Cochineal: A Simple Bug on a Cactus Pad

Ercil Howard-WrothUncategorized

The indigenous Mixtec people of Mexico tell the story of two brothers, gods in the land of the “cloud men,” who raged in mortal conflict over fields of nopal cacti. Their blood fell upon the fields, splattering the pads of the nopal and giving future generations an “ink that would circulate through their very veins.” Thus, cochineal was born in the Mixtec pantheon of the gods. Used in ancient times as paint, a cosmetic, and eventually textile dye, cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a tiny scale parasitic insect that originated in the Andean regions of what is now Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia. It migrated via coastal trade routes north into Mexico some 2,200 years ago. Its use as a textile dye … Read More