Cochineal Scale

what is this and how to control it
hi Bugman, I live in San Bernardino, CA, about an hour east of LA. I have a large outdoor cactus garden that has be come infested with something. It looks like a tiny piece of cotton and when squished, emits a purple goo. Someone thought they were mealy bugs but I’m not sure. I have sprayed them with rubbing alcohol and they just keep coming. They seem to suck juice from the cacti. They seem to attack mostly one type of cacti but recently moved to another type. any help is greatly appreciated.
Thomas McGovern

Hi Thomas,
The Cochineal Scale is often found on the pads of beavertail or opuntia cactus. If you decide not to eradicate them, you might choose to supplement your income by selling them. The purple goo you describe, according to Charles Hogue: “can be extracted by crushing dry specimens to a powder and then boiling it in water. this cochineal, or ‘Spanish Red’ as it is known, has been used for centuries as a dye by American Indians. It was discovered by the Spaniards during their conquest of the New world, and it quickly gained considerable commercial value as a crimson dye for textiles. Only with the advent of synthetic dyes has its importance subsided, although in recent years its use has been revived in the search for natural food colorings.”

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