Reared, cochineal insects, quality, hosts, cactus pear
Recently, the commercial breeding of Dactylopius coccus in confined environments has been developed not to depend on seasonal production and ensure the supply chain. Previous studies have shown the technical viability of their breeding of i Opuntia in a repository also called "Nopaloteca". However, considering the genetic diversity of Opuntia in each region, it is necessary to evaluate alternative cultivars to maximize the efficiency of that production system. The evaluated cultivars were Esmeralda and Villanueva (Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.). Four height levels (m) within the “Nopaloteca” (N1: 0.5; N2: 1.0; N3: 1.5 and N4: 2.0) and two harvest indices (pre and post oviposition) were evaluated regarding their effects on the carminic acid concentration (CAC, %) and fresh weight (FW, g) of D. Coccus. The results showed no significant difference in the CAC of the D. coccus colonies in both cultivars (18 %); however, the highest FW was reached in the cv. Esmeralda with 6.3 g per cladode (p ≤ 0.05). The highest CAC was found in the N4 treatment (2.0 m) with 18.6 % (p ≤ 0.05); while the highest average FW values (p ≤ 0.05) were in the intermediate levels of the N2 (1.0 m) and N3 (1.5 m) treatments, with 6.4 and 6.1 g per cladode, each. The post oviposition phase harvest of D. coccus resulted in a higher CAC concentration (20.4 %); meanwhile, in the pre-oviposition phase, 15.6 % was harvested (p ≤ 0.05). Due to the productivity and quality obtained, the Esmeralda cultivar could be used as an alternative host for the intensive breeding of D. coccus in confinement, in north-central Mexico.