Cochineal
Overview
The cochineal is a scale insect
Scale insect
The scale insects are small insects of the order Hemiptera, generally classified as the superfamily Coccoidea. There are about 8,000 species of scale insects.-Ecology:...

 in the suborder Sternorrhyncha
Sternorrhyncha
Sternorrhyncha is a suborder of the Hemiptera which contains the aphids, whiteflies, and scale insects, groups which were traditionally included in the order Homoptera. "Sternorrhyncha" refers to the rearward position of the mouthparts relative to the head...

, from which the crimson
Crimson
Crimson is a strong, bright, deep red color. It is originally the color of the dye produced from a scale insect, Kermes vermilio, but the name is now also used as a generic term for those slightly bluish-red colors that are between red and rose; besides crimson itself, these colors include...

-colour dye
Natural dye
Natural dyes are dyes or colorants derived from plants, invertebrates, or minerals. The majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes from plant sources – roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood — and other organic sources such as fungi and lichens....

 carmine
Carmine
Carmine , also called Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red #4, C.I. 75470, or E120, is a pigment of a bright-red color obtained from the aluminum salt of carminic acid, which is produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal beetle and the Polish cochineal, and is used as a general term for...

 is derived. A primarily sessile
Sessility (zoology)
In zoology, sessility is a characteristic of animals which are not able to move about. They are usually permanently attached to a solid substrate of some kind, such as a part of a plant or dead tree trunk, a rock, or the hull of a ship in the case of barnacles. Corals lay down their own...

 parasite native to tropical and subtropical South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 and Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, this insect lives on cacti
Cactus
A cactus is a member of the plant family Cactaceae. Their distinctive appearance is a result of adaptations to conserve water in dry and/or hot environments. In most species, the stem has evolved to become photosynthetic and succulent, while the leaves have evolved into spines...

 from the genus Opuntia
Opuntia
Opuntia, also known as nopales or paddle cactus , is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae.Currently, only prickly pears are included in this genus of about 200 species distributed throughout most of the Americas. Chollas are now separated into the genus Cylindropuntia, which some still consider...

, feeding on plant moisture and nutrients.

The insect produces carminic acid
Carminic acid
Carminic acid is a red glucosidal hydroxyanthrapurin that occurs naturally in some scale insects, such as the cochineal and the Polish cochineal. The insects produce the acid as a deterrent to predators. Carminic acid is the colouring agent in carmine. Synonyms are C.I. 75470 and C.I...

 that deters predation by other insects. Carminic acid, which occurs as 17-24% of the weight of the dry insects, can be extracted from the insect's body and eggs and mixed with aluminum or calcium salts to make carmine dye (also known as cochineal).
Encyclopedia
The cochineal is a scale insect
Scale insect
The scale insects are small insects of the order Hemiptera, generally classified as the superfamily Coccoidea. There are about 8,000 species of scale insects.-Ecology:...

 in the suborder Sternorrhyncha
Sternorrhyncha
Sternorrhyncha is a suborder of the Hemiptera which contains the aphids, whiteflies, and scale insects, groups which were traditionally included in the order Homoptera. "Sternorrhyncha" refers to the rearward position of the mouthparts relative to the head...

, from which the crimson
Crimson
Crimson is a strong, bright, deep red color. It is originally the color of the dye produced from a scale insect, Kermes vermilio, but the name is now also used as a generic term for those slightly bluish-red colors that are between red and rose; besides crimson itself, these colors include...

-colour dye
Natural dye
Natural dyes are dyes or colorants derived from plants, invertebrates, or minerals. The majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes from plant sources – roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood — and other organic sources such as fungi and lichens....

 carmine
Carmine
Carmine , also called Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red #4, C.I. 75470, or E120, is a pigment of a bright-red color obtained from the aluminum salt of carminic acid, which is produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal beetle and the Polish cochineal, and is used as a general term for...

 is derived. A primarily sessile
Sessility (zoology)
In zoology, sessility is a characteristic of animals which are not able to move about. They are usually permanently attached to a solid substrate of some kind, such as a part of a plant or dead tree trunk, a rock, or the hull of a ship in the case of barnacles. Corals lay down their own...

 parasite native to tropical and subtropical South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 and Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, this insect lives on cacti
Cactus
A cactus is a member of the plant family Cactaceae. Their distinctive appearance is a result of adaptations to conserve water in dry and/or hot environments. In most species, the stem has evolved to become photosynthetic and succulent, while the leaves have evolved into spines...

 from the genus Opuntia
Opuntia
Opuntia, also known as nopales or paddle cactus , is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae.Currently, only prickly pears are included in this genus of about 200 species distributed throughout most of the Americas. Chollas are now separated into the genus Cylindropuntia, which some still consider...

