Whole Cochineal Insects



Whole Cochineal Insects

100g of Whole Cochineal Insects will dye about 900 grams (2 pounds) of fiber to a deep red shade. For detailed instructions, please see our page on dyeing with cochineal.

Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect that invades the nopal cactus and is about the size of a grain of Arborio rice with a silvery purple hue. The best cochineal is dark and full of carminic acid. We obtain only the finest grade cochineal on the market. You will also need a small amount of Cream of Tartar for the extraction process.

Cochineal is one of the only natural red colorants that the FDA approves for use in food and cosmetics. It comes in a variety of preparations: in raw or insect form and in a finely processed powder or liquid. They sort the insects themselves into several grades. The extract from them can range from nearly black all the way to a vivid red. Textile dyers usually purchase the insects as they are about 1/5th the price per pound of the extracts.  However, the extracts can be extremely strong, with up to 4 times the amount of carminic acid as the insects, so there’s a bit of a tradeoff.

Carminic acid is the bright red color of cochineal. It depends on how pure the extract is but manufacturers use it in cosmetics or as a food color.  A few years ago everyone freaked out to learn that Starbuck’s Strawberry Frappucino was colored with carmine, or cochineal. But carmine has been used as a food color since the 1960s.  It’s only recently that the FDA ruled that is must be disclosed as a color ingredient as people are becoming much more sensitive to dyestuffs, even natural ones, and can experience allergic reactions from exposure to carminic acid.

Please note: We regret that we cannot ship insects internationally.
Learn more:

Dyeing for Dummies: The Wonders of Cochineal (recipe)

A Closer Look at the History of Cochineal

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50 gm, 100 gm, 250 gm, 500 gm

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