>> Thursday, January 15, 2009
Since I seem to be a bit into invertebrates, especially those of the insect variety, I decided to help out a fellow blogger with her quest for dispelling misinformation. Bug Girl is an entomologist so she definitely knows her bugs. Recently, bugs have been in the news a lot. This has been by way of Cochineal. These little scaly bugs are a source for a very vibrant natural dye in the shade of carmine. People seem to be freaked out that there are "bug" derived dyes in many of their foods. Honestly... this is way better than tar derived color. I don't mind bug color.
Like Bug Girl, however, I do mind misinformation. Articles in the New York Times, Scientific American (shame) and others all have done articles about this bug. Many of them refer to it as a beetle... not even close. NYT and SciAm finally removed the pictures that were not the same creature. After a few of us (yes, me too) left some comments about SciAm's need for a fact checker, the picture was removed and this was placed at the end of the article:
Editor's Note (posted 1/11/09): In response to some concerns about the entomological accuracy of this post and photo, we have taken down the image that was originally posted, because it appears not to be a cochineal insect. We are checking with the source of that photo to confirm its identity. The term "beetle" is often used to describe this insect, but we have changed the wording in the post to "cochineal insect" for strict accuracy. This post is based on the FDA's announced rule change, which was published on January 5 and which we link to in the blog (and again here) for interested readers eager to know more about how the agency reached its conclusions.
What does this have to do with Bug Girl's quest? Simple. She wants everyone who cares about this important little industry (yes, bug dye is an industry) and the facts about the cochineal by reading her great post. I know, I know... now I'm sending you somewhere else to read science stuff! What happened to your science phobia? Hopefully I'm wearing you down! Happy Thursday!
Photo is from 7-how-7's photostream on Flickr and is licensed under Creative Commons.