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.
Cornelius van Drebbel, at Alkmaar, first employed cochineal for the production of scarlet in 1650.
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The duty in the United Kingdom on imported cochineal was repealed in 1845.
Silkworms have been bred with success in some departments, and the cochineal insect is found wherever the conditions are favourable for the cactus.
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.
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.
The, cochineal insect was once an important commercial product, but the industry has fallen into decay.
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.