Two insects in warmer climates are enemies, yet they look do similar they can easily be confused: mealy bug and the mealy bug destroyer. The first (a member of the Pseudococcidae family with many different genera) is a small insect much like a large aphid, but covered with a thick scaly white powdery meal. It moves very slowly and tends to cluster on leaves and in the leaf joints. This insect will suck juices from your treasured plants and, if an infestation is bad enough, can actually kill the plant. It is found on both indoor and outdoor plants.

The second (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) looks just like a Jurassic version of the mealy bug in its larval form. The destroyer is much bigger, often up to ½” in length, white, scaly, and powdery. It is also much more active, moving around at a respectable speed for its size as compared to the lethargic mealy bug. This fellow is actually the larva (immature form) of a small ladybug which is less than ¼” big with a blackish body and a dull orange head. Either larva or adult is as much friend as the mealy bug is enemy. It will devour the smaller insect saving you on treatment time and chemical expense. If you see the big fellow (or his little mom), try not to be repulsed by the intimidating body. You want this insect in your garden. (Personally, I have found the mealy bug destroyer most frequently on trees, though it is supposed to be an equal-opportunity predator.) Populations vary with the weather as our winters here can be cool enough to kill off most of the population of the mealy bug destroyer. Fortunately, most of the nasty little mealy bugs fare poorly in cooler winters, too.

insect enemies

The mealy bug

The mealy bug is only 1/4” or smaller and is white and “mealy” or covered with a thick scaly white powder over a pink body. You can often see the long pair of white filament-like tendrils protruding from one end of the body. Mealy bugs usually cluster in colonies, the younger ones being smaller and pinker.

mealybug destroyer

The mealy bug destroyer

The mealy bug destroyer is much larger, friskier, and mimics its prey with a thick waxy white coating that sometimes curls.