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Leader moths

The small, only about three millimetres long, silvery-white moths (also known as leaf mints) are a family of butterflies. The family comprises about 1,000 different species worldwide, of which about 230 are also common in Europe. Many of them specialise in a single host plant and cause a characteristic pattern of damage for the species. Heavy infestation can lead to growth depression. The small butterflies mainly fly at dusk. They have a well developed proboscis and long antennae. In the resting position the front body is usually lifted. The narrow wings often have long fringes. In the first larval stages, the caterpillars have forward facing mandibles (mouth parts), which enable them to pierce and suck out cells, or serve to chew plant and animal food. The caterpillars eat their way through the leaf tissue and make numerous, typically shaped long feeding tunnels (miner tunnels). After only a few days, the leaves around the tunnels die, become brown and dry out completely in the case of heavy infestation. In the later stages, larvae of different ages can look very different. The oldest larvae stages live in rolled leaves of many species and gnaw at their inner sides.

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