Sempervivum leaf miner

Sempervivum leaf miner was first recorded in southern England during 2008. It has spread slowly but can cause serious damage to house leeks. It originates from mainland Europe.

Damage caused by sempervivum leaf miner. Image: RHS

Quick facts

Common name: Sempervivum leaf miner
Scientific name Cheilosia caerulescens
Plants affected House leeks (Sempervivum tectorum, S. arachnoides and S. montanum)
Main symptoms Outer leaves wilt and discolour;.may contain maggots
Most active May to June and August to September

What is sempervivum leaf miner?

Sempervivum leaf miner is a hoverfly that as a larva mines the leaves of Sempervivum species.

Symptoms

You may see the following symptoms:

  • The outer leaves on affected house leek rosettes become greyish or brownish-green where the internal tissues have been eaten 
  • Damaged leaves go limp before drying up
  • Small rosettes may be killed 
  • If a larva has left a leaf to move to another, or to pupate in the soil, there will be an exit hole near to its base
  • Damage is mainly seen in mid-May to June and again in August to September

Over-watering or poor drainage can cause similar symptoms to sempervivum leaf miner, however closer examination should reveal the presence of plump whitish maggots, up to 8-10mm (about 3/8in) long, inside some of the damaged leaves.

Control

Non chemical control

Remove damaged leaves and larvae when you see them.

Chemical control

  • Leaf-mining insects are difficult to control as the pest is concealed inside the leaves and pesticides may not give good control
  • Systemic insecticides are absorbed into plant tissues and may control the larvae, but because of the thick cuticle on Sempervivum leaves, uptake may be poor if applied as a foliar spray
  • Systemic soil drench pesticides may give better results, products include those containing the neonicotinoid acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra Vine Weevil Killer). These are only suitable for watering into potting compost of plants in pots, where they are absorbed by the roots and taken up into the foliage. In addition to protection against leaf miner, these pesticides should also protect against vine weevil grubs
  • Where the leaf miner has been a problem, treat container-grown plants in mid-May and early August
  • Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to the danger to pollinating insects
  • Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener

Download

Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)

Biology

The adult fly is 8-10mm (approx. 3/8in) long and is black with short whitish hairs on the thorax and abdomen. Eggs are laid on the foliage of house leeks in late spring to early summer, with a second generation in late summer.

After hatching, the larvae bore into the outer leaves and eat out the internal tissues. Each larva will mine several leaves before it is fully fed and ready to pupate in the soil.

Adults of the second generation emerge in July to August and further larval feeding occurs in August to September. This pest overwinters as pupae in the soil.

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