Vegetable leaf miner

An isolated case of vegetable leaf miner has been detected at Seisia on Cape York Peninsula. Biosecurity Queensland is asking residents to be on the lookout for symptoms of vegetable leaf miner and to report any suspect cases to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

General information

Vegetable leaf miner is a fly-like pest, which is a serious threat to Australia´s plant industries. It is polyphagous (feeds on many types of plants) and can cause significant damage to many common horticultural crops and ornamental plant species. Some economically important weed and cultivated crop hosts include squash, okra, pea, tomato, bean, cabbage, turnip, potato, tobacco, cotton, radish, spinach, watermelon, beet, pepper, alfalfa, clover, vetch and plantain.


Other namesLiriomyza sativae
  • Adults are small, greyish-black fly-like insects
  • Yellow and black body
  • 1.3 - 2.3mm long

Symptoms from the pest’s feeding habit are likely to be more obvious than the pest itself. The larvae feed within the layers of the leaf, leaving trails of light green to white ‘squiggles’ which can be seen on the leaf surface.


Present in Timor Leste, it has also been found on several of the Torres Strait Islands and at the tip of Cape York Peninsula. It is not considered feasible to eradicate vegetable leaf miner from northern Cape York.

Originally from South America, it has spread across the world into North and Central America, parts of Africa (Cameroon, Sudan, Zimbabwe), Asia (China, India, Oman, Thailand, Yemen), and the Pacific Islands (American Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa and Vanuatu).

Crops affected

Vegetable leaf miner can cause significant damage to many types of common horticultural crops and ornamental plant species. Some of these are: squash, okra, pea, tomato, bean, cabbage, turnip, potato, tobacco, cotton, radish, spinach, watermelon, beet, pepper, alfalfa, clover, vetch and plantain.


Larvae feed under the surface of the leaves and petioles causing significant damage. This feeding usually causes long, narrow 'mines' which appear as white, light green or grey lines on leaves (and can look like coils) widening towards the end.


Damage caused by vegetable leaf miners considerably reduces the growth and development of seedlings and young plants, and can lead to plant death.

The presence of unsightly leaf damage in ornamental plants can lead to reduced market value.

Monitoring and action Regularly check your crops. If you suspect vegetable leaf miner, report it to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 immediately.

A research development and extension project, funded by the nursery and gardens industry, and the vegetable industry, will pave the way for effective management of the vegetable leaf miner. This project is about being prepared for the impact that vegetable leaf miner could have if it were to move into Australian horticulture production areas. It brings together cesar Australia (a private research group), the University of Melbourne, Plant Health Australia, the Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy, and AUSVEG.

The strategic levy investment project ‘RD&E program for control, eradication and preparedness for Vegetable leafminer (MT16004)’ is a part of the Hort Innovation multi-industry fund. This project has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the vegetable and nursery research and development levies and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.

Quarantine restrictions

The Torres Strait and northern areas of Cape York Peninsula have special quarantine requirements. These prohibit the southward movement of host plants south from the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Special Quarantine Zone, and any Torres Strait island to mainland Australia without a permit from the Australian Department of Agriculture.

Liriomyza sativae is listed as a far northern pest under the Biosecurity Regulation 2016. The movement of host materials for this pest is restricted from the Far Northern Biosecurity Zones under the Biosecurity Regulation 2016. Under this legislation, the pest or a plant that could carry the pest cannot be moved out of the zones without biosecurity instrument permit.

View a map of the biosecurity zones.

Biosecurity Queensland inspectors at the Cape York Biosecurity Centre at Coen may check vehicles moving south from Cape York Peninsula to ensure that pests are not carried from the zone.

Your cooperation in complying with these restrictions will help protect Queensland from exotic pests and diseases.

If you are unsure about quarantine and movement restrictions, contact the Customer Service Centre.