Butterflies' tidy drinking tricks | Science News


Support Science Journalism

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.

News in Brief

Butterflies' tidy drinking tricks

The long tube of the insects' mouthparts is fluid friendly only at the tip

3:41pm, June 14, 2013

SIPPY WHEN WET The magnified tip of a Limenitis archippus butterfly mouthpart shows bowling-pin-shaped sensory structures that help the insect sip.

Sponsor Message

Butterflies can keep their proboscises clean despite sipping from pollen-dusted flowers, roadside puddles, carrion or dung. The trick: Easy-care surfaces along most of the proboscis repel water and debris. Only the tip is fluid friendly.

In butterflies such as Limenitis archippus, bowling-pin-shaped sensory structures at the tip form a brush that helps draw moisture into the sipping tube. And the tube has seams down its top and bottom that have gaps at the tip to draw in fluids, Konstantin Kornev of Clemson University in South Carolina and his colleagues report June 12 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.


M.S. Lehnert et al. Hydrophobic-hydrophilic dichotomy of the butterfly proboscis. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Posted online June 12, 2013. doi: 10.1098/​rsif.2013.0336. [Go to]

Further Reading

S. Perkins. Blueprint to repel oil and water. Science News. Vol. 174, Dec. 6, 2008. [Go to]

D. Castelvecchi. Slippery when dry. Science News Online. May 21, 2008. [Go to]

D. Monaenkova et al. Butterfly proboscis: combining a drinking straw with a nanosponge facilitated diversification of feeding habits. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Vol.9, April 7, 2012, p. 720. doi: 10.1098/​rsif.2011.0392 [Go to]

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content