Saturday, 20 July 2013

The death of the prickly pear

(Source: Guadalinfo Jimena on Facebook) Prickly pears are a delicious, slightly exotic fruit (if you live in colder climes, that is) much enjoyed in August in these parts. Known as chumbos, they are the fruit of the chumbera, or cactus plant. But there are hardly any about - despite the fact for some years now there has been an increase in the tiny white flies that feed off them, the ones that turn red when you swat them. The chumberas are dried out by zillions of these sucking on the 'leaves'.>>>
As we said in an item of last year (What are those ***** little white flies?), the flies were used by the Aztecs and Mayas to dye red cloth - red was the Imperial colour (can you imagine how many flies might have been needed, a luxury indeed). Today, most of the production of the dye is in Peru, and in the Canaries in Spain, where the cochinilla del carmín is also used to provide dye not just for cloth but also used in ice-cream, yoghurt, jams, some types of sausages and other foodstuffs. The pharmaceutical industry also uses the dye, as, of course, do the cosmetic makers. While in South America the bug lives happily in its environment, here in Spain it is causing enormous problems, largely because of its fast reproductive capacity and the difficulty in its eradication. It would seem things have got out of hand, and so far there is no known answer to the damage being caused to the cactii.

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