|Author: ||L. Portillo|
|Keywords: ||Dactylopius, carminic acid uses, natural pigment, insect rearing, Opuntia|
The cochineals (Dactylopius spp.) are insects that thrive on Opuntia species which are used due to their high quality colorings properties and as biologic control agents; recently the knowledge on these insects has been increased significantly, most of this new information comes from active members of the Cochineal Working Group.
The topics undertaken are wide since this group is integrated by people of almost all disciplines as are artisans, educators, entrepreneurs, historians, producers, scientists, and recently artists.
One outstanding advance is about the studies on enzymatic characterization of hemolymph and immunology of cochineal, since it is not damaged by microorganisms, results that may help to design new commercial applications of this insect.
Also interesting findings are the studies on cytometry and reproductive biology of cochineal, generating new discussions on its postharvest physiology.
The researches on natural enemies of cochineal are focused on their biology and capacity of depredation, these results, as well with those from the studies of selection of resistant Opuntia species to wild cochineal, are of particular interest for facing this plague where cactus pear is important forage.
The aims of other studies are to use the residual material after the cochineal is harvested to produce biodiesel and biogas, but also the biomass utilization is studied; the generation of edible mushrooms Pleurotus djamour was significantly augmented when cladodes after hosting cochineal were added to the growing substrate.
Beside all this recent findings, the cochineal rearing is increasing through the production that take place in several countries as China, Ethiopia, Mexico, Peru and Spain to cover the also increasing demand of this useful insect.
Other problems that must be attended are the plagues and diseases that treat to spread where Opuntia species are of ecological and social interest.
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