Saturday, November 10, 2012

Binomen Art - Dactylopius

Dactylopius Spelled Out on Opuntia
Binomen Art - Dactylopius - Cochineal - CarmineBinomen Art - Dactylopius - Cochineal - Carmine

Cochineal is a word you’ve probably heard of but are not sure what it means. Well, it’s the crimson color that comes from a scale insect in the genus Dactylopius. More specifically, it comes from grinding up these insects. It’s a bit more complex than that in terms of preparation, but just casually running your finger over a few of these insects easily produces a vivid color, carminic acid.

But before, we knew all this, were noticing all this fuzzy white stuff on an Opuntia plant in Henderson, Nevada. When we ran our finger through the white stuff and it came up red, a red light went off in our head. Ah, a binomen art project. We weren’t quite so sophisticated about preparing the scale insects. We simply collected the white webbing (with the insects inside) and when we collected enough, mashed it up and “painted” the Opuntia pads.
 
According to BugGuide, dactyl, is Greek for a finger or toe. The only reasonable guess we can make about opius is that it is related to opium which the Online Etymology Dictionary gives as

opium (n.)
late 14 c,. from L. opium, from Gk. opion “poppy juice, poppy,” dim. of opos “vegetable juice.”

So, finger juice? By the way, Campari used to be colored by cochineal.

First Investigations with White Webs of Dacytlopius and Seeing That it Produced Color
Binomen Art - Dactylopius - Cochineal - Carmine Binomen Art - Dactylopius - Cochineal - Carmine

Cactus Pad with Dactylopius Webs (left) and Mixing Up Collected Webs and Insects (Right)
Binomen Art - Dactylopius - Cochineal - CarmineBinomen Art - Dactylopius - Cochineal - Carmine

Writing on the Pads – Spelling Out Dactylopius
Binomen Art - Dactylopius - Cochineal - Carmine  Binomen Art - Dactylopius - Cochineal - Carmine

Designer Opuntia with Dactylopius Word
Binomen Art - Dactylopius - Cochineal - Carmine

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