, feeding on plant moisture and nutrients.

The insect produces carminic acid
Carminic acid
Carminic acid is a red glucosidal hydroxyanthrapurin that occurs naturally in some scale insects, such as the cochineal and the Polish cochineal. The insects produce the acid as a deterrent to predators. Carminic acid is the colouring agent in carmine. Synonyms are C.I. 75470 and C.I...

 that deters predation by other insects. Carminic acid, which occurs as 17-24% of the weight of the dry insects, can be extracted from the insect's body and eggs and mixed with aluminum or calcium salts to make carmine dye (also known as cochineal). Carmine is today primarily used as a food colouring and for cosmetics
Cosmetics
Cosmetics are substances used to enhance the appearance or odor of the human body. Cosmetics include skin-care creams, lotions, powders, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail and toe nail polish, eye and facial makeup, towelettes, permanent waves, colored contact lenses, hair colors, hair sprays and...

.

The carmine dye was used in Central America in the 15th century for colouring fabrics and became an important export good during the colonial period
History of Latin America
Latin America refers to countries in the Americas where Romance languages are spoken. This definition, however, is not meant to include Canada, in spite of its large French-speaking population....

. After synthetic pigments and dyes such as alizarin
Alizarin
Alizarin or 1,2-dihydroxyanthraquinone is an organic compound with formula that has been used throughout history as a prominent dye, originally derived from the roots of plants of the madder genus.Alizarin was used as a red dye for the English parliamentary "new model" army...

 were invented in the late 19th century, natural-dye production gradually diminished. Health fears over artificial food additives, however, have renewed the popularity of cochineal dyes, and the increased demand has made cultivation of the insect profitable again, with Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 being the largest exporter. Some towns in the state of Oaxaca
Oaxaca
Oaxaca , , officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca is one of the 31 states which, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 571 municipalities; of which 418 are governed by the system of customs and traditions...

 (in Mexico) are still working in hand-made textiles.

There are other species in the genus Dactylopius that can be used to produce cochineal extract, but they are extremely difficult to distinguish from D. coccus, even for expert taxonomists, and the latter scientific name (and the vernacular "cochineal insect") is therefore commonly used when one is actually referring to other biological species. The primary biological distinctions between species are minor differences in host plant preferences, in addition to very different geographic distributions.

History

Cochineal dye was used by the Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 and Maya
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

 peoples of Central and North America. Eleven cities conquered by Moctezuma
Moctezuma II
Moctezuma , also known by a number of variant spellings including Montezuma, Moteuczoma, Motecuhzoma and referred to in full by early Nahuatl texts as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, was the ninth tlatoani or ruler of Tenochtitlan, reigning from 1502 to 1520...

  in the 15th century paid a yearly tribute of 2000 decorated cotton blankets and 40 bags of cochineal dye each. During the colonial period the production of cochineal (grana fina) grew rapidly. Produced almost exclusively in Oaxaca
Oaxaca, Oaxaca
The city and municipality of Oaxaca de Juárez, or simply Oaxaca, is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of the same name . It is located in the Centro District in the Central Valleys region of the state, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre at the base of the Cerro del Fortín...

  by indigenous producers, cochineal became Mexico's second most valued export after silver. Soon after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire it began to be exported to Spain, and by the seventeenth century was a commodity traded as far away as India. The dyestuff was consumed throughout Europe and was so highly prized that its price was regularly quoted on the London and Amsterdam Commodity Exchanges. In 1777 the French botanist Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville
Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville
Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville , avocat at the Parlement of Paris, was a French botanist who volunteered to be sent to Mexico in 1776 to steal the cochineal insect valued for its scarlet dye...

