As for male cochineals, which are very small and lively, they live only for sex. Even food does not distract them because they do not possess mouths and thus cannot eat. Flitting on cactuses, they copulate with all females possible. They live for only one week. After that they die.
A pregnant cochineal insect deposits a lot of eggs. It hatches into very small, reddish-brown, specks with six legs. The newly born insects crawl a small distance in order to feed themselves. It is not a problem if the nursery gets overcrowded. Secreting waxy filaments, youngsters can easily go to another place for food.
For about three centuries the cochineal insect, representing a source for abundant dye carmine, was a mystery of Spaniards. It was not easy to plant prickly pear in Europe (in Spain and the Canary Islands) to raise the bugs and to develop the dye business.
A scarlet that would not fade was created by means of different chemical tricks and solutions. It added color to the clothes of cardinals in Rome. The dye made the paintings of such artists as Michelangelo and Tintoretto more vibrant. The masters used "carmine", "crimson lake" and some other pigments of cochineal origin.
Fabric which was dyed by means of cochineal scarlet, got associated with wealth and power.
For centuries the dye of the cochineal insect brightened a lot of things, such as cookies, cakes, medicines and beverages. Before the synthetic dyes of red color came into use, it colored pies, shrimp, jam, yogurt, chocolate fillings, maraschino cherries, chewing gums, sausages, dried fish, ice cream, jelly, soft drinks, cider, tomato products and a lot of other foods. The dye colored various medicinal pills and syrups. It was considered to be the basic ingredient for making "rouge".
Nowadays, cultivated female cochineal insect produces more carminic dye - about 10% of the whole body weight. During the harvest time workers take them off plants either with bunt knives or with wooden tools. First they are boiled in hot water and after that usually sundried. As there are much more females than males, workers sieve out males.
At first the cochineal insect appeared in the New World before it was introduced elsewhere. The first inhabitants of America used the dye for coloring fabrics. When the Europeans first came to America and were impressed by the wonderful colors of textiles dyed with cochineal, they started to use and export it till some synthetic dyes were worked out. But as some of the synthetic dyes were toxic, cochineal turned out to be more preferable. It is also usedto color various red candies, beverages, medical remedies and cosmetic lipstick.