Cochineal at the Bowers Museum
by Diane Daly and Deb Shaw
The Opuntia cactus in the courtyard at the entrance to Bowers Museum. Another beautiful Fall day in Southern California. Photo © Deborah Shaw, 2015.
BAGSC members Diane Daly, Deb Shaw, and new BAGSC member Linda Carpenter spent a gorgeous Fall day at the Bowers Museum on November 22, demonstrating botanical art and talking with visitors to the Museum. BAGSC members are demonstrating in conjunction with the Bowers exhibition “The Red that Colored the World,” on display through February 21, 2016.
Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect that lives on Opuntia cacti. The insect produces carminic acid, from which carmine dye is derived. The females and their nymphs secrete a waxy, white web to protect them from the sun and predators. Photo © Deborah Shaw, 2015.
There is a huge Optuntia (Prickly Pear) growing in the courtyard at the entrance to the Bowers, serendipitously covered with Cochineal. We were lucky to have a large pad that had fallen to the ground, and, in addition to botanical art, we were able to show visitors the Cochineal scale insect, the color, and even some Mealybug Ladybird (ladybug) larvae who were feasting on the Cochineal. It was a whole world on one cactus pad. Visitors to the museum were fascinated (as were we!).