, presenting himself as a botanizing physician, smuggled the insects and pads of the Opuntia cactus to Saint Domingue. This particular collection failed to thrive and ultimately died out, leaving the Mexican monopoly intact. After the Mexican War of Independence
Mexican War of Independence
The Mexican War of Independence was an armed conflict between the people of Mexico and the Spanish colonial authorities which started on 16 September 1810. The movement, which became known as the Mexican War of Independence, was led by Mexican-born Spaniards, Mestizos and Amerindians who sought...

 in 1810–1821, the Mexican monopoly on cochineal came to an end. Large scale production of cochineal emerged, especially in Guatemala and the Canary Islands; it was also cultivated in Spain and North Africa.

The demand for cochineal fell sharply with the appearance on the market of alizarin crimson
Alizarin crimson (color)
The color alizarin crimson is a "cool" hue of the color red that is biased slightly more towards purple than towards orange on the color wheel. It is named after the organic dye alizarin, found in the madder plant, and the related synthetic lake pigment Alizarin Crimson .-Alizarin crimson in human...

 and many other artificial dyes discovered in Europe in the middle of the 19th century, causing a significant financial shock in Spain as a major industry almost ceased to exist. The delicate manual labour required for the breeding of the insect could not compete with the modern methods of the new industry, and even less so with the lowering of production costs. The "tuna blood" dye (from the Mexican name for the Opuntia
Opuntia
Opuntia, also known as nopales or paddle cactus , is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae.Currently, only prickly pears are included in this genus of about 200 species distributed throughout most of the Americas. Chollas are now separated into the genus Cylindropuntia, which some still consider...

 fruit) stopped being used and trade in cochineal almost totally disappeared in the course of the 20th century. The breeding of the cochineal insect has been done mainly for the purposes of maintaining the tradition rather than to satisfy any sort of demand.

It has become commercially valuable again, although most consumers are unaware that the phrases "cochineal extract", "carmine", "crimson lake", "natural red 4", "C.I. 75470", "E120", or even "natural colouring" refer to a dye that is derived from an insect. One reason for its popularity is that many commercial synthetic red dyes were found to be carcinogenic. The dye can, however, induce an anaphylactic
Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is defined as "a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death". It typically results in a number of symptoms including throat swelling, an itchy rash, and low blood pressure...

 shock reaction in rare cases.

Art

The carmine of antiquity (Old World kermes, NR3) also contains carminic acid
Carminic acid
Carminic acid is a red glucosidal hydroxyanthrapurin that occurs naturally in some scale insects, such as the cochineal and the Polish cochineal. The insects produce the acid as a deterrent to predators. Carminic acid is the colouring agent in carmine. Synonyms are C.I. 75470 and C.I...

, and was extracted from a similar insect, Kermes vermilio
Kermes vermilio
Kermes vermilio is one of the species of Kermes used to make the dye also called kermes.....

, that lives on scarlet oak
Scarlet Oak
Quercus coccinea, the scarlet oak, is an oak in the red oak section Quercus sect. Lobatae. The scarlet oak can be mistaken for the pin oak, the black oak, or occasionally the red oak. On scarlet oak the sinuses between lobes are "C"-shaped in comparison to pin oak , which has "U"-shaped sinuses...

s native to the Near East and the European side of the Mediterranean basin. Kermes carmine was used as a dye and a laked pigment in ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Near East and is one of the oldest organic pigments; cochineal carmine was used by the Aztecs and was first imported to Europe in the 1530s from Spanish conquests in America. Recipes for artists' use of carmine appear in many early painting and alchemical handbooks throughout the Middle Ages; the laking process for both pigments was improved in the 19th century. Carmine lakes appear frequently in European oil paintings from François Boucher to Raoul Dufy; in watercolors it has extremely poor lightfastness and has not been widely used since alizarin crimson became available in the late 19th century.

Deep-brownish-red (Indian lake or lac (NR25)) is made from the blood-red secretion of female scale insects (Laccifer lacca) that feed on the twigs of various trees native to India, including Butea frondosa and Ficus religiosa. The twigs become encrusted with a reddish, bumpy, and glossy resin that is processed to extract the red colorant; lighter grades of the resin are used as the basis for shellac
Shellac
Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes , which are dissolved in ethyl alcohol to make liquid shellac, which is used as a brush-on colorant, food glaze and wood finish...

, and was used as a silk dye in India and imported to Spain since the early 13th century. In chemical terms, lac is closely related to carmine, and is equally fugitive.

