Kermes (Alkermes, kermes grains, false cochineal, grana kermes), the dried females of the kermes scale insect (Coccus [Lecanium] ilicis Fabr.), which lives on the kermes oak (Quercus coccifera). The little animals attach themselves to the branches of the oak tree in March, and after mating, eggs filled with a red sap develop, which can be found at the end of May under the wax cover of the mother, who died soon after laying. About this time the kermes is harvested, sprinkled with vinegar and dried; it forms pea-sized, round or collapsed, brown, smooth, shiny grains, umbilicated at the point of attachment, which are ground into a red powder. Kermes contains the same pigment as the cochineal (carminic acid), but has only 1⁄12 the saturation of the former; in addition, it dyes less beautifully, but more permanently. Provence supplies the best kermes, while Spain, Italy, Greece, the Orient, Algeria and Morocco provide the lesser varieties. Kermes was already known to the ancients, it was used as the first dye bath for fabrics that were to be dyed purple. When the art of dyeing Tyrian purple had been lost, kermes became an important export item for several southern countries. It was also highly valued in the Middle Ages, but has lost more and more ground since the introduction of cochineal. It is still used to colour confectionery, wine, liqueur, etc.
Source: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, 6. Auflage 1905–1909