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Stick your tongue out and say Ahh!

February 22, 2016
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moths in daytime on Wingspread 020As a child I could never understand how a doctor could deduce anything from asking me to stick out my tongue and say ‘Ahh!’ – but they obviously could. Rosemary from Flowerdale recently sent in two photos on a related theme, of a moth feeding from flowers.

The mouthparts of butterflies and moths are primarily used for sucking – usually liquids like nectar or plant sap. The main organ, which I incorrectly equate to the human tongue, is moths in daytimecalled a proboscis from the Greek pro meaning forward and bosko meaning to feed. In butterflies and moths the proboscis is curled up under the head and extended when being used to suck liquids.

Other sucking insects such as aphids, cicadas and tree-hoppers (pictured below) also have a proboscis, which they use to suck liquids from either vegetation or other insects. Their

gumtree hopper DSCN2749

Gumtree Hopper nymph

proboscises are much shorter and more solid as they need to pierce as well as suck. Their proboscis therefore do not curl.

From the photos it is difficult to determine the species of moth, but there is no doubting it has a very long proboscis. If I had a tongue that long I could probably have my doctor examine it in Whittlesea while I was sitting at home in Flowerdale.

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