Biology

Cochineal insects are soft-body, flat, oval-shape scale insects. The females, wingless and about 5 millimetre (0.196850393700787 in) long, cluster on cactus pads. They penetrate the cactus with their beak-like mouthparts and feed on its juices, remaining immobile. After mating, the fertilized female increases in size and gives birth to tiny nymph
Nymph (biology)
In biology, a nymph is the immature form of some invertebrates, particularly insects, which undergoes gradual metamorphosis before reaching its adult stage. Unlike a typical larva, a nymph's overall form already resembles that of the adult. In addition, while a nymph moults it never enters a...

s. The nymphs secrete a wax
Wax
thumb|right|[[Cetyl palmitate]], a typical wax ester.Wax refers to a class of chemical compounds that are plastic near ambient temperatures. Characteristically, they melt above 45 °C to give a low viscosity liquid. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, nonpolar solvents...

y white
White
White is a color, the perception of which is evoked by light that stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the human eye in nearly equal amounts and with high brightness compared to the surroundings. A white visual stimulation will be void of hue and grayness.White light can be...

 substance over their bodies for protection from water loss and excessive sun. This substance makes the cochineal insect appear white or grey from the outside, though the body of the insect and its nymphs produces the red pigment, which makes the insides of the insect look dark-purple. Adult males can be distinguished from females in that males have wings, and are much smaller in size than females.

It is in the nymph stage (also called the crawler stage) that the cochineal disperses. The juveniles move to a feeding spot and produce long wax filaments. Later they move to the edge of the cactus pad where the wind catches the wax filaments and carries the cochineals to a new host. These individuals establish feeding sites on the new host and produce a new generation of cochineals. Male nymphs feed on the cactus until they reach sexual maturity; when they mature they cannot feed at all and live only long enough to fertilize the egg
Ovum
An ovum is a haploid female reproductive cell or gamete. Both animals and embryophytes have ova. The term ovule is used for the young ovum of an animal, as well as the plant structure that carries the female gametophyte and egg cell and develops into a seed after fertilization...

s. They are therefore seldom observed. In addition, females typically outnumber males, due to environmental factors.

Host cacti

Dactylopius coccus is native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico, where their host cacti grow natively. They have been introduced to Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...

, Algiers
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

, and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 along with their host cacti; and Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

, where their host cacti were already abundant. There are 200 species of Opuntia cacti, and while it is possible to cultivate cochineal on almost all of them, the best to use is Opuntia ficus-indica
Opuntia ficus-indica
Opuntia ficus-indica is a species of cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant important in agricultural economies throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world. It is thought to possibly be native to Mexico...

. All of the host plants of cochineal colonies were identified as species of Opuntia
Opuntia
Opuntia, also known as nopales or paddle cactus , is a genus in the cactus family, Cactaceae.Currently, only prickly pears are included in this genus of about 200 species distributed throughout most of the Americas. Chollas are now separated into the genus Cylindropuntia, which some still consider...

including Opuntia amyclaea, O. atropes, O. cantabrigiensis, O. brasilienis, O. ficus-indica, O. fuliginosa, O. jaliscana, O. leucotricha, O. lindheimeri, O. microdasys, O. megacantha, O. pilifera, O. robusta, O. sarca, O. schikendantzii, O. stricta, O. streptacantha, and O. tomentosa. Feeding cochineals can damage the cacti, sometimes killing their host. Cochineals other than D. coccus will feed on many of the same Opuntia species, and it is likely that the wide range of hosts reported for the former species is because of the difficulty in distinguishing it from these other, less common species.

Farming

A nopal cactus farm for the production of cochineal is traditionally known as a nopalry. There are two methods of farming cochineal: traditional and controlled. Cochineals are farmed in the traditional method by planting infected cactus pads or infecting
Infection
An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease...

 existing cacti with cochineals and harvesting the insects by hand. The controlled method uses small baskets called Zapotec
Zapotec civilization
The Zapotec civilization was an indigenous pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca of southern Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence shows their culture goes back at least 2500 years...

 nest
Nest
A nest is a place of refuge to hold an animal's eggs or provide a place to live or raise offspring. They are usually made of some organic material such as twigs, grass, and leaves; or may simply be a depression in the ground, or a hole in a tree, rock or building...

s
placed on host cacti. The baskets contain clean, fertile females that leave the nests and settle on the cactus to await insemination
Insemination
Insemination is the deliberate introduction of sperm into the uterus of a mammal or the oviduct of an oviparous animal for the objective of impregnating a female for reproduction...

 by the males. In both cases the cochineals have to be protected from predators, cold, and rain. The complete cycle lasts 3 months, during which the cacti are kept at a constant temperature of 27 °C (80.6 °F). Once the cochineals have finished the cycle, the new cochineals are ready to begin the cycle again or to be dried for dye production.

