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Leaf mine on pin oak - Acrocercops albinatella

Leaf mine on pin oak - Acrocercops albinatella
Ackworth, Warren County, Iowa, USA
April 4, 2009
Size: ~3 mm width
Leaf miner track visible on underside of old, fallen, weathered leaf (from 2008 growing season) of ornamental pin oak tree in lawn.

Images of this individual: tag all
Leaf mine on pin oak - Acrocercops albinatella Leaf mine on pin oak - Acrocercops albinatella

Moved from Acrocercops.

Moved from Stigmella altella.
Erik van Nieukerken (Nepticulidae specialist) agrees that this doesn't look nepticulid.

Rest of leaf?
Hi John -- do you have photos of these mines showing the rest of the leaf? Both mines seem to end in a large blotch that goes outside the frame, and I'd like to see what it looks like if possible. I saw a lot of Acrocercops mines in Florida recently that looked very similar to these. If that's what they are, the time to look for fresh ones would be early spring rather than in the fall.

Hi Charley, I am sorry (and a bit embarrassed) that I am unable to find the uncropped originals. I do recall that the mines did end in a blotch (although I did not realize it at the time - this was my first-ever leaf-mine photo and I learned shortly later from you that the blotch was part of the mine!).

Moved from Unidentified Leaf Mines.
After reviewing the reference Terry cited, I think his suggested ID is highly probable (and have found nothing else it could be). Also note that Q. palustris is one of the two known hosts for this species.

By the way, I have continued watching for more mines like this on leaves from the pin oaks in my yard, but have not seen another one since I took this photo.

Apparently the time to look for active mines is in the fall. Newton & Wilkinson say:

"Univoltine [single generation per year] in Ohio, with the mines being collected in October and adults emerging the following May and early June. The single specimen examined from Maine was collected 1 month later than Ohio material: this may represent a later generation although the difference in latitude should be taken into account."

Is the mine visible only on the underside?

I believe so
I just tried to double-check but my specimen had blown away and I could not find another! I do think that the track was obvious on the underside and not evident on the topside.

Snail track?
Hmmm, your question got me thinking that maybe this is snail track (acquired after falling to the ground), not a leaf miner...?

Leaf mine
No, definitely a leaf mine--notice how the track gradually widens, reflecting the larva's increase in size as it moved along. Some leaf mines are visible on both sides of the leaf, but many are just on one side, and knowing the details helps to sort them out, just as with galls. This is a "linear-blotch" mine: it starts out as a line, but ends in a big blob. I have two candidates for this one:

Japanagromyza viridula, an agromyzid fly, usually makes a linear mine along a leaf vein, then expands it to a blotch when it reaches the edge of the leaf. I haven't seen this mine, but I've seen many examples of the feeding punctures made by the ovipositing females, and I'd feel better about calling it that if there was some sign of those punctures (this fly is called the "oak shothole leafminer" because the punctures, made by the female's ovipositor when the leaf is still expanding, widen and cause the leaf to be conspicuously riddled with holes).

Ectoedemia similella, a nepticulid moth, makes linear-blotch mines in pin oak leaves specifically. I don't have the details on this mine in front of me, but a couple of others in this genus do make mines with at least the linear portion on the underside of the leaf, which is unusual for linear mines. However, nepticulids usually have a conspicuous "frass line" down the middle of the mine, which I don't see here. The mine also starts rather abruptly relative to nepticulid mines I've seen.

So... one of those, I think. Since I don't even know which order to place this in, it can be moved to the unknown leaf mines page if no one figures it out... I hope Terry Harrison (of takes a look. Keep an eye out for fresh mines this year; that should help sort it out.

One possibility
It could be the mine of a nepticulid, for example Stigmella altella, about which Newton and Wilkinson 1982, Syst. Ent. 7: 367-463, p. 449, wrote: "Mine. Much contorted, linear, on lower surface of leaf, barely visible from upper side, relatively longer than others found on Quercus spp. and narrow throughout its length." Their Fig. 96, however, suggests that there might be some enlargement of the mine at its terminus.

Charley is spot on in suggesting that it will be good if you can collect fresh mines this year, or better yet, collect inhabited mines and rear it to adult. We all would like to learn the answer to the interesting question that you and this insect have posed, and so I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks, moved to that page
I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge of this stuff, Charley. I am looking forward to your forthcoming book!

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