

One effective way to prevent an infestation is to keep your trees healthy by providing them with proper care through a regular garden maintenance program, such as regular watering, fertilisation, and pruning.

Another way to prevent an infestation is to use physical barriers, such as netting, to prevent the adult moths from laying their eggs on the leaves.

This method is effective but may be impractical for larger trees.

white netting placed over a citrus tree to prevent citrus leaf miner

Organic Strategies for Controlling Citrus Leaf Miner

There are several eco-friendly methods to control citrus leaf miner.

Eco CLM traps are an effective way to trap the adult moths before they can lay their eggs on the citrus leaves.

Eco oil and Eco neem are organic insecticides that can disrupt the life cycle of the citrus leaf miner.

Eco oil suffocates the larvae and pupae, while Eco neem works as a growth regulator, preventing the larvae from developing into pupae.

It should be applied during the dormant season when the citrus tree is not actively growing.

Applying horticultural oil during the growing season can damage the leaves and reduce fruit yield.

Please note, these methods do not kill the moth.

organic products to prevent citrus leaf miner including eco oil. natures way, eco neem

Cultural Controls

Cultural controls involve disrupting the pest's environment to reduce the population of the citrus leaf miner.

This method involves removing weeds and pruning citrus trees to promote air circulation and sunlight penetration.

Citrus leaf miner prefers shaded and crowded environments, so removing clutter can help reduce their population.

It is essential to use sharp, clean pruning tools to prevent the spread of disease.

Do not put the infested leaves in your compost bin!

Mechanical and Physical Controls

Mechanical and physical controls involve destroying the citrus leaf miner directly.

This can be achieved by manually removing the damaged leaves or using a high-pressure water spray to knock the larvae off the leaves.

Another effective method is to use sticky traps, like Eco CLM Traps , which trap the adult moths before they can lay their eggs.

packaging of a eco citrus leaf miner trap

Biological Controls

Biological controls involve using the citrus leaf miner's natural enemies to manage the pest population.

This method involves introducing natural predators such as parasitic wasps or predatory mites into the citrus tree environment.

These natural enemies can help keep the citrus leaf miner population in check.

Here are some websites that sell natural predators in Australia:

Chemical Control of Citrus Leaf Miner

Chemical control of citrus leaf miner involves using insecticides to kill the larvae and/or adult moths.

While this method can be effective, it is essential to use caution when applying chemicals to your trees.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions and wear protective clothing.

Chemical control should be used as a last resort after other methods have failed.

Overuse of insecticides can harm beneficial insects and lead to pesticide resistance.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you are unsure how to control a citrus leaf miner infestation, or if the infestation is severe, it may be time to seek professional help.

A certified arborist or a garden expert can assess the infestation and recommend the best course of action.

Citrus leaf miner is a common pest that can cause significant damage to your trees if left unchecked.

Preventing an infestation through proper care and physical barriers is the best way to protect your trees.

Organic and chemical control methods can be effective if used correctly, and pruning and trimming can also help reduce the pest's population.

If you are unsure how to control an infestation or if it is severe, seek professional help.

By taking action against the citrus leaf miner, you can keep your trees healthy and productive for years to come.

Protect your citrus trees from pests like the citrus leaf miner with our expert tree care services. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.


Myth #1: Citrus Leaf Miner Only Affects Citrus Trees

While citrus leaf miner is named for its preference for citrus trees, it can also affect other plants such as ornamental plants, vegetables, and herbs. The pest can feed on and damage the leaves of various plants, not just citrus trees.

Myth #2: Citrus Leaf Miner Will Kill Your Citrus Tree

Although citrus leaf miner can severely damage the leaves of citrus trees, it's unlikely to kill the tree. However, if left unchecked, the damage can reduce the tree's overall health and fruit yield. Regular monitoring and control measures can prevent significant damage to the tree.

Myth #3: Citrus Leaf Miner is Spread by Birds

While birds can spread the citrus leaf miner to other trees, they are not the primary means of spread. The adult citrus leaf miner moth spreads the pest through its flight and the laying of eggs on citrus leaves. The pest can also spread through infected plant material or equipment used on infected trees.

Myth #4: Citrus Leaf Miner Can Be Controlled by Fertiliser

Fertiliser can help improve the overall health of the citrus tree, but it's not an effective control method for citrus leaf miner. The pest is not attracted to nutrient-rich leaves and will continue to damage the leaves even if the tree is fertilised.

Myth #5: Citrus Leaf Miner Can be Controlled by Pruning

While pruning can help reduce the population of the citrus leaf miner, it's not an effective control method on its own. The pest can survive and reproduce on new leaves, even after pruning. Pruning should be combined with other control measures such as natural predators or eco-friendly controls for effective management of the pest.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1: What is a citrus leaf miner?

A1: Citrus leaf miner is a small moth whose larvae feed on young leaves of citrus trees, causing wavy lines or tunnels on the surface of the leaves. This pest can affect the overall health of citrus trees, reducing their fruit yield.

Q2: How can I tell if my citrus tree has leaf miner damage?

A2: You can tell if your citrus tree has leaf miner damage by looking for wavy lines or tunnels on the surface of the leaves. The affected leaves may also curl or twist, and the tree may have stunted growth or reduced fruit yield.

Q3: How do I prevent citrus leaf miner damage?

A3: You can prevent citrus leaf miner damage by using a combination of cultural, physical, and chemical controls. Cultural controls involve removing infected leaves and pruning the tree to promote air circulation. Physical controls involve using sticky traps, reflective mulch, or netting to prevent the moth from laying eggs on the tree. Chemical controls involve using pesticides that are specific to citrus leaf miner, such as horticultural oil or neem oil.

Q4: Are there any natural predators for citrus leaf miner?

A4: Yes, there are natural predators for citrus leaf miner, such as parasitic wasps, lady beetles, and lacewings. These predators can help control the population of the pest and reduce damage to the tree.

Q5: Is citrus leaf miner harmful to humans?

A5: Citrus leaf miner is not harmful to humans. The pest only feeds on the leaves of citrus trees and does not pose a health risk to humans.

Q6: When should I spray my citrus tree with horticultural oil?

A6: You should spray your citrus tree with horticultural oil during the dormant season, usually in the winter months. Horticultural oil should not be applied during hot weather or when the tree is flowering, as this can damage the tree. Follow the instructions on the label carefully when applying horticultural oil.

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