To produce dye from cochineals, the insects are collected when they are approximately 90 days old. Harvesting the insects is labour-intensive, as they must be individually knocked, brushed, or picked from the cacti and placed into bags. The insects are gathered by small groups of collectors who sell them to local processors or exporters.

Several natural enemies can reduce the population of the insect on its cacti hosts. Of all the predators, insects seem to be the most important group. Insects and their larvae such as pyralid moth
Pyralidae
The Pyralidae or snout moths are a family of Lepidoptera in the ditrysian superfamily Pyraloidea. In many classifications, the grass moths are included in the Pyralidae as a subfamily, making the combined group one of the largest families in the Lepidoptera...

s (order Lepidoptera
Lepidoptera
Lepidoptera is a large order of insects that includes moths and butterflies . It is one of the most widespread and widely recognizable insect orders in the world, encompassing moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies, skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies...

), which destroy the cactus, and predators such as lady bugs (Coleoptera), various Diptera
Diptera
Diptera , or true flies, is the order of insects possessing only a single pair of wings on the mesothorax; the metathorax bears a pair of drumstick like structures called the halteres, the remnants of the hind wings. It is a large order, containing an estimated 240,000 species, although under half...

 (such as Syrphidae and Chamaemyiidae
Chamaemyiidae
Chamaemyiidae is a small family of acalyptrate flies with less than 200 species described worldwide. The larvae of these small flies are active and predatory and are often used for biological control of aphids, scale insects and similar pests...

), lacewings (Neuroptera
Neuroptera
The insect order Neuroptera, or net-winged insects, includes the lacewings, mantidflies, antlions, and their relatives. The order contains some 6,010 species...

), and ants (Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera is one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There are over 130,000 recognized species, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the heavy wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν : membrane and...

) have been identified, as well as numerous parasitic wasp
Parasitic wasp
The term parasitoid wasp refers to a large evolutionary grade of hymenopteran superfamilies, mainly in the Apocrita. They are primarily parasitoids of other animals, mostly other arthropods...

s. Many birds, human-commensal
Commensalism
In ecology, commensalism is a class of relationship between two organisms where one organism benefits but the other is neutral...

 rodents (especially rats) and reptiles also prey on cochineal insects. In regions dependent on cochineal production, pest control
Pest control
Pest control refers to the regulation or management of a species defined as a pest, usually because it is perceived to be detrimental to a person's health, the ecology or the economy.-History:...

 measures have to be taken seriously. For small-scale cultivation, manual methods of control have proved to be the safest and most effective. For large-scale cultivation, advanced pest control methods have to be developed, including alternative bioinsecticides or traps with pheromone
Pheromone
A pheromone is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual...

s.

Farming in Australia

The host cactus Opuntia (also known as "Prickly pear") was first brought to Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 in an attempt to start a cochineal dye industry in 1788, when Captain Arthur Phillip collected a number of cochineal-infested plants from Brazil on his way to establish the first European settlement at Botany Bay (part of which is now Sydney
Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

). At that time, Spain and Portugal had a worldwide monopoly (via their New World colonial sources) on the cochineal dye industry, and the British desired a source under their own control, as the dye was important to their clothing and garment industries (it was used to colour the British soldiers' red coats
Red coat (British army)
Red coat or Redcoat is a historical term used to refer to soldiers of the British Army because of the red uniforms formerly worn by the majority of regiments. From the late 17th century to the early 20th century, the uniform of most British soldiers, , included a madder red coat or coatee...

, for example). The attempt was a failure in two ways: the Brazilian cochineal insects soon died off, but the cactus thrived, eventually overrunning about 100000 square miles (258,998.8 km²) of eastern Australia. The cacti were eventually brought under control in the 1920s by the deliberate introduction of a South American moth, Cactoblastis cactorum
Cactoblastis cactorum
Cactoblastis cactorum, commonly known as the Cactus Moth, South American Cactus Moth, or Nopal Moth, is native to Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. It is one of five species in the genus Cactoblastis that lives in South America...

, whose larvae fed on the cactus.

