Cochineal – or the amazing bug that produces a red purple dye

These amazing little creatures produce the most amazing colour when squished and yes then killed – sorry little buggers.  Found on these huge cacti – huge prickly pear cactus.

You just scrape up a tiny lump, looks like a white dust blob in which the insect lives and then squish. We had met this fellow on our last 2 km walk down from the salt ponds back to the community of Urubamba, a fellow originally from the area but who had moved as a teenager to Trujillo up the north coast of Peru. (If anyone needs a tour guide for that area then let me know – his English was very good and he seemed like a decent person, not trying to sell us anything).  He was visiting some family and always visited the salt ponds.  He showed us these small white dusted insects that lived on the huge prickly pear cactus ‘leaves’.  He took one off the plant and then proceeded to crush it and this amazing purple colour was extruded from the now dead insect.  It was absolutely stunning.  We could see how some of these insects had been harvested from some plants and others still living on the plant.

and then it is turned into a dye for wool…

look at all the colours…


I’m sure we are familiar with the bright clothing and accessories we associate with Andean peoples.  Well I have to honestly say I have never liked the bright pink, yellow, greens, reds, etc… And it turns out that these are not the true natural colours. The true colours are much more softer hues, much more resembling what I call natural earth tones.

an indigenous lady weaving (for the tourists – this was at an animal sanctury Ccochahuasi – a story still to come)… I have to say that this is something I would like to learn how to do – to make the dyes and do some weaving…

the hat she was also working on which is unique to her village and people

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2 Responses to Cochineal – or the amazing bug that produces a red purple dye

  1. Tyler says:

    Let R know there is another Prepper calling himself Category5:

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