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The proboscis – a very versatile instrument

We all know that proboscises (or is it probosci?!) are what butterflies use to suck up nectar – upon which they feed; but it is only when you look very closely – as when taking photographs – that you see what an amazingly versatile and flexible instrument this is.  Butterflies are able to curl and uncurl their feeding tube very quickly and are also very adept at maneuvering it: as I hope this photograph shows.
Small cabbage white (Doi Sutep Nov 2013) 4

I photographed this Small Cabbage White butterfly feeding on a flower in Doi Sutep-Pui National Park in Thailand.  When I selected this detailed crop, I noticed how delicately it had inserted the tip of its proboscis into the tiny floret in the inflorescence of this flower. The butterfly was moving quickly from flower to flower, and this snap shot (exposure time 1/000th of a second) captures an instance – one of a thousand or more in the day of this insect – when it penetrates the tiny floret and extracts whatever nectar (surely a tiny drop) it has to offer.  The phrase ‘God (or nature) will surely provide’ came to mind as I edited this photograph!  What tiny reserves (or resources) exist in the world for those able or equipped to harvest (extract) them?

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

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