Sunday, May 21, 2006

Phyllocnistis up close and personal

Here it is! A good shot of the actual size of my
art research subject: the white blob is
Phyllocnistis populiella, only 2mm long with a
possible 5mm wingspan. Penny for scale!
I took this photo with my Canon Powershot A95
while butting the lens up against the eye piece
of an 8x Agfa lupe (for photo negatives).
Clever me.

Leaf miner moths deposit their eggs on the surface
of quaking aspen leaves, the larvae hatch, and a
miniscule caterpillar chews its way through the
spongy mesophyll of the leaf interior. In the photo
above, you can see where larvae have begun to
make mine tracks originating from their eggs.
Talk about exciting stuff.

The small dots on the leaf are Phyllocnistis populiella
eggs. All of these leaves were collected in my
driveway, the first fallen leaves this spring.

An even better image of the eggs. Interestingly, they
appear to be light blue on all of the leaves I've examined.
The Aspen around my house just began to leaf out and leaf
miners are already at work on them. Every evening, drifts
of tiny white moths are spiraling in the air around my house.
A bumper crop...due to our mild winter? It did get to -55 in
The Aspens will glow with the new, healthy green of spring...
and then they'll all turn a dun silver because their leaves will
be heavily marked with mines. Posted by Picasa


bugheart said...

what an
excellent description!
you are such
an entomologist
at heart!

andrew said...

Thanks for posting your phyllocnistis photos. You are not alone in your obsession with their marvelous trails, complete with poopstreaks. Especially thanks for turning their meanderings into metaphors.