Cochineal Scale

Dactylopius coccus

Pre-Hispanic Mexicans traditionally made a deep crimson clothing dye from the Cochineal Scale. The dye quickly became popular in Europe, and for a while, these insects and their host plant, the Prickly Pear cactus, were cultivated all over the world. The color is carminic acid, an extremely effective repellent against ants and other predators. Look for the white, cottony tents of the female Cochineal Scale on the pads of Prickly Pear cactus.

Fun Fact:
The red pigment in these insects repels ants and other predators.

What’s for Lunch:
Juice of the Prickly Pear cactus

Where’s Home:
A waxy web on a Prickly Pear cactus pad