In the photograph shown you are looking at a Striped maple leaf or Moosewood Leaf in its autumn phase. The Striped Maple, a common and native tree in the northern United States and Canada, always turn pale yellow in autumn. They do not turn other colors, just green to pale yellow before they are shed to the ground to decay among the leaf litter on the forest floor. However, you will note there is a green patch on this Striped Maple leaf long after the rest of the leaf has yellowed.
In some leaves at the end of summer and into the colored leaf season of autumn, the leaf miner goes to work. This is a small worm, very small, that cannot stand the heat of summer. They dehydrate rapidly if exposed to sunlight and heat. Therefore they need to remain under the cover of the forest canopy to remain alive. However, they need to get to the ground in order to pupate.
Most caterpillars reach the caterpillar stage in summer and then pupae in summer also, but the very small ones would dehydrate if they did that, so they need to wait until it cools down in early autumn. The leaf miner burrows inside leaves to slowly eat its ongoing meal. They are so small that as they grow you really do not see them since they are so small. When the leaf is shed by the tree branch it floats to the ground below where there is plenty of dampness/moisture. Once on the ground the leaf miner can pupate successfully.
The leaf miner contains some kind of natural chemical, what exactly I do not know, that prolongs the life of the leaf section is burrowed into so it can continue to eat fresh food. So when the rest of the leaf turns yellow, the section the leaf miner is in remains lush green.
Now this image shows small black dots clustered tightly together. I am unsure what insect left these behind, but to me they appear to be some kind of egg, perhaps small cocoons of some sort. Either way and whomever left them, they seem to do the same kind of thing the leaf miner does; emit some form of chemical to prolong the life of the section of leaf they are affixed to. Interestingly the red maple tree, beech tree and white ash tree right next to this striped maple have no such attachments or preserved leaf sections. This tells me that whoever created these black dots seem to prefer the striped maple. Upon wandering around I found more black dots with preserved leaf sections on other striped maples and the aspens, but no other tree. I know that the leaf miner prefers aspen leaves, so this critter may very well prefer the striped maples as a primary food source.
I plan to take one of the leaves containing these dots and placing it in a controlled setting that will mimic the same environment, temperature and humidity levels as they would be in when they fall and see what becomes of them and who might emerge.
Interestingly, the leaf miner is so small you need a microscope to see them inside the leaf. As they eat they also preserve, showing their aim is not to destroy the host leaf, but rather forage within it to survive. This sounds very similar to Borrelia burgdorferi, the minute microbe that causes Lyme Disease. The microbe actually looks so similar to the microbe that causes syphilis; most labs cannot tell them apart. It seems to be one of its tactics of survival, blending in. Borrelia burgdorferi, like the leaf miner, does not seek to destroy the host, but rather preserve just enough to rove through and take what resources it requires to survive. Part of doing this requires blending in.
Of course as the leaf miner is a naturally found caterpillar and merely buries into the leaf as protection while it feeds, Borrelia burgdorferi was created from the syphilis microbe in a lab of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center on Long Island, now controlled by Homeland Security. Before that it was a post WWII Army biological weapons lab. Borrelia burgdorferi is basically a hybrid syphilis that lives in a mutual relationship with a parasite in the host’s body which it helps out by nourishing. One is natural to the environment; the other was a created biological weapon by the United States military.
Humm, I wanted to just write a short little post on the leaf miner and other insects that preserve leaves in the autumn for their survival. Never meant to get into the Lyme’s topic… but there it is anyway, just sort of came out 🙂
Nevertheless, I think this striped maple leaf tells many interesting stories.