Living With Kermes vermilio

Kermes vermilio

Kermes vermilio
C. Mature female with immature crawlers
F. Outbreak populations in Italy
G. Oak tree damage.
Image: PELLIZZARI and colleagues*

The scale insect, Kermes vermilio, is native to areas around the Mediterranean where it feeds on oak. The scale insect contains carminic acid, used in the ancient art of red dye production. Stores of dye dating to the neolithic era have been found in European caves. Once cultivated to produce carmine dyes, the use of Kermes was replaced by Mexican cochineal in the 1500s.

For dye production, fully mature females are collected and dried. In the Roman empire, they were called “grana” because they resemble seeds when dried.

The word “carmine” is derived from “Kermes”. “Vermilio” refers to worm (vermes). From “vermilio” we get “vermillion”, which means red. Recently, Kermes vermilio has been a pest in Italy, with outbreak populations causing damage to oak trees* which made some people see red.

*GIUSEPPINA PELLIZZARI, FRANCESCO PORCELLI, STEFANO CONVERTINI & SALVATORE MAROTTA. 2012. Description of nymphal instars and adult female of Kermes vermilio, with a synopsis of the European and Mediterranean species. Zootaxa 3336: 36–50.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

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