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The leaves on my citrus tree are looking sick and silvery PDF Print E-mail

LEAFMINER  PHYLLOCNISTIS CITRELLA The caterpillar stage of the citrus leafminer moth, Phyllocnistis citrella, feeds on the leaves of citrus. Citrus leafminer moth is native to NSW and Queensland. Adult moths are small,  active at night and rarely noticed.

Affected leaves appear silvery, somewhat marbled and distorted as a result of feeding. Damage is caused by caterpillars tunnelling, eating the soft tissue in between the outer leaf surfaces. Initially infestations feed on juvenile foliage, but as they progress larvae can feed on older, tougher leaves. It takes about two to three weeks for larvae to mature and emerge as adults. This pest will not kill citrus trees, however, severe infestations on young trees will reduce its ability to produce energy, slowing growth and reducing crops.


Control is most effective during the main breeding period for citrus leafminer, usually during spring and autumn, but this can extend through cool summers. Autumn is the peak breeding season.

Spray trees with horticultural oil which deters citrus leafminer moths from laying eggs. Traditional white oil is still the most popular choice but when ambient temperatures reach or exceed 30C this may cause leaves to burn. More recently introduced horticultural oils tend not to have this response.

Spraying the solution during the cool of the morning reduces the risk of foliage being burned in intense sunshine before it dries. Wet both sides of leaves and young shoots until it begins to drip off. Reapply monthly or after heavy rain, which gradually rinses this non-persistent solution off. It is most effective when applied before outbreaks occur.

Supporting strategies

  • Feed citrus during winter and summer to reduce the production of soft, sappy growth which is preferred by citrus leafminer;
  • Avoid over watering citrus, which also stimulates soft, sappy growth; 
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