Vegetable Leafminer (Liriomyza sativae) is a new arrival to Australia

Since 2008, it has been island hopping in a southerly direction down the Torres Strait Island group. The Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) and Biosecurity Queensland has been tracking the movement of this pest since its detection in the Strait. In 2015, Vegetable Leafminer was detected on the Cape York Peninsula and the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests recommended that it was not technically feasible to eradicate from the region.

Vegetable Leafminer is a very small black and yellow fly (1-2 mm in length). Female flies lay eggs inside leaves and stems. Maggots tunnel inside the leaf and make visible tracks that get wider as they grow. Leaf mines interrupt the photosynthetic ability of plants, can lead to secondary infection, and reduce marketability of produce. The fly, which is prone to developing resistance to a range of insecticides, has a very broad plant host range that includes beans, pumpkins, eggplant, capsicum, cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, potato, cole crops, and a range of ornamentals including Allium, Aster, Dahlia, Phlox, plus Solanaceae including tomato.

MT16004 – RD&E Program for control, eradication and preparedness for Vegetable Leafminer (2017-2020) was developed in recognition of the extensive impact that Vegetable Leafminer could have on the vegetable and nursery industries were it to move into production areas with no management plan in place. Project partners include cesar, the University of Melbourne, Plant Health Australia, NAQS, AUSVEG and NGIA.

From now until 2020 the project will prepare for the potential spread of the pest by:

  • Investigating biological and chemical control options;
  • Identifying spread pathways into Australia;
  • Developing management guidelines and trapping methods;
  • Modelling the spread of the pest from Cape York Peninsula; and
  • Developing a contingency plan and response plans in the event of a regional eradication.


Throughout the project AUSVEG will deliver an extension program to improve awareness of VLM, and educate growers about methods of control as developed throughout the project. Keep an eye out for future Vegetable Leafminer workshop dates around the country.

If you have any questions about the project, or about Vegetable Leafminer, please get in touch with:

Dr Jessica Lye, AUSVEG (03 9882 0277) jessica.lye@ausveg.com.au or John McDonald, NGIA (07 3277 7900)

The strategic levy investment project RD&E program for control, eradication and preparedness for Vegetable Leafminer (MT16004) is a part of the Hort Innovation Vegetable and Nursery Funds.

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.