Maple Leafcutter
Paraclemensia acerifoliella (Fitch)

Hanson, T., and E. B. Walker. [n.d.] Field guide to common insect pests of urban trees in the Northeast. Waterbury, VT: Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

Lepidoptera: Incurvariidae

Hosts: Preferred host is sugar maple, but also feeds on red maple, birch, beech, and other hardwoods

Evidence: First signs of maple leafcutter feeding are small mines which appear in June. As summer progresses, look for oval-shaped holes of various sizes and defoliated rings with green centers (a). You will also see oval-shaped disks cut from leaves and used as larval cases on the upper leaf surface. Leaves brown prematurely.

Life Cycle: The insect overwinters as a pupa. Moths appear at about the time that maple leaves are opening, and begin laying eggs within a couple of days. Eggs, laid singly, hatch in 2-3 weeks. Larvae feed as leafminers for about 2 weeks. After they emerge from the mines, they begin to construct cases, using leaf disks fastened together by silk. Using the case as a shelter, the larva feeds around the edges, leaving ring-like patterns on the leaf (b). As the larva molts, it builds a case of larger leaf disks. Larvae drop to the ground in the end of September, spin cocoons and pupate.

a. Series of holes made by larvae of the Maple leafcutter.

b. After each molt, the Maple leafcutter larva cuts new disks from the leaf to add to its portable case.

Management: Natural control factors are thought to play an important role in the decline of populations because the maple leaf cutter drops to very low levels between outbreaks. The maple leafcutter is a late-season defoliator, and may be of little consequence unless present in extremely high numbers year after year. In ornamental plantings, raking and destroying infested leaves can reduce or eliminate overwintering populations. Larvae may also be killed with chemical or biological insecticides as they begin to feed on the leaf surface. Treat with insecticides when larvae begin to feed on the surface, around early July. Burning of fallen leaves can be effective in reducing populations.

Photo Credits:

Figure a: E. Bradford Walker, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Waterbury, VT.

Figure b: Ronald S. Kelley, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Morrisville, VT.


Drooz, A.T. 1985. Insects of Eastern Forests. USDA Forest Service Miscellaneous Publication 1426. p 125;

Johnson, W.T. and Lyon, H.H. 1991. Insects That Feed on Trees and Shrubs. 2nd edition. Cornell University Press. p 212-213;

Martineau, R. 1984. Insects Harmful to Forest Trees. Agriculture Canada Government Publishing Centre, Supply and Services, Ottawa. p 177;

Rose, A.H. and Lindquist, O.H. Revised by Syme, P. 1994. Insects of Eastern Spruces, Fir and Hemlock . Canadian Forest Service Publication. p 127.

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