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Some insects use a proboscis to drink

In the Build a Pollinator exhibit inside Pollinator Paradise at the Dickinson County Nature Center, one item that you get to put on your pollinator is a proboscis.

Many insects have a proboscis, which is a type of mouthpart that is basically a tube to help the insect suck up nectar.

Butterfly drinking fruit juice with proboscis

You might have seen a butterfly up close with a tightly-curled item just below its eyes. When that butterfly goes to a flower (or a piece of fermented fruit as in the photo above), it will extend its proboscis to use like a human would use a straw to suck up liquid. It is not only efficient, like a straw, but it also allows a butterfly to get to the nectar at the center of small or deep flowers.

Not all moths have a proboscis, because some moths do not eat as adults. However, the moths that do have a proboscis usually have a very long one. A hummingbird moth can actually have a proboscis longer than its body, and the Darwin’s hawk moth of Madagascar has a proboscis nearly 13 inches long to get to the nectar of deep-throated orchids in its native region.

A honeybee has both a proboscis to suck up nectar as well as a mandible, or jaw, for chewing.

Milkweed beetles have a very short and very sharp proboscis that it uses to inject saliva into a plant to liquify the material and then uses the proboscis to suck it up.

Photo of milkweed beetle in exhibit

The milkweed beetle in the Build a Pollinator exhibit has a short proboscis.

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