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Cochineal Bug

Kingdom: Animalia 
Phylum: Arthropoda 
Class: Insecta 
Order: Hemiptera 
Family: Dactylopiidae 
Genus: Dactylopius 
Species: D. coccus 

Cochineal Bug General Information    Interesting Cochineal Bug Fact    

Female Cochineal Bug Picture    Male Cochineal Bug Picture

The Cochineal Bug is a scale insect that is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a beetle when in fact is a scale insect. This bug related to the Cottony Maple scale because it lives by attaching itself to a host plant. 

Female cochineal bugs are wingless and legless and are often concealed in a waxy cotton substance on the host plant to hide from predators.  Males have long white wings and legs and are half the size of the female.  The male cochineal bugs also have two filaments coming from its rear end.  Both adults are red to pinkish red and have beak-like mouthparts to help them suck substances from the host plant.
Crawlers or nymphs have six legs and during the molting process, females loose their legs. 
Male Cochineal Bug picture
Female Cochineal Bug picture The Cochineal bug is found in desert locations in Arizona, New Mexico, and California to Montana, Colorado, Texas, Florida and North Carolina. 
They feed on the juices of the cacti plant, especially the prickly pear cacti.  

After adult Cochineal bugs mate, males usually die after fertilizing the eggs.  Females lay their eggs which are attached to her body and then die.  Nymphs hatch and begin the molting and feeding process.  Female nymphs often remain in one place after their first molt. Juveniles produce long wax filaments that are picked up by the wind and dispersed to other host plants where they begin feeding and mating. 

While eating, adult females produce a type of acid that helps to deter predators.  The predators of the cochineal bug are pyralid moths, lady bugs, lace wings, parasitic wasps, rats, reptiles and birds. 

Interesting Fact About the Cochineal Bug: 

The Carminic acid that is produced by the female can be extracted from her body and from her eggs.  This Carminic acid is used to make a dye that is used throughout the world to make food coloring, cosmetics, paints, and clothing dye.  This dye was first used by the Aztec and Mayan peoples of Central and North America.  It eventually spread throughout Europe and has become valuable over recent years. 
This dye can induce an anaphylactic shock reaction in those people who are allergic to it. 

Credits:
Our thanks to Lani Powell for research and writing which made this information page possible!

Pest Control    Pest Control Products    Animals and Pests

Female Cochineal Bug Picture    Male Cochineal Bug Picture    

Cochineal Bug General Information