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A Review on the Cochineal Species in Mexico, Hosts and Natural Enemies
M.L. Portillo and A.L. Vigueras Departamento de Botánica y Zoología Universidad de Guadalajara Zapopan, Jal. Mexico Keywords: Dactylopius, Opuntia, natural enemies Abstract This paper reviews the status of the diversity of the Dactylopiidae family, its hosts and predators in Mexico. Six dactylopiids or carmine cochineals arecited to occur in Mexico: Dactylopius bassi, D. ceylonicus, D. coccus, D. confusus, D. opuntiae and D. tomentosus. However, the diversity of Mexican dactylopiids may be higher as more regions and hosts are surveyed, since more than 114 Opuntia species occur in Mexico. Approximately 30 Opuntia species are known as hosts and four insect orders are reported as entomophagous of the Dactylopiidaefamily in Mexico. The difficulty involved in the identification of dactylopiids using only morphologic keys, may be overcome with molecular studies. INTRODUCTION The carmine cochineals are an American insect group that belongs to the monogenus Dactylopiidae family (Hemyptera) that present carminic acid in their bodies (Lambdin et al., 2002). These acids act as a food deterrent toward their naturalenemies (Eisner et al., 1980) and are used worldwide as pigment for food, drugs, cosmetics and other applications (Portillo and Vigueras, 2002a). On the other hand, some species of this insect group have been used as biological control agents against invasive cactus (Githure et al., 1999), therefore the dactylopiids are organisms of wide interest because of their usefulness to man. The classificationof Mexican dactylopiids is an old issue. Before the arrival of Europeans to America, the inhabitants of Pre-Hispanic Mexico distinguished two types of cochineals: cultivated (D. coccus Costa) called “nocheztli” meaning “cactus blood” and wild “ixquimilihiuqui”, which referred to the rest of Dactylopius species (Piña, 1977). More than 114 species of cactus in Mexico may host dactylopiids (Bravo andSánchezMejorada, 1989; Vigueras and Portillo, 2001). A taxonomic study of Mexican dactylopiids will improve our understanding of the diversity in the region, and help clarify the controversial North or South American origin of D. coccus, the most important pigment producer (Portillo, 2003). The objective of this paper is to discuss the status of the diversity of the Dactylopiidae family, itshosts and predators in Mexico. MATERIALS AND METHODS A literature review of the Dactylopiidae family taxonomy was the base for the present study. From 2000 to 2004, the main cacti regions in Mexico were visited to collect cochineal from wild and cultivated Opuntia hosts. The specimens were preserved and mounted according to MacGregor (1972), Perez Guerra and Kosztarab (1992), Montiel (1995) and DeHaro and Claps (1995). Species were identified under the microscope using the De Lotto (1974) key. The host plants were recorded and identified according to the key proposed by Bravo-Hollis (1978), predators were reviewed according to Alzate and Ramírez (1777), Rossignon (1884), Piña (1977), Herrera (1983), Méndez-Gallegos et al. (1996) and Portillo and Vigueras (1998; 2003). RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONUp to 2001, the genus Dactylopius consisted of nine species (De Lotto, 1974; Perez Guerra and Kosztarab, 1992; De Haro and Claps, 1995), but Ben-Dov and Marotta
Proc. Vth Int’l. Congress on Cactus Pear and Cochineal Eds. C. Mondragon Jacobo et al. Acta Hort. 728, ISHS 2006


(2001) gave new placement to Coccus bassi Tozzati to Dactylopiidae family, increasing the number of dactylopiids toten (Portillo and Vigueras, 2002b) (Table 1). Although, the material of D. bassi was obtained from Mexico and deposited at the University of Padua (Italy), it no longer exists as a reference (Y. Ben-Dov, pers. comm.), thus it is possible that this later species is a synonymy. It is important to point out that all hosts of Dactylopius are cacti, mostly Opuntia. According to Anderson (2001),...