Earlier this fall I collected cochineal as soon as it appeared in October. Last year I collected it after a couple of freezes. The big question, is there a color difference before or after a freeze. How motivated do I need to be to collect before a freeze?
Here is this year on silk before washing, no cream of tarter:
I have to say I am not a fan of this bright fuchsia, but an indigo dip or an iron bath will sadden it for my eye. Part of this silk is also destined for a Texas madder root over dye. Here it is after rinsing and drying, color toned done some. Can you believe only 4 grams of fresh cochineal gave this depth of color on 93 grams of silk?
Some folks have asked me if I collect all at once, nope! I collect a little at a time until I have about half a pudding cup. I keep that cup secured in a jar on my dye patio to protect it from bug hungry marauding raccoons and wrens.
The entire harvest goes into a slow simmer and is strained and processed at least 3 times thru my coffee filter. You can see how it gradually sinks as the web gives up the bug color.
I will say if one decides to collect your own cochineal, take your time, listen to the cactus wrens and watch out for the snakes!