A Big Market for Bug Dye

A growing market for foods and other consumer products colored with "natural" red dye has sparked a booming industry in Peru. NPR's Martin Kaste reports that thousands of families make a living harvesting the source of the dye -- tiny insect called cochineals. See photos of the insects being harvested, and discover the true source of the red dye. (Please note this correction which aired in 'All Things Considered' on June 19, 2003: ..."my description yesterday of the Cochineal insect as a Peruvian beetle. While we could claim that this is a vague layman's usage of 'beetle' that would include even certain Volkswagens, that would not wash with Dr. Paul Johnson, professor of entomology at South Dakota State University in Brookings. He calls it, 'a serious entomological faux pas.' In a further unkind cut, Professor Johnson writes: 'I would expect such cavalier biology from your colleagues at Fox, but factual inaccuracies on NPR?! ... Beetles are exceedingly distinctive insects that are well-known and well characterized in any novitiate-level biology book, as well as advanced entomology references... Cochineal insects are not beetles and not even closely related, let alone not even similar in appearance (but rather) a species of scale insect. Shame on NPR for allowing Western entomo-phobic disregard for insects to influence the misrepresentation of biological facts.")

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