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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 25, 2010

From: cedar park, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: What is eating the leaves of my oak tree in Cedar Park, TX?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

This one has a couple of arborists stumped. I have clusters of small, light-colored worms on the leaves of an oak tree, but no tents or webs. They are eating the chlorophyll in the leaves, leaving the leaf intact, but white with a gauze-like appearance. I have not been able to find any information online. Can you help? Thank You.

ANSWER:

Nice pun.

The worms you are seeing are most likely the larval stage of a group moths known as leafminers. The female lays eggs on the lower surface of the leaf, and when they hatch , the larvae bore inside the leaf and make mines by clearing out the leaf tissue inside the leaf. The second instar is larger and works on the surface of the leaf eating the epidermal cells. This is what makes the leaf transparent. Since the attack is on an oak tree, there are three species that are possible culprits; the Solitary Oak Leafminer (Cameraria hamadryadella), the Gregarious Oak Leafminer (Cameraria cincinnatiella), and the Oak Skeletonizer (Bacculatrix ainsiella).   

Because we are Botanists and our ability to identify insects is limited, I suggest that you contact an Entomologist at the Texas Forest Service for a positive ID of your insect.

 

 

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