Holly leaf miner

Most hollies have some leaves with evidence of a leaf mining fly, part of the biodiversity the plants support, this has little impact on the plant’s growth or vigour.

Holly leaf miner (Phytomyza ilicis) on Holly (Ilex aquifolium). Credit: RHS/Entomology.
Holly leaf miner (Phytomyza ilicis) on Holly (Ilex aquifolium). Credit: RHS/Entomology.

Quick facts

Common name: Holly leaf-miner
Scientific name: Phytomyza ilicis
Plants affected: Holly (Ilex species)
Main symptoms: Yellowish-purple blotches on the upper leaf surface
Most active: All year

What is holly leaf miner?

Holly leaf miner is a small fly with larvae that cause discoloured blotches by feeding inside holly leaves.

The fly belongs to the family Agromyzidae, there are several hundred known to occur in Britain and many are leaf miners as larvae. More information on Agromyzidae is available from the Agromyzidae recording scheme

Nearly 900 other insects, including some beetles, sawflies and moths create leaf mines as larvae more information about some for these insects can be found at The leaf and stem mines of British flies and other insects


Signs that holly leaf miner has been active include;

  • Yellowish-white or yellowish-purple blotches occur on the upper surface of older leaves, usually near the centre of the leaf
  • In early summer some leaves on holly trees turn yellow and fall from the tree. This is the normal shedding of old leaves and is not caused by the leaf miner


  • This insect is part of the biodiversity hollies support and should be tolerated, it has little impact on the health and vigour of a holly
  • On small specimen plants it is feasible to remove mined leaves, but not if this would result in significant defoliation 
  • Insecticides should not be used


Grubs of the holly leaf miner tunnel inside the leaves. There is one generation a year, and the adult flies lay eggs on the new foliage in May to June. When the larvae have completed their feeding in the following spring, they pupate inside the leaf mines.

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