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


Elachista atricomella Stainton, 1849
[Lepidoptera: Elachistidae]

Black-headed Dwarf

Elachista atricomella Stainton, 1849. Cat. Brit. Tin. Pteroph.: 25.

Leaf-miner: Like related species, the larva mines blades of grass, in this case usually Cock's-foot, forming a thin whitish mine (UKMoths).

The larva begins in autumn the making of a long, narrow, corridor with a fine central line of grey frass. The corridor is straight or lightly wavy, and descends into the leaf sheath, or even into the stem or rootstock. The larva regularly leaves the mine to begin making a new one. Pupation external (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).

Pale greenish yellow; head and prothoracic plate light brown; prothoracic plate made up of two narrow elongate sclerites (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 illustrated in UKMoths. The species is included in

Hosts in Great Britain and Ireland:

Dactylis glomerata Cock's-foot British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. Pitkin & Plant
Dactylis glomerata Cock's-foot British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. UKMoths

Hosts elsewhere:

Carex hostiana Tawny Sedge British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. Bladmineerders van Europa
Bromus       Bladmineerders van Europa
Dactylis glomerata Cock's-foot British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. Bladmineerders van Europa
Melica nutans Mountain Melick British Wild Flowers by John Somerville et al. Bladmineerders van Europa
Milium       Bladmineerders van Europa

Time of year - larvae: May (Bladmineerders van Europa)

Time of year - adults: The moths can be found on the wing any time between May and September, and are attracted to light (UKMoths).

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland: A fairly common and well distributed grassland species over most of the British Isles (UKMoths) including Anglesey, Banffshire, Bedfordshire, Breconshire, Caernarvonshire, Cambridgeshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Cheshire, Cumberland, Denbighshire, Derbyshire, Dorset, Dumfriesshire, Dunbartonshire, Durham, East Cornwall, East Norfolk, East Ross, East Suffolk, Easterness, Flintshire, Glamorgan, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Kincardineshire, Kirkudbrightshire, Linlithgow, Merionethshire, Middlesex, North Aberdeenshire, North Devon, North Ebudes, North Essex, North Hampshire, North Northumberland, North Somerset, North-east Yorkshire, Pembrokeshire, Shropshire, South Aberdeenshire, South Lancashire, South Northumberland, South-east Yorkshire, South -west Yorkshire, Stafford, Warwickshire, West Cornwall, West Gloucestershire, West Kent, West Lancashire, West Norfolk, West Suffolk, West Sussex, Westmorland, Wigtownshire and Worcestershire (NBN Atlas), the Channel Is. and Ireland (Fauna Europaea).

Also recorded in the Republic of Ireland (National Biodiversity Data Centre Map).

Distribution elsewhere: Widespread in continental Europe including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Danish mainland, Estonia, French mainland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norwegian mainland, Poland, Romania, Russia - Central, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Ukraine (Fauna Europaea).

NBN Atlas links to known host species:

Carex hostiana, Dactylis glomerata, Melica nutans

British and Irish Parasitoids in Britain and elsewhere:

Ichneumonoidea - Links to species no longer available  
Chelonus pusio Marshall, 1885 Braconidae: Cheloninae

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 17-Oct-2019  Brian Pitkin Top of page