Dye

A deep crimson dye is extracted from the female cochineal insects. Cochineal is used to produce scarlet
Scarlet (color)
Scarlet is a bright red color with a hue that is somewhat toward the orange. It is redder than vermilion. It is a pure chroma on the color wheel one-fourth of the way between red and orange. Scarlet is sometimes used as the color of flame...

, orange
Orange (colour)
The colour orange occurs between red and yellow in the visible spectrum at a wavelength of about 585–620 nm, and has a hue of 30° in HSV colour space. It is numerically halfway between red and yellow in a gamma-compressed RGB colour space, the expression of which is the RGB colour wheel. The...

, and other red tints. The colouring comes from carminic acid
Carminic acid
Carminic acid is a red glucosidal hydroxyanthrapurin that occurs naturally in some scale insects, such as the cochineal and the Polish cochineal. The insects produce the acid as a deterrent to predators. Carminic acid is the colouring agent in carmine. Synonyms are C.I. 75470 and C.I...

. Cochineal extract's natural carminic-acid content is usually 19–22%. The insects are killed by immersion in hot water (after which they are dried) or by exposure to sunlight, steam, or the heat of an oven. Each method produces a different colour that results in the varied appearance of commercial cochineal. The insects must be dried to about 30 percent of their original body weight before they can be stored without decaying. It takes about 70,000 insects to make one pound of cochineal dye.

There are two principal forms of cochineal dye: Cochineal extract is a colouring made from the raw dried and pulverised bodies of insects, and carmine is a more purified colouring made from the cochineal. To prepare carmine, the powdered insect bodies are boiled in ammonia
Ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

 or a sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate , Na2CO3 is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. It most commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate, which readily effloresces to form a white powder, the monohydrate. Sodium carbonate is domestically well-known for its everyday use as a water softener. It can be extracted from the...

 solution, the insoluble matter is removed by filtering, and alum
Alum
Alum is both a specific chemical compound and a class of chemical compounds. The specific compound is the hydrated potassium aluminium sulfate with the formula KAl2.12H2O. The wider class of compounds known as alums have the related empirical formula, AB2.12H2O.-Chemical properties:Alums are...

 is added to the clear salt solution of carminic acid to precipitate the red aluminium
Aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

 salt. Purity of colour is ensured by the absence of iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

. Stannous chloride, citric acid
Citric acid
Citric acid is a weak organic acid. It is a natural preservative/conservative and is also used to add an acidic, or sour, taste to foods and soft drinks...

, borax
Borax
Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. It is usually a white powder consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.Borax has a wide variety of uses...

, or gelatin
Gelatin
Gelatin is a translucent, colorless, brittle , flavorless solid substance, derived from the collagen inside animals' skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetic manufacturing. Substances containing gelatin or functioning in a similar...

 may be added to regulate the formation of the precipitate. For shades of purple
Purple
Purple is a range of hues of color occurring between red and blue, and is classified as a secondary color as the colors are required to create the shade....

, lime
Calcium carbonate
Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime,...

 is added to the alum.

As of 2005, Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 produced 200 tonnes of cochineal dye per year and the Canary Islands
Canary Islands
The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...

 produced 20 tonnes per year. Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 and Mexico have also recently begun to export cochineal. France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 is believed to be the world's largest importer of cochineal; Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 and Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 also import the insect. Much of these imports are processed and reexported to other developed economies. As of 2005, the market price of cochineal was between 50 and 80 USD
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

 per kilogram, while synthetic raw food dyes are available at prices as low as 10–20 USD per kilogram.

Uses

Traditionally cochineal was used for colouring fabrics. During the colonial period, with the introduction of sheep to Latin America, the use of cochineal increased, as it provided the most intense colour and it set more firmly on wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

en garments than on clothes made of materials of pre-Hispanic origin such as cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

, agave
Agave
Agave is a genus of monocots. The plants are perennial, but each rosette flowers once and then dies ; they are commonly known as the century plant....

 fiber
Fiber
Fiber is a class of materials that are continuous filaments or are in discrete elongated pieces, similar to lengths of thread.They are very important in the biology of both plants and animals, for holding tissues together....

s and yucca
Yucca
Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae. Its 40-50 species are notable for their rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers. They are native to the hot and dry parts of North...

 fibers. In general, cochineal is more successful on protein-based animal fibres (including silk) than plant-based material. Once the European market had discovered the qualities of this product, their demand for it increased dramatically, and by the start of the seventeenth century it was traded internationally. Carmine became strong competition for other colourants such as madder
Madder
Rubia is a genus of the madder family Rubiaceae, which contains about 60 species of perennial scrambling or climbing herbs and sub-shrubs native to the Old World, Africa, temperate Asia and America...

 root, kermes
Kermes (dye)
Kermes is a red dye derived from the dried bodies the females of a scale insect in the genus Kermes, primarily Kermes vermilio. The insects live on the sap of certain trees, especially Kermes oak tree near the Mediterranean region...

