Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which the crimson-colored dye, carmine, is derived. There are other species in the genus Dactylopius that can be used to produce cochineal extract, but they are extremely difficult to distinguish from D. coccus, even for expert taxonomists, and the latter scientific name (and the use of the term "cochineal insect") is therefore commonly used when one is actually referring to other biological species. The primary biological distinctions between species are minor differences in host plant preferences, in addition to very different geographic distributions. D. coccus itself is native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico.
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