I find rearing leaf miners to be one of the most rewarding forms of mothing. From finding the mines, observing them and their inhabitants under a microscope, the challenge of rearing them through to adulthood (which can take several months) and finally the equally challenging task of photographing the tiny adults.

1. You will record many additional species to your area as a lot are are not attracted to light or only weakly so. It also provides ample opportunities to find species never recorded before in your borough or vice county.

2. Identifying the species at the mining stage is often straight forward or at least it provides vital information for identifying the adult later on. Identifying the adult alone is often a job for experts which often involves dissecting the moth.

3. Having successfully reared a moth it is usually a perfect, unworn specimen which makes for a good photo opportunity.

4. Moths in traps, especially singletons don't tell us where they have bred. They may have travelled many miles. Finding mines often gives a positive breeding record for a site, unless it's a dispersed, pregnant female from elsewhere.

5. Rearing miners gives an interesting insight in to their early stages such as which foodplants they use, what types of mines they create, where they pupate etc.

6. It keeps the mothing "season" going all year round often at times when moth traps can have disappointingly low catches. 

Eriocrania, there are only 7 or 8 species but the mines are easy to find. Rearing takes 9 or 10 months to do and identifying the larvae isn't always straight forward.
Nepticulids, the mines of many species are easy to find but rearing can be a bit hit and miss. The adults are hyperactive and difficult to photograph.
Phyllonorycters, the mines are easy to find and can be straight forward to rear. Adults can be difficult to photograph unless caught just after emergence.
Coleophoridae, the cases are generally difficult to find but a handful of species are quite common. They are usually easy to rear and photograph.

Perhaps the most useful guide for rearing ALL groups of leaf miners can be found here:

It's written by Charley Eiseman who resides in the USA, his methods are user friendly and highly recommended.

 Also, the UK leaf miners site has several articles on rearing leaf miners amongst their newsletters. January and February 2007 being particularly useful.

Some useful literature on the subject is "Breeding Butterflies and Moths - a practical handbook for all European species" by Ekkehard Friedrich. It gives information about rearing all lepidoptera including micros and leaf miners.

Web sites such as UK Leaf miners, Dutch Leaf miners and the UK Leaf miners Facebook group are especially valuable, especially for identifying the mines in the first place (important!). The links to which are on my home page.   

If you do go down the leaf miner rearing route you will have failures, you will be disappointed when out pops a parasitic wasp instead of a prized specimen. But trust me, you will have successes - plenty of them, and you will have delved in to a most fascinating, hidden world where the most beautiful and exciting creatures live. They are everywhere from the bleakest moors to your own back garden.

Give it a go, you won't be disappointed!

One species from each of the nine families I've had successes with.


Steve Blacksmith said...

That's a really excellent account of rearing leaf miners. Sorry I haven't got round to reading it before.

charlie streets said...

Good to know you found it interesting Steve. Leaf mining is a fascinating subject in its own right and is a great way to keep the mothing "season" going all year round.

james brownn said...

Thank you very much and will look for more postings from you.
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Unknown said...

Thanks for this Charlie. Only in last week have been ask to be involved in an Australian team led by Doug Hilton making sense of the Heliozelidae and Incurvariidae in Australia. My first foray into the field located Heliozelidae mines on Hibbertia which is likely to be a new sp. So I now have 100 plus mines I am trying to rear. Having only been asked to join this group a week ago your article although in the opposite end of the world is very helpful. I have all sort of new things to do like keeping a Herbarium with mines (and the oval holes) as well as collecting minute parasitic wasps.

Unknown said...

My apologies I pushed the button before signing off, I am Mark Heath.