The leaf and stem mines of British flies and other insects

(Coleoptera, Diptera, Hymenoptera and Lepidoptera)

by Brian Pitkin, Willem Ellis, Colin Plant and Rob Edmunds


Coleophora niveicostella Zeller, 1839
[Lepidoptera: Coleophoridae]

Drab Case-bearer

Coleophora niveicostella Zeller, 1839. Isis: 208.

Leaf-miner and case-bearer: Larva in a slender, brownish black, bivalved sheath case of 7-8 mm. The oral half is tubular, the rear part strongly laterally compressed. Mouth angle 30°.

Actually the case only looks like a sheath case. The larva cuts off mined leaves, after having removed the complete leaf margin: what is left is an upper and a lower epidermis, connected by the stub of the petiole. Leaves treated in this way are placed in front of the old case, the stub dorsally, and pointing forwards. The stubs together form a low dorsal keel. The case in fact is a composite leaf case. However, the larva adds so much silk (also because the leaves are too small to form a complete tube) the the leaf fragments are obliterated (Emmet et al., 1996a) (Bladmineerders van Europa).

Larva: The larvae of moths have a head capsule and chewing mouthparts with opposable mandibles (see video of a gracillarid larva feeding), six thoracic legs and abdominal legs (see examples).

A differential character is that the larva of niveicostella has the metanotum unicolorous with remainder of the pale greenish body, while in albitarsella the metanotum bears two oval black sclerites. See Suire (1961a) and Emmet at al. (1996a) for descriptions of the larva (Bladmineerders van Europa).

Pupa: The pupae of moths have visible head appendages, wings and legs which lie in sheaths (see examples).

Adult: The adult is not illustrated in UKMoths (check for update). The species is included in

Hosts in Great Britain and Ireland:

Thymus       Pitkin & Plant

Hosts elsewhere:

Thymus       Belgian Lepidoptera
Thymus polytrichus Wild Thyme British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al.

Bladmineerders van Europa, as praecox

Thymus pulegioides Large Garden Thyme   Bladmineerders van Europa
Thymus serpyllum Breckland Garden Thyme British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. Bladmineerders van Europa

Time of year - larvae: Mid June (Bladmineerders van Europa).

Time of year - adults: Currently unknown.

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland: Britain including Dorset, East Kent, Hertfordshire, North Hampshire, Surrey and West Norfolk (NBN Atlas).

Distribution elsewhere: Widespread in continental Europe including Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Danish mainland, French mainland, Germany, Greek mainland, Hungary, Italian mainland, Latvia, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spanish mainland, Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands. Also recorded in Near East and North Africa (Fauna Europaea).

NBN Atlas links to known host species:

Thymus polytrichus, Thymus pulegioides, Thymus serpyllum

British and Irish Parasitoids in Britain and elsewhere: Currently unknown.

External links: Search the internet:

Belgian Lepidoptera
Biodiversity Heritage Library
Bladmineerders van Europa
British leafminers
Encyclopedia of Life
Fauna Europaea
NBN Atlas
NHM UK Checklist

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Last updated 19-May-2019  Brian Pitkin Top of page