Exotic leafminers

Primefact number Edition Published Author
1584 First Aug 2017 Plant Biosecurity and Product Integrity

Composite image showing at right black fly with yellow spot on back, yellow marking on head, and long translucent wings with black veins. At left black fly with larger yellow spot on back and brighter yellow marking on head.

Leaves of a bean plant with meandering tunnelling patterns

Current Situation

Updated: 30 July 2021

American serpentine leafminer (Liriomyza trifolii) has been detected in Australia for the first time with multiple detections in Torres Strait, Far North QLD, and in Kununurra, WA. Further detections in the northern area of Cape York Peninsula are undergoing confirmatory identification.

Further surveillance is being conducted to determine the distribution of the pest.

American serpentine leafminer poses a serious threat to Australia’s horticulture, nursery production, and agricultural plant industries. Severe infestations of American serpentine leafminer may result in premature leaf drop, poor growth, and reduced crop yields. Australia considers it a National Priority Plant Pest.

Leafminers can establish quickly in many crops. Liriomyza flies are not highly active fliers but can spread via natural wind dispersal, and the movement of live plant material. The pests in the larval stage are not always visible as they remain inside the leaf tissue.

American serpentine leafminer is currently not present in NSW.

Exotic Leafminers

The exotic leafminer species Liriomyza bryoniae, and L. cicerina, are not present in Australia

These pests are a serious threat to Australian agricultural and horticultural industries.

The insect genus Liriomyza has over 300 species of leafminer flies distributed around the world. Of these 300 species, five are known to attack a wide variety of plants and are considered significant agricultural and horticultural pests in many parts of the world. Two of these species are currently not present in Australia:

  • Liriomyza bryoniae (tomato leaf miner)
  • Liriomyza cicerina (chickpea leaf miner)

Serpentine leafminer (Liriomyza huidobrensis) was detected in NSW in 2020 and is now considered established in NSW and QLD.

Vegetable leafminer, L. sativae is present on mainland Australia at the tip of Cape York peninsula but has not made it to agricultural production areas and is contained within northern biosecurity zoning.

Notifiable status

Vegetable leafminer (Liriomyza sativae) is a notifiable plant pest in NSW.

All notifiable plant pests and diseases must be reported within one (1) working day.  You can report notifiable plant pests and diseases by one of the following methods:

  • Call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881
  • Email biosecurity@dpi.nsw.gov.au with a clear photo and your contact details
  • Complete an online form (asset 828423)

A full list of notifiable plant pests and diseases can be found in Schedule 2 of the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015.



The adult flies of all five Liriomyza species are very similar in appearance. The flies are small (<3 mm) and grey-black with yellow markings. Usually there is a prominent yellow area at the base of the wings (Figure 3).


The larvae of Liriomyza species are yellow to white and usually concealed beneath the leaf surface in tunnels where they feed.

More visible than the larvae themselves are the patterns created in the surface of infested leaves by their tunnelling (refer to images). The twisting trails appear whitish on the surface of the leaf and become longer and wider as the larva grows. Heavily mined leaves may also show large whitish blotches.


The larvae of all Liriomyza species ‘mine’ in the leaves of host plants. The larvae feed by tunnelling through the leaf tissue.

Extensive tunnelling across leaf surfaces reduces the ability of the plant to photosynthesise and produce energy. Severe damage can result in leaf death or premature leaf drop.

If severe mining occurs early in the fruiting period, defoliation can reduce yield and fruit size and expose fruit to sunburn.


Female flies use their ovipositor to puncture the leaves of host plants and deposit eggs. The eggs are inserted just below the leaf surface. Many eggs may be laid on a single leaf.

There are three larval stages that feed within the leaves. The larvae usually fall from the plant to the soil to pupate.

The entire life cycle can be completed in as little as two weeks. If conditions are favourable, the flies can reproduce all year round and sustain five to ten generations per year.


Introduction of exotic Liriomyza flies to Australia is most likely to occur with the transport of plant host material containing eggs or larvae.

The adults are capable of flight but are not very active fliers. They tend to fly within a crop but rarely between crops. Localised spread of the pest is most likely to occur through wind dispersal or on contaminated plant material or equipment.


Liriomyza bryoniae, L. huidobrensis, L. sativae and L. trifolii are all significant pests of a number of vegetable crops including beans, cabbage, capsicum, celery, chilli, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes and tomatoes.

Melons, cotton and pulses are also known to host both L. trifolii and L. sativaeLiriomyza cicerina is a more specialised species with a narrower pulse host range of chickpeas and faba beans.

A number of ornamental plants including cut flowers are known to host both L. trifolii and L. huidobrensis.

Liriomyza trifolii has also been detected on coffee, barley and oats.


Liriomyza bryoniae is present in Europe, Asia and North Africa and L. cicerina is present in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Liriomyza sativae was found on Cape York, Queensland in 2015 and is under management to prevent further spread.

Liriomyza huidobrensis was found in western Sydney in 2020 and is now considered established in NSW and QLD.

Actions to minimise risk

Production nurseries and growers should check their crops regularly for signs of plant pests and disease.

Good on-farm biosecurity practices are vital to preventing incursions of plant pests and diseases.  The farmbiosecurity.com.au website has helpful information that can be tailored to your property.

Put in place biosecurity best practice actions to prevent entry, establishment and spread of pests and diseases:

  • practice “Come clean, Go clean”
  • ensure all staff and visitors are instructed in and adhere to your business management hygiene requirements
  • monitor your crops regularly
  • monitor and control volunteer plants that can harbour the pest
  • source plant material of a known high health status from reputable suppliers
  • keep records