Birch: Birch leafminer

categories: Birch Birch Insects Ornamental trees Ornamentals

revision date: 2024-06-05 10:25

blotch-shaped brown dead areas on leaves indicate mined areas.
Birch leafminer damage.
Photo by: A.L. Antonelli


The birch leafminer is the larvae of a small (about 1/8″-3/8″) black sawfly. The adult sawfly lays eggs in new leaves. The larvae emerge and feed in leaf tissues, leaving blotch-shaped or winding brown mines. Mature larvae are flattened and may be up to 1/2″ long. Larvae drop to the ground and pupate in the soil for two to three weeks before emerging as adults. There may be up to four generations per year, depending on length of growing season. Vigorous gray, white, and paper birches are most commonly attacked. Repeated severe infestations may result in decline of trees.

Management Options

Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for successful plant problem management.

Non-chemical Management

Select non-chemical management options as your first choice!

  • Plant resistant species and cultivars, including Betula davurica, B. jacquemontii, B. nigra, and the variety ‘Crimson Frost’.
  • Pinch leaves to kill larvae in minor infestations on small trees.
  • Reported as 95% resistant (B. costata, B. maximowicziana, B. populifolia x pendula ‘Purple Rain’, and B. schmittii).
  • Natural predators may help control populations. Encourage predators such as green lacewings and spiders.

Chemical Management

IMPORTANT: Visit Home and Garden Fact Sheets for more information on using pesticides.

  • If you choose to use a pesticide, apply when first leaves are fully formed, usually around May 1st.
  • Make a second application from mid-June to mid-July.
  • Insecticide products are toxic to bees.
  • Homeowners should not make foliar applications to trees over 10 ft tall.
  • Consult a commercial pesticide applicator for treatment of trees and shrubs over 10 ft. tall.

Approved Pesticides

Listed below are examples of pesticides that are legal in Washington. Always read and follow all label directions.