The cochineal insect is found on the cactus which grows in abundance in the vicinity, and the town is known throughout Ecuador for its manufacture of boots and shoes, and for a cordage made from cabuya, the fibre of the agave plant.
The cochineal insect is nurtured on a species of Opuntia (0.
The females are placed on the plants about August, and in four months the first crop of cochineal is gathered, two more being produced in the course of the year.
The cultivation of pepper, cochineal, cinnamon and indigo for the government had already ceased; De Waal restricted the area of the sugar plantations (carried on by forced native labour) as from 1878, and provided for their abolition after 1890.
Other industries of a desultory character include the collection of archil, or Spanish moss, on the western side of the Californian peninsula, hunting herons for their plumes and alligators for their skins, honey extraction (commonly wild honey), and the gathering of cochineal and ni-in insects.
The, cochineal insect was once an important commercial product, but the industry has fallen into decay.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Guatemala had practically no export trade; but between 1825 and 1850 cochineal was largely exported, the centre of production being the Amatitlan district.
The town has little trade except in farm-produce; but its red dye, made from the native cochineal, was formerly celebrated.
Forest Products.-The forest and other natural products include rubber, cinchona bark, ivory-nuts, mocora and toquilla fibre for the manufacture of hats, hammocks, &c., cabaya fibre for shoes and cordage, vegetable wool (Bombax ceiba), sarsaparilla, vanilla, cochineal, cabinet woods, fruit, resins, &c. The original source of the Peruvian bark of commerce, the Cinchona calisaya, is completely exhausted, and the " red bark " derived from C. succirubra, is now the principal source of supply from Ecuador.
In 1853, however, the grape disease attacked the vineyards; and thenceforward the production of cochineal, which had been introduced in 1825, took the place of viticulture so completely that, twenty years later, the exports of cochineal were worth £556,000.
The word "grains" was early used, as also in French, of the small seed-like insects supposed formerly to be the berries of trees, from which a scarlet dye was extracted (see COCHINEAL and KERMES).
COCHINEAL, a natural dye-stuff used for the production of scarlet, crimson, orange and other tints, and for the preparation of lake and carmine.
Cornelius van Drebbel, at Alkmaar, first employed cochineal for the production of scarlet in 1650.
Until about 1725 the belief was very prevalent that cochineal was the seed of a plant, but Dr Martin Lister in 1672 conjectured it to be a kind of kermes, and in 1703 Antony van Leeuwenhoek ascertained its true nature by aid of the microscope.
Since its introduction cochineal has supplanted kermes (Coccus ilicis) over the greater part of Europe.
The male of the cochineal insect is half the size of the female, and, unlike it, is devoid of nutritive apparatus; it has long white wings, and a body of a deep red colour, terminated by two diverging setae.
Cochineal is now furnished not only by Mexico and Peru, but also by Algiers and southern Spain.
Cochineal has a musty and bitterish taste.
There are two principal varieties - silver cochineal, which has a greyish-red colour, and the furrows of the body covered with a white bloom or fine down; and black cochineal, which is of a dark reddish brown, and destitute of bloom.
The black variety of cochineal is sometimes sold for silver cochineal by shaking it with powdered talc or heavy-spar; but these adulterations can be readily detected by means of a lens.
The duty in the United Kingdom on imported cochineal was repealed in 1845.
Cochineal owes its tinctorial power to the presence of a substance termed cochinealin or carminic acid, C17H18010, which may be prepared from the aqueous decoction of cochineal.
Cochineal also contains a fat and wax; cochineal wax or coccerin, C30H60(C31H6103)2, may be extracted by benzene, the fat is a glyceryl myristate C3H5(C14Hz702)3.
Silkworms have been bred with success in some departments, and the cochineal insect is found wherever the conditions are favourable for the cactus.