January 29, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Science, Biology, Zoology, Entomology
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Cochineal Red Gold of The Mixtec Cochineal Production in Oaxaca By Stefanie Tietz

What is cochineal???

Cochineal is a small insect…

Which belongs to:

..or more specifically • Scientific classification: • Domain: Eukaryota Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Arthropoda Class: Insecta Order: Homoptera Superfamily: Coccoidea Family: Dactylopiidae Genus: Dactylopius Species: coccus Binomial name: Dactylopius coccus costa, 1835

It is a parasite on cacti of the genus Opuntia.

The females cluster together on the cactus leaf feeding on its juices

The male lives only long enough to fertilize the females (Many, many females…)

Lifecycle • After the eggs hatch, the male nymphs produce a white sticky substance which they use to have the wind blow them to another cactus. • Males will then develop wings in order to be able to find females. • Females crawl to a good spot on the leaf (Usually surrounding their mother) and bite into it where they will stay until laying their eggs after they have been fertilized.

What makes these insects so important? • Females and eggs produce a bitter, astringent chemical substance that is a predator deterrent. • This substance is called carminic acid or carmine. • It is particularly effective against ants. • The pyralid moth (Laetilia coccidivora) eats cochineal and stores carminic acid in its gut to repel predatory ants.

Carminic Acid

Carminic acid is bright red…

Photo credit: Stefanie Tietz

…but you have to crush the bug to get the “juice”…

Photo credit: Stefanie Tietz

Cochineal is grown in special farms…

Photo credit: Stefanie Tietz

…or get harvested in the wild.

The bugs are collected and dried bugs are ground up…

And then the powder can be stored and used as needed

Photo credit : Stefanie Tietz

Cochineal is best for dyeing natural fibers such as wool and silk.

Which can then be made into textiles or rugs.

Photo credit: Stefanie Tietz

An example of different hues (on right)

Photo credit: Stefanie Tietz

Cochineal color (Carmine) is • • • • •

Water- soluble Resists degradation over time Light and heat stable Oxidation-resistant Generally considered to be more stable than most synthetic dyes. • Neither toxic nor carcinogenic (but can cause anaphylatic shock in allergic individuals)

Because it is non-toxic it can be used as food coloring

Photo credit : Stefanie Tietz

As well as in cosmetics

Cochineal • Has been harvested in Mexico since about 1200 BC (In Peru since 1500 BC). • The Mixtec people were valued by the Spanish after the conquest for their skill in cochineal production. • It was highly prized by the Spaniards and in value considered second to silver. • It was used as currency both by indigenous rulers, as well as Spanish conquerors.

Ancient codex showing tribute payments due in cochineal

codex Mendoza folio 43

The Mixtec • Nochiztlan was a major Mixtec center and source for cochineal in pre-Hispanic times. The name means “Place of cactus blood”. • Coixtlahuaca: Seat of Mixtec royal power and focus of important manuscripts and maps. (Codices). Mayor trading center for cochineal.

One little bug… So very important in history!

References: • ex.html neal/index.html

Rodriguez, L.C., Mendez, M.A. Niemeyer, H.M.( 2001)Direction of dispersion of cochineal within the Americas. Antiquity, March, 2001 retrieved from: g=content;col1

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