food coloring from mashed up mealy bugs. Finally a good use for those little suckers.
I remember reading about this dye and thinking that these were some strange exotic bugs somewhere deep within the rainforest that I would never see.
Then I moved to Texas and started doing nature stuff. Guys. Guys. Guys. You would NEVER guess.
OKAY first off let me back up a little.
Okay, you’re here with me now, right? Texas. I’ve accidentally sat on prickly pears so many times (pro-tip: don’t do this) I have a method for dealing with it.
The Carmine dye is from Cochineal insects. They are a type of scale insects, which is a weird plant-parasitic insect that essentially becomes immobile in adulthood and fuses itself with the plant (???). They’re like aphids, except more stealth and harder to deal with. Because of their Lifestyle Choices, they tend to be very host-specific, so they can only live on one type of plant. And there is a cochineal insect who is quite fond of… guess?
Oh right, yeah they also look like a bad case of the dandruffs. These bugs are also known as “waxy scales” (or something? I don’t know, it’s late and I don’t feel like doing a google), because that white stuff is a waxy substance they secrete for protection, similar to planthoppers they are related to.
Remember how I said they’re like aphids? They are very much like aphids, and yes, there are specific types of lady beetles who will eat cochineal bugs. They tend to be a bit smaller.
This is where that red dye becomes noteworthy. Whenever you see another insect eating one of these guys, it’s like the sequel to There Will Be Blood or something.
Above: Brown Lacewing Enjoys a Refreshing Beverage with No Artificial Colors
December 2, 2018