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Pest Control – What You Can Do About The Citrus Leaf Miner In Your Garden - by Jonathan Yaakobi


A common pest amongst many species and varieties of citrus trees is the moth called the citrus leaf miner. (Phyllocnistis citrella) Known for years in the citrus-growing regions of south-east Asia, this particular leaf miner has spread over the last 30 years or so to many other parts of the world, including the Americas and the Middle East.


This leaf miner is a moth which as its name implies, only affects citrus trees. It can be identified by what look like clearly defined lines traced within the leaves of the tree. These are in fact channels burrowed by the specie’s tiny larvae within the blade of the leaf. The leaves also tend to curl up. Often or not, the damage is only visual, but in massive infestations serious defoliation can occur, affecting not only the fruit, but the general health of the tree as well.


 My experience with the citrus leaf miner is from Israel (where I come from) but in many ways, its recent history as a garden pest here, can serve as an example of how to relate to pests in the first place, and then how to deal with them.


The pest was first sighted by the Sea of Galilee in the summer of 1994. Within two months it had spread to most parts of the country where citrus are cultivated, causing considerable consternation amongst the growers. Gardeners too were worried and like their counterparts in agriculture, were seeking quick-fix chemical solutions. These were readily found, but after a number of years, it was discovered that not only were the trees able to recover of their own accord, but that the rate of infestations was actually falling. It appears that while the Ministry of Agriculture was busy testing the possibility of introducing a parasitic wasp as a means of biological control, the leaf miner was being controlled naturally by a local predator.


Of course if the attacks are really bad you may have to consider using chemical pesticides. Just remember though that the more they are applied, the greater the detrimental affect on the natural enemies of any particular pest. From this point of view, the least damaging pesticide is “Confidor”, as it is applied to the ground and not sprayed on the trees. As a systemic poison, it is taken up with the soil water by the tree’s roots, and then translocated to all parts of the plant, whereby it kills the insects living in the tree.


The pesticide is pretty effective when applied in the early spring. It is forbidden to pick the fruit off treated trees for a period of time as designated on the package. However you may wish to consider the wisdom of allowing yourself and your family to eat the fruit of a tree that has been treated at all. Meanwhile, as the example discussed here shows, the aim of intelligent pest control is to permit as far as possible, for a natural balance to occur between pest organisms and their predators.

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Jonathan Ya'akobi

Your Personal Gardening Coach

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