, Polish cochineal
Polish cochineal
Polish cochineal , also known as Polish carmine scales, is a scale insect formerly used to produce a crimson dye of the same name, colloquially known as "Saint John's blood". The larvae of P...

, brazilwood
Brazilwood
Caesalpinia echinata is a species of Brazilian timber tree in the pea family, Fabaceae. Common names include Brazilwood, Pau-Brasil, Pau de Pernambuco and Ibirapitanga . This plant has a dense, orange-red heartwood that takes a high shine, and it is the premier wood used for making bows for...

, and Tyrian purple
Tyrian purple
Tyrian purple , also known as royal purple, imperial purple or imperial dye, is a purple-red natural dye, which is extracted from sea snails, and which was possibly first produced by the ancient Phoenicians...

, as they were used for dyeing the clothes of kings
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

, nobles
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

 and the clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

. For the past several centuries it was the most important insect dye used in the production of hand-woven oriental rugs, almost completely displacing lac
Lac
Lac is the scarlet resinous secretion of a number of species of insects, namely some of the species of the genera Metatachardia, Laccifer, Tachordiella, Austrotacharidia, Afrotachardina, and Tachardina of the superfamily Coccoidea, of which the most commonly cultivated species is Kerria lacca.The...

. It was also used for painting, handicraft
Handicraft
Handicraft, more precisely expressed as artisanic handicraft, sometimes also called artisanry, is a type of work where useful and decorative devices are made completely by hand or by using only simple tools. It is a traditional main sector of craft. Usually the term is applied to traditional means...

s, and tapestries
Tapestry
Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom, however it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length and those parallel to the width ; the warp threads are set up under tension on a...

. Cochineal-coloured wool and cotton are still important materials for Mexican folk art and crafts.

Today, it is used as a fabric and cosmetics
Cosmetics
Cosmetics are substances used to enhance the appearance or odor of the human body. Cosmetics include skin-care creams, lotions, powders, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail and toe nail polish, eye and facial makeup, towelettes, permanent waves, colored contact lenses, hair colors, hair sprays and...

 dye and as a natural food colouring
Food coloring
Food coloring is a substance, liquid or powder, that is added to food or drink to change its color. Food coloring is used both in commercial food production and in domestic cooking...

. In artist's paints, it has been replaced by synthetic reds and is largely unavailable for purchase due to poor lightfastness. When used as a food additive the dye must be included on packaging labels. Sometimes carmine is labelled as E120
E number
E numbers are number codes for food additives that have been assessed for use within the European Union . They are commonly found on food labels throughout the European Union. Safety assessment and approval are the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority...

. A small number of people have been found to have allergies to carmine, ranging from mild cases of hives to atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia . It is a common cause of irregular heart beat, identified clinically by taking a pulse. Chaotic electrical activity in the two upper chambers of the heart result in the muscle fibrillating , instead of achieving coordinated contraction...

 and anaphylactic shock, with 32 cases documented to date. Carmine has been found to cause asthma in some people. Cochineal is one of the colours that the Hyperactive Children's Support Group recommends be eliminated from the diet of hyperactive children. Natural carmine dye used in food and cosmetics can render the product unacceptable to vegetarian or vegan consumers, many Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s consider carmine-containing food forbidden (haraam
Haraam
Haraam is an Arabic term meaning "forbidden", or "sacred". In Islam it is used to refer to anything that is prohibited by the word of Allah in the Qur'an or the Hadith Qudsi. Haraam is the highest status of prohibition given to anything that would result in sin when a Muslim commits it...

) because the dye is extracted from insects, and Jews also avoid food containing this additive (even though it is not treif and some authorities allow its use because the insect is dried and reduced to powder).

Cochineal is one of the few water-soluble colorants that resist degradation with time. It is one of the most light- and heat-stable and oxidation-resistant of all the natural organic colorants and is even more stable than many synthetic food colours. The water-soluble form is used in alcoholic drinks with calcium carmine; the insoluble form is used in a wide variety of products. Together with ammonium carmine, they can be found in meat
Meat
Meat is animal flesh that is used as food. Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat and other tissues, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs and offal...

, sausage
Sausage
A sausage is a food usually made from ground meat , mixed with salt, herbs, and other spices, although vegetarian sausages are available. The word sausage is derived from Old French saussiche, from the Latin word salsus, meaning salted.Typically, a sausage is formed in a casing traditionally made...

s, processed poultry
Poultry
Poultry are domesticated birds kept by humans for the purpose of producing eggs, meat, and/or feathers. These most typically are members of the superorder Galloanserae , especially the order Galliformes and the family Anatidae , commonly known as "waterfowl"...

 products (meat products cannot be coloured in the United States unless they are labeled as such), surimi
Surimi
Surimi is a Japanese loan word referring to a fish-based food product that has been pulverized to a thick paste and has the property of a dense and rubbery food item when cooked...

, marinades
Marination
Marination is the process of soaking foods in a seasoned, often acidic, liquid before cooking. The origins of the word allude to the use of brine in the pickling process, which led to the technique of adding flavor by immersion in liquid...

, alcoholic drinks, bakery products and toppings, cookie
Cookie
In the United States and Canada, a cookie is a small, flat, baked treat, usually containing fat, flour, eggs and sugar. In most English-speaking countries outside North America, the most common word for this is biscuit; in many regions both terms are used, while in others the two words have...

s, dessert
Dessert
In cultures around the world, dessert is a course that typically comes at the end of a meal, usually consisting of sweet food. The word comes from the French language as dessert and this from Old French desservir, "to clear the table" and "to serve." Common Western desserts include cakes, biscuits,...

s, icings, pie fillings, jams, preserves, gelatin
Gelatin
Gelatin is a translucent, colorless, brittle , flavorless solid substance, derived from the collagen inside animals' skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetic manufacturing. Substances containing gelatin or functioning in a similar...

 desserts, juice
Juice
Juice is the liquid that is naturally contained in fruit or vegetable tissue.Juice is prepared by mechanically squeezing or macerating fruit or vegetable flesh without the application of heat or solvents. For example, orange juice is the liquid extract of the fruit of the orange tree...

 beverages, varieties of cheddar cheese
Cheddar cheese
Cheddar cheese is a relatively hard, yellow to off-white, and sometimes sharp-tasting cheese, produced in several countries around the world. It has its origins in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset....

 and other dairy
Dairy
A dairy is a business enterprise established for the harvesting of animal milk—mostly from cows or goats, but also from buffalo, sheep, horses or camels —for human consumption. A dairy is typically located on a dedicated dairy farm or section of a multi-purpose farm that is concerned...

 products, sauce
Sauce
In cooking, a sauce is liquid, creaming or semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning salted...

s, and sweets. The average human consumes one to two drops of carminic acid each year with food.

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration rule effective January 5, 2011 requires all foods and cosmetics containing cochineal to declare it on their ingredient labels.

Carmine is considered safe enough for use in eye cosmetics. A significant proportion of the insoluble carmine pigment produced is used in the cosmetics industry for hair- and skin-care products, lipstick
Lipstick
Lipstick is a cosmetic product containing pigments, oils, waxes, and emollients that applies color, texture, and protection to the lips. Many varieties of lipstick are known. As with most other types of makeup, lipstick is typically, but not exclusively, worn by women...

s, face powders, rouges
Cosmetics
Cosmetics are substances used to enhance the appearance or odor of the human body. Cosmetics include skin-care creams, lotions, powders, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail and toe nail polish, eye and facial makeup, towelettes, permanent waves, colored contact lenses, hair colors, hair sprays and...

, and blushes. A bright red dye and the stain
Staining (biology)
Staining is an auxiliary technique used in microscopy to enhance contrast in the microscopic image. Stains and dyes are frequently used in biology and medicine to highlight structures in biological tissues for viewing, often with the aid of different microscopes...

 carmine used in microbiology is often made from the carmine extract, too. The pharmaceutical industry uses cochineal to colour pills
Tablet
A tablet is a pharmaceutical dosage form. It comprises a mixture of active substances and excipients, usually in powder form, pressed or compacted from a powder into a solid dose...

 and ointments.

External links

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