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Name that bug

Fountain City, Knoxville, TN

Saturday, May 19, 2007
So what do I do when I finally get a Saturday off? I get a headache of course! No really, I planned on being very productive today and getting a lot done around the house, but I got a headache and feel like taking it easy.

I am getting one thing done. I went out and photographed some bugs in an attempt to identify what's killing the hackberry tree in my yard. I think that they're a mealybug of some sort, but if anyone knows what these are for sure and how to treat them then please let me know. The tree is about 25 feet high so I hope there is a solution other than spraying.

Warning: if you really don't like creepy crawly things then you might want to skip this post. It isn't a photography post so you won't miss much.

I was really interested in all sorts of creatures when I was little. I'd dig up worms and scout for interesting bugs. My mom even found me trying to pull a snake out of his hole once. Unfortunately, I'm not quite as fearless now, but I still think it's really interesting what you can find when you just stop and look around.

The culprit eating my tree is small and white, and it seems to be working its way in from the tips of the branches. It apparently produces these white cocoon looking things and then moves on to another spot. The white secretion seems to start around the head so I'm assuming it isn't an egg sack, but I could be wrong. For all I know, this could be one bug eating the egg sack of another. The mobile white bugs themselves aren't as easy to find as the white aftermath.

Name that bug

I'm not sure what this is, but it looks like it's making its own little white mess. I put it near one of the larger bugs for comparison.

Name that bug

While looking for the white bugs, I ran into this little guy running up and down the branch. When he found one of the brown scales, he stopped and seemed to be eating it.

Name that bug

He was also interested in the white aftermath. He looks a bit like a caterpillar, but it is very small and has little legs that it runs on (unlike a caterpillar). I got a shot of an ant running over him for size comparison.
Name that bug

May 20 Edit:
I think I may have an answer to my bug mystery. I found this neat little site called, aptly enough, What's That Bug? The folks running it are actually photography teachers and artists in California, and they were very quick at responding to my inquiry. This is the reply:

Hi Nancy,
You have quite an ecosystem thriving on your Hackberry Tree. The brown
insect with the white mass appears to be an hermaphroditic female Scale
Insect in the family Margarodidae. It does not however look like a Cottony
Cushion Scale as depicted on BugGuide but might be a related species. Your
white insect does appear to be a Mealybug, another plant pest. Your third
insect looked to us like a Ladybird Beetle Larva, a predator that is
probably feeding on some of the pests. When we checked on BugGuide, the
match is a Twice Stabbed Ladybird, Chilocorus stigma. BugGuide has a great
image of larva, pupa and adult Twice Stabbed ladybirds feeding on Scale
Insects. We don't give extermination advice. We would recommend a trip to
a good local nursery and NOT using a broad band pesticide.
I had some trouble navigating BugGuide so I'm going to take their word for it. Who knew that ladybugs have such ugly babies?
5/19/2008 8:13:07 PM
I can't believe it. I have been so frustrated over these bugs, I decided to google the image. Here I am, one year, to the day after you posted these pictures. These are the bugs crawling all over one of my pine trees and on my chives. My kids call them the skeleton bugs. How do you get rid of them?
4/14/2009 8:44:46 PM

To get rid of your mealybug problem, simply scan the plant and kill all that you can, make to get rid of the white stuff because some of it are eggs. the males have wings, you can put tape down, and hope the males land on it. You can take a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and get the rest that you cant reach because they like to lay their eggs in crevasses. They only live about 30 days so if you keep checking on a weekly basis, hopefully within one month you will banish all of them. They can damage the tree. They leave a residue called honeydew....warm water and a cotton swab will prevent this from becoming a black mold that's really bad and can hurt the tree too. I like to fight bugs with bugs, so if you see any ladybugs that land on you, put them on the tree, they can lay eggs further up where you cant reach and their babies will help by eating the eggs too. Bless and don't use pesticides!
5/24/2010 9:07:56 PM
I have these white fuzzy bugs all over my fruit tree, and no website seems to give me the name of these insects. Please help!
8/31/2010 12:27:49 AM
OMG i so adore these little things..The ones in the pictures appear way bigger then the ones in the trees in my backyard; but they seem harmless i held one well it flew on me and i watched it crawl. I dont think they should kill them unless its really damaging the plants thats their habitat.. just my input
Dorothy Clayton
10/5/2010 4:47:40 PM
I have the white bugs on my plant. Can they kill my plant? The plant is on my porch and it's getting to that time of the year that I need to bring it back in the house. Can the bugs make there way to my other plants in the house?
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