Host plans. The species of the catylopiidae are plant pests of cactaceae (cactus family). Bailey & Bailey (1978) mentioned that this plant family includes about 50- 220 generaand 800- 2,000 species of mostly spiny, succulent, perennial herbs, shrubs, vines, or small trees. According to one of the most widely accepted theories, the plants are almost exclusively native tocentral America (Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean area) from where they migrated to North and south America. Some botanists believe that the cactaceae is a family of recent phylogenetic origin. Thisassumption is based on a lack of fossils, the great variability of species, and the large number of reproductive forms(seeds, pieces of plant, new stems).
The cochineal insects can be found mainly on twogenera of cacti: opuntia and Nopalea, the latter includes eight or nine apecies, the former over 200. Since the sixteenth century when the cochineal insects were discovered by the Spaniards, manyspecies of cacti have been introduced to different countries for both the propagation of the insects and as ornamental plants.
According to piña-Luján (1977), Linnaeus classified the Mexican host plantfor coccuc cacti (= dactylopius coccus) as cactus cochinillifera. Müller called the host plant Opuntia cochenillifera, and salm-Dyck refered to it as Nopalea cochenillifera (in Piña-Luján, 1977)However, several authors agreed that this was not the host plant for the cochineal in mexico, but rather opuntia ficus – indica, also known as “Nopal de castilla”, and Opuntia tomentosa or “Nopal de SanGabriel”. Piña – luján (1977) also cited opuntia pilifera (commonly called in Mexico: “nopal pluma or Nopal Castarrita”) as a host plant for some of the wild species of cochineals.
In the Canary Islands,Spain, where D. coccus was introduced one hundred years ago and has been cultivated since, opuntia ficus- indica is the lost common host plant today, and is found only in cultivation. The insects...