cochineal

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cochineal

(kŏchĭnēl`, kŏch`ĭnēl), natural dye obtained from an extract of the bodies of the females of the cochineal bug (Dactylopius confusus) found on certain species of cactus, especially Nopalea coccinellifera, native to Mexico and Central America. The insects' bodies contain the pigment called carminic acid, which is obtained by subjecting a mass of the crushed insects to steam or dry heat; such large numbers of the insects are needed to produce a small amount of dye that the cost is high. Once commonly used as a scarlet-red mordant dye for wool and as a food color, cochineal has been largely replaced by synthetic products. It is used chiefly now as a biological stain.

Cochineal

 

the general name for several species of insects of various families of the suborder Cocciodea, the females of which are used to make a red dye called carmine. Mexican cochineal (Dactylopius coccus), the most highly valued species, lives on the cochineal cactus. Native to Mexico, it is also cultivated in Central America, Western Europe (Spain), North Africa, and eastern Asia and has almost entirely replaced other species on the world market. Other cochineal species include Armenian cochineal (Porphyrophora hamelii ), which is found in Armenia on the roots of grasses, and Polish cochineal (P. polonicd), found in Western Europe and the European USSR on the roots of strawberries and other herbaceous plants. In the 20th century the development of synthetic dyes has sharply reduced the cultivation of cochineal insects, although natural carmine is still used in some industries, such as food processing and perfume manufacture, and for staining microscopic preparations.

cochineal

[′käch·ə‚nēl]
(chemistry)
A red dye made of the dried bodies of the female cochineal insect (Coccus cacti), found in Central America and Mexico; used as a biological stain and indicator.

cochineal

1. a Mexican homopterous insect, Dactylopius coccus, that feeds on cacti
2. 
a. the colour of this dye
b. (as adjective): cochineal shoes
References in periodicals archive ?
Joseph Banks and James Anderson, meanwhile, jointly propagated the idea that the transplantation of cochineal insects from the Americas to India was possible because Mexico, Brazil, and India were climatically comparable.
Moreover, as noted above, Banks expected outward-bound East Indiamen to procure wild cochineal insects from Bahia, the Brazilian city nearest to the usual route to the East Indies, situated at 12[degrees]59, S--a latitude presumed to be climatically comparable to the general northern Latitude of both Oaxaca and Madras.
Anderson himself observed that the wild Brazilian cochineal insects quickly spread beyond the confines of the Company's botanical gardens, extending their range up to sixteen miles each season.
Mysorean amildars informed Buchanan that they ordered tenants to replant the cactus hedges, reckoning that they would, in due course, be eviscerated by cochineal insects deliberately spread to them by itinerant cochineal-collectors, who purchased the hedges to feed their insects.
on the Subject of Cochineal Insects, Discovered at Madras, Madras: Charles Ford, 1787, 3.
Joseph Banks to James Anderson, 22 May 1787, in James Anderson, Correspondence for the Introduction of Cochineal Insects from America, Madras: n.
The plan to transplant cochineal insects to Australia was a notable failure and a minor ecological disaster, as Opuntia subsequently overran vast swaths of territory.
For the presumed discovery of "cochineal" in South Carolina and Georgia in the 1750s, see "An Account of the Male and Female Cochineal Insects, that breed on the Cactus Opuntia, or Indian Fig, in South Carolina and Georgia: In a Letter from John Ellis, Esq.
Buchanan's account of his interview with the cochineal-collectors indicates that they were fairly well-informed about the habits of cochineal insects, and about how to process them for market.