My guest today is Charley Eiseman. Charley is the lead author of the innovative and fascinating “Tracks and Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates”, which digs deep into the details of insect identification through the clues they leave, such as egg masses, cocoons, galls, burrows, leaf mines and more.
This initial treatment of leaf miners led him to his current 10 year obsession, learning about and documenting these specialist insects. Leaf miners are insects whose larvae live part of their lives in between the epidermal layers of leaves, each with fascinating life histories and survival strategies. There are thousands of leaf mining species of moths, flies, beetles, and sawflies. Despite being so prevalent, there was very little readily available information about them – that is, until Charley turned his sights on them. Over the last decade, Charley has turned himself into the foremost expert of North American leaf miners and created an 1800 page guide to the leaf miners, which is also referenced against their host plants.
This is a truly fascinating subject – leaf miners are literally everywhere, and serve as a creative “hook” to open people’s eyes to incredible nature that is easily overlooked. I’ve included several fascinating photos below!
In this episode we discuss Charley’s background, the unique University of Vermont Field Naturalist Masters program he completed, the challenges of breaking new ground in publishing his Tracks and Signs of Insects book, how he has identified and described 50+ previously undescribed leaf miner species, the process of documenting those discoveries, the process of rearing leaf miners at home to identify the species, and much more. Charley offers a few pearls of wisdom as well, including approaches to continuous learning and developing structure and deadlines for audacious goals like his 1800 page leaf miner guide.
Links To Topics Discussed
People and Organizations
In chronological order
Noah Charney – co-author of Tracks and Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates
John Carlson, MD – also an entomologist contributed a chapter on “sign of insects on vertebrates” such as stings and bites.
Paul Rezendes – Charley took a mammal tracking class that helped cement his approach of “following the trail of things he doesn’t know well”.
Owen Lonsdale – PhD that helps Charley document new species.
Dave Smith – Smithsonian sawfly expert Charley works with
Viburnum leaf mine example
Books and Other Things
In chronological order
Tracks and Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates – a wonderful guide book to insect behavior.
Leafminers of North America – Charley Eiseman, a PDF guide
bugguide.net – amazing insect identification and natural history resource
Leafminers of North America iNaturalist Project – Charley curates this project – share leafminers you find here!
Bugs In Winter – Charley’s online class he’s working on – availability starting in January 2021.
Note: links to books are affiliate links
Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed
Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed
Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/
Example Leaf Miner Photos
Thanks to Charley for providing these first three photos: