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Cochineal

Dactylopius coccus

Description:

The cochineal (/kɒtʃɨˈniːl/ koch-i-neel or /ˈkɒtʃɨniːl/ koch-i-neel; Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which the crimson-coloured dye carmine is derived. A primarily sessile parasite native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico, this insect lives on cacti from the genus Opuntia, feeding on plant moisture and nutrients.

Habitat:

This scale lives on Opuntia (pad) cacti.

Notes:

When you touch the white fuzz, it turns into beautiful purple fluid (see second picture). The Aztec used this as a dye for the clothing of the most powerful members of the society, and after the conquest (holocaust) of South America, it was harvested and sent to Europe for use as a dye there.

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Ava T-B
Spotted by
Ava T-B

San Diego, California, USA

Spotted on Sep 18, 2011
Submitted on Sep 18, 2011

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Reference

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