It’s a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which the natural dye carmine is derived. A primarily sessile parasite native to tropical and subtropical South America through North America (Mexico and the Southwest United States), this insect lives on cacti in the genus Opuntia, feeding on plant moisture and nutrients. The insects are found on the pads of prickly pear cacti, collected by brushing them off the plants, and dried.
The insect produces carminic acid that deters predation by other insects. Carminic acid, typically 17-24% of dried insects’ weight, can be extracted from the body and eggs to make carmine dye, also known as cochineal. To produce 1 kg of dyeing color we need 80-100 thousand insects.
South America (Perù).
Carmine is primarily used as a colorant in food and in lipstick and for painting and textile dyeing.
Rarely may cause allergies, do not give to children.