by Linda, Everett Public Library staff
The red dye used in many foods and cosmetics comes from the insect cochineal?
Cochineals live on the nopal cactus in Mexico, and are harvested at about 3 months old. It takes about 70,000 insects to make a pound of cochineal dye!
I found this information in the book Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History by Eric Chaline on page 66. This was an interesting book; it talked about animals you would never have thought were beneficial to us.
The book A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield recounts the colorful history of cochineal dye and the quest by many world powers to obtain their own supplies of this beautiful dye.
You would be amazed at the amount of insects, animals and plants we are exposed to everyday. Nature in Cosmetics and Skin Care by Cyrille Corbeil will simultaneously surprise and disgust you.
Some bugs can be very similar to one another and the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders or The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Insects by Martin Walters will help you identify what’s bugging you
Dyes from American Native Plants: A Practical Guide by Lynne Richards and Ronald J. Tyrl and Wild Color: the Complete Guide to making and using Natural Dyes by Jenny Dean will help you make your own dyes… without having to collect bugs! And once you have your supply of dye, Fabric Dyeing for Beginners by Vimala McClure will get you started using them.
And finally, there are other things you can color besides fabric. Curious George Colors Eggs by Margaret Rey is a fun book for kids about primary color blending.