Seeing Red

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What do Minute Maid® or Ocean Spray® ruby red grapefruit juice, Revolutionary War British soldier uniforms, and Almay lipstick have in common? Yes, they’re all red. But there’s more to it than that. They, along with a myriad of other cosmetics, foods, and a few fabrics, all contain a red dye known as cochineal red or its derivative, carmine.

Almost everything these days contains some sort of artificial color. While some people avoid these dyes, most don’t think twice even if they do happen to read the label. Besides, cochineal isn’t artificial. It’s a natural product that has been used for hundreds of years.

So just what is it, and where does it come from?

Continue reading “Seeing Red”

Mealybug Invasion

long-tailed-mealybug-c-david-cappaert-michigan-state-university-bugwoodorg-2With temperatures dipping into the low 20s and our first (finally!) snowfall, the bugs in our gardens are either dead or in hiding. But before we collapse into that comfy recliner with a garden book and a cup of tea, we need to take a good look at our houseplants. It might be winter outside, but indoors the bugs are having a field day.

At least they are at our house. I’m currently at war with some aggressive invaders. They’re about an eighth of an inch long, are covered with sticky, gooey, white fluff, and are wedged into the leaf axils of many of my favorite houseplants. Yup, my indoor garden has mealybugs. Continue reading “Mealybug Invasion”