Note: To protect the privacy of our members, e-mail addresses have been removed from the archived messages. As a result, some links may be broken.

Find Lesson Plans on! GettyGames

Insects in Art: Cochineal Insects + Cacti = carmine


From: Michelle Leddel (leddel_michelle_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Sep 05 2002 - 05:44:14 PDT

Insects have been in art for a long time. Consider this approach from an
article that was published May 2002.

Article for Gazetty, the Getty Docent Newsletter
By Michelle Leddel,

What do Winslow Homer, the British 'Red Coats', and The Getty North
Pavilion Art Information Room have in common?

HINTS: He painted with IT, they wore uniforms dyed with IT, and here IT is
on display.

How do The Americas, Emily Dickinson, and Mauna La'I* Island Guava
beverage relate to IT?

HINT: IT came from here, she included IT in her poetry, and IT is
currently listed as an ingredient on this product.

ANSWER: The COCHINEAL Insect (Genus: Dactylopius).

North Pavilion Art Information room Docents are frequently pointing out
these dried Cochineal insects among the organic and inorganic pigments and
paint binders.

But take this Cochineal experience one more step. Locate the tiny SCALE
insects on local prickly pear cacti (Opuntia species). It looks like
white fungus. While some gardeners may call it a mealy bug or a beetle,
it is really a SCALE insect.

The historically valued and hand collected mature female insects are
stationary insects that feed upon the cactus pads. You may just have a
related species thriving in your yard right now. The cactus, often
harvested for nopale recipes, can also be found in vacant fields, along
the road, in The Huntington Cactus Garden, at the Los Angeles County
Arboretum, and in nearby Topanga and Eaton Canyons.

A frequent Getty visitor, high school teacher Michelle Leddel, has been
bringing in fresh Cochineal color samples to lucky docents. She has given
away 8-page abbreviated copies of "The Golden Bug: The Story of the Red
Cochineal." Docents have purchased the 50-page book students helped to
research, write, illustrate, and edit. The book is a scholarship-fund
raiser for her continuation high school students.

For more information, the book may be purchased at BioQuip, Products Inc.,
in Gardena, at <> and also through Century High
School in Alhambra, California.
Fresh color samples and the abbreviated copies of "The Golden Bug" are
available through the school.
Mrs. Leddel's email is:

* Publishers note: (NOTE: small letter "i" is correct, not capital I, when
printing Mauna La'I * Island Guava beverage

OKAY readers, if you are near Colonial Williamsburg, there are many
references to the cochineal insect.
The greatest fun has been seeing the students get all excited when they
realize they have the cacti in their yards and then they bring it into the
class for more art experiences--finger painting, drawing cartoons,
historical research, internet research, entomological research, public
speaking, community outreach, board of education presentations, desktop
publishing, local and international recognition, and fund raising through
the sale of our one-of-a-kind book, "The Golden Bug: The Story of the Red

Michelle Leddel
Century High School
20 South Marengo Ave.
Alhambra, CA 91801

For your fresh color sample and 8-page mini book, we request a
self-addressed, stamped envelope and small donation to "Century High
School" memo:scholarship fund.