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Cochineal Scale – You may have noticed a white, cotton like substance on your Opuntia Cactus this year. It is an insect that goes by the name Cochineal Scale. The insects penetrate the cactus with beak-like mouthparts and feed on the juices within the cactus. They will remain immobile unless disturbed and will desecrate the cactus pad unless removed.  This insect can be found in South America, Mexico and Arizona. Many natives in these areas used the animal for dye to color their weavings and clothing. Today, the carmine dye is used primarily for food coloring and lipstick.  The best way to remove the insect is to take a garden hose and spray until the insects are knocked off the pad. In small infestations, you can take a Q-tip and remove the cotton like substance by dabbing it away. In truly bad infestations, you may want to remove the entire pad by cutting it at the connecting point of the pad. Often times, removing the entire pad is the best option.  This is most prevalent on the Santa Rita Prickly Pear, which is the cactus with purple coloring on the pads.  #CareToKnow

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