thebashfulbotanist: Not as pretty as the flow…

thebashfulbotanist:

Not as pretty as the flower photography we usually do, but this is still pretty cool! These Opuntia cacti have Dactylopius scale insects parasitizing them. I’m not sure what species of Dactylopius these are, but the most famous species is definitely Dactylopius coccus, or cochineal, which is used to make the purple-red dye carmine. The Aztec and Maya peoples both raised cochineal for use in carmine, and the dye is sometimes still used today in products like red soda, candy, and cosmetics. It takes about 70,000 insects to make a pound of dried carmine! Unfortunately, some people are allergic to cochineal, though, so if you think you might be (or if you just don’t want to eat bugs), you should avoid anything marked as containing carmine, E 120, or natural red 4.