Cochineal – is the most important of the insect dyes and comes from the bodies of female insects of the species Dactylopius. These live on the prickly pear (nopal) cactus which is native to Mexico, Central and South America and the Canary Islands. Peru is currently the primary export country, shipping out over 4000 metric tons annually – mostly for for food, drugs and cosmetics. This dye has excellent light and washfastness and produces a powerful range of fuchsias, reds and purples. Colours obtained will change depending on mordants used and pH of the dyebath.
Although expensive, it has a high dye content (carminic acid) and goes a long way. You will need only 3-8% bugs to wof (weight of fiber) for a medium depth of shade.