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UK Nature  > Flies  > Phytomyza ilicis

Scientific Name:   Phytomyza ilicis
Common Name:   Holly Leaf Miner

Phytomyza ilicis is a fly that lays its eggs in holly leaves. It is one of the few insects that are able to make use of holly leaves as a food source and somewhere to live (when a larva). The female fly lays eggs in the holly leaf (near the main veins or midrib, on the underside) using a thin tube or ovipositor. The eggs are usually laid in early Spring when there are young and ‘soft’ leaves. Older leaves have a thick and tough cuticle that is far more difficult to penetrate.

The larvae emerge from the eggs and tunnel their way along the midrib / veins emerging some time later into the lamina or blade of the leaf. Here they feed on the photosynthetic tissues of the leaf – the palisade and mesophyll layers, creating a leaf mine. The number of leaf mines per leaf is a maximum of three and often just 1 or two.

After a period of feeding, the larva turns into a pupa from which an adult fly emerges. It exits the leaf mine via a small hole (less than a millimetre in diameter). These may be seen on the leaf surface.
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