Explanation of Names
dactyl, -o is Greek for a finger or toe (1)
Nearctica lists 4 spp:
Costa 1835 (Dactylopius) (often cultivated in Mexican per Arnett (1985) (2)
Dactylopius confusus Cockerell 1893 (Coccus)
Dactylopius indicus Green 1908 (Coccus)
Dactylopius tomentosus Lamarck 1801 (Coccus)
Five spp. per Arnett (1985) (2)
Since there are several species that feed on cactus found in the US, a professional opinion based on a specimen is probably needed to get an individual to species level.
Cochineal insects are the source of a red dye much used and highly valued before the advent of synthetic dyes.
: The cochineal dye was used by the Aztec and Maya peoples of Central and North America. Eleven cities conquered by Montezuma in the 15th century paid a yearly tribute of 2000 decorated cotton blankets and 40 bags of cochineal dye each. During the colonial period the production of cochineal (grana fina) grew rapidly. Produced almost exclusively in Oaxaca, Mexico by indigenous producers, cochineal became Mexico's second most valued export after silver. The dyestuff was consumed throughout Europe and was so highly prized that its price was regularly quoted on the London and Amsterdam Commodity Exchanges.
After the Mexican War of Independence in 1810–1821, the Mexican monopoly on cochineal came to an end. Large scale production of cochineal emerged especially in Guatemala and the Canary Islands. The demand for cochineal fell sharply with the appearance on the market of alizarin crimson and many other artificial dyes discovered in Europe in the middle of the 19th century, causing a significant financial shock in Spain as a major industry almost ceased to exist.
Greenfield, A.B. 2005. A Perfect Red
: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire. Harper Collins Press, New York. 338 pp.