July 24, 2014
This unidentified scarab beetle owes its [minor] Internet fame to its frequent misidentification as the cochineal scale insect. Cochineals are responsible for an edible red dye frequently used in food.
The two vary considerably morphologically, but this red scarab has appeared prominently in Google image searches for “cochineal” (and related terms) for over five years. This scarab stunningly attention-grabbing compared to scale insects; the latter are often photographed connected to plants and hidden by a white wax coating.
Insects as a common ingredient in Western foods seems to be a hot-button issue. Articles pertaining to vegan information or culinary curio often highlight the use of cochineal dye for shock value. These articles are often criticized for being hastily written and poorly researched, but many more slip through the cracks. A similarly brief visual inspection may potentially perpetuate the erroneous image search results.
The best denunciation comes from the writer formerly known as Bug Girl targeting the New